I wrote the following the day she died. I didn't publish it, because it was such a terrible reality. And I didn't want to remind myself or my family of this any more than it was already on our minds. It's worse than losing her, this reality. But it's time to tell her story.
Originally written July 29,2010
My grandma died today.
I called my mom apparently right after it happened, and she answered the phone crying. "Your grandma just passed away," she said, then started sobbing. My dad took the phone and said they would call me back.
Grandma was in pain for a long time, so I would love to say that it's a relief. That she's no longer in pain.
But I can't. Because I know better.
Unless something changed in the last few days while my parents were there, Grandma Barbara wasn't a Christian. When we'd tell her about Jesus and how he had died for her she would scoff and say "oh, I'm not good enough for that stuff." She never thought she was good enough. She didn't realize that none of us are.
Grandma spent her life looking for that thing that would make her happy. Usually, she was spending extraordinary amounts of money on it. Stuff, stuff, and more stuff. And not surprisingly, the stuff was never enough. She always needed more.
I would listen to her talk about what she was buying when I called her, and I couldn't help but think how sad it was, to be looking for something and not be able to find it. Don't get me wrong; she loved her family and led an extremely generous life, but she never found Jesus.
When a Christian dies, it's a celebration. It can be exciting because you know they're in the presence of God Himself.
But for the non-Christian's death, there is no "we'll see her again someday" and there is no "at least she's not in pain anymore." No, today she is in more pain than she ever was on Earth. She is being tormented, tortured, and there is no changing that now.
That's what hurts the most. I want so badly to believe that today was better for her. But I know better.
There is no comfort in this death.
It's funny how you really find out what you believe when you don't want to believe it. The days after she died, I tried over and over to rationalize this; the "she was a good person" would run through my mind, but would immediately be stamped out by "you know that's not good enough." The fact is, I was there many, many times when she rejected it.
The simple truth that she was a sinner, which for like all of us, earned her a spot in hell. Not like, cartoon devil with the pitchfork and the horns, standing amongst a few flames, hell. No. It's eternal torment. It's no relief, it's gnashing teeth, everlasting pain. It's lonely, loveless, void, and horrifying. Separation from not only everyone she loved, but the God who made her.
We told her that that there was a way out. That Christ died for our sins, and all she had to do was believe that and ask forgiveness, and that's all it took to spend eternity with us in heaven. But she didn't buy it. Her low self-esteem wouldn't allow her to accept a gift like that.
I left for South Dakota a few days after she died, and I hadn't talked to my family since then, except to make arrangements for the flight there. When Dad picked me up from the airport that weekend, we had a 2.5 hour drive to the ranch to talk about all that happened (the ranch isn't exactly close to anything, if you can't tell).
They got there just after she went to the hospital. This had happened a few times before; my parents would go up north to say goodbye to her, and she would always pull through. But the years of smoking had caught up to her, and her lungs and organs were shutting down. Quite frankly, she should have died two years ago.
And two years ago, they had long conversations with her about this. They told her this was her last shot, and she came close a few times to accepting Christ, but never bought into it.
This time, my dad tried one last time. She was still lucid, and he knew this was probably it. So he presented it to her one more time. He told her that everybody's a sinner and that separates us from God, and the only way around that is by believing in Jesus. It was that simple. And when he asked her whether she believed it, she responded with one word.
He reiterated what that meant, and asked her if she understood it. She nodded and said she did. She got it. It clicked. And at that moment, her being around even though only 20% of her heart had worked the last two years made sense.
He had kept her around long enough for this moment.
Now, please understand that I am not a sentimental Christian. I do not make something spiritual out of everything, and while I do believe that God is behind every single thing that happens, it is more of a logical reality for me, not something mystical that I talk about to make myself sound spiritual.
But this? Had God written all over it.
While we fully understand that she could have been lying and that's not going to get her anywhere (though she certainly never lied about this before - she always rejected it outright), for now, we have what we need. We have hope that we will see her again. And even better than that, we have hope that she is no longer in pain, that she has been made perfect.
And that's where our comfort lies.