Her name popped up on my caller ID on a Sunday afternoon and I immediately picked up my phone. Barbara always spent Sunday afternoon’s visiting her mother so it was unusual to get a call from her during that time. In recent weeks, however, declining health had put her 95-year-old mom in a nursing home so I was worried something had happened.
“I need to ask you a favor,” Barbara said. “Will you come and pray with my mama?”
“I would be honored,” I told her, my heart pounding. Barbara is one of my dearest friends. God put her in my life as a constant encourager since I became a new believer. I could not refuse her request but praying with someone in their final days is not something I had done before.
“LORD, please give me Your words of comfort and peace,” I prayed.
Barbara met me at the entrance of the nursing home and brought me to her mother’s room. She had closed the blinds so that the sun would not shine too brightly on her mama’s face.
As I stepped into the room, I was keenly aware I was walking on holy ground, that sacred place where we pass from now into eternity.
I held her mom’s crepey hand, hands that had been mottled by age. Hands that had caressed babies, rolled out homemade southern biscuits and sewed wedding dresses for her daughters.
These same hands had pored over nursing textbooks long after her two daughters had gone to bed. Widowed at the age of 40, Miss Annie Lou, went back to school and became a licensed practical nurse to support her family. When she finally retired at the age of 70, she had inspired an entire generation of nursing students who followed in her footsteps.
In the quiet of her room, time stood still as I prayed over this precious woman of God. Unable to open her eyes, she could still respond to us with one or two word sentences.
As I listened to her labored breath, I felt the breath of the Living God surround us.
I began to softly pray, giving thanks for the gift of her long life with a healthy body and mind until her final days. I praised God for giving her the strength and courage to raise two daughters as a single mother. I thanked Him for all the lives she impacted during her long life. I prayed that our Loving Father would remove any fear she might have as her time draws near and for immeasurable peace and comfort for her family in the coming days.
During those sacred moments, I had an overwhelming sense that a great crowd of witnesses had gathered in that small room, eager to welcome home one of their own.
The veil between the physical and the temporal seemed to thin as I encountered the portrait of the Imago Dei in the face of a woman about to cross into eternity.
As I walked out of the nursing home, I was greeted by a canopy of redbuds swaying gently with their magenta blooms. Golden daffodils lined the flower beds in the walkway and the sound of songbirds filled the air with their heavenly chorus. The warmth of spring was breaking through the cold, wintry earth and the newness of life was exploding on the canvas of our Master Craftsman.
“Behold I am making all things new,” I heard the LORD say.
I smiled at the tenderness and love of our Heavenly Father. Christ had met Miss Annie Lou here on earth and soon, He will meet her in her death, bringing the newness of resurrection life.
There is a beautiful story in the gospel of Mark of Jesus’ first recorded healing, the healing of a woman. I love how the NET translation describes the event.
“He [Jesus] came and raised her up by gently taking her hand.” Mark 1:31 (emphasis mine)
Six days later, Jesus came to Miss Annie Lou’s bedside. The loving gaze of the Son tenderly warmed her face.
With His nailed-scarred hand gently taking hers, He brought her into Her Heavenly Home.
Completely healed. Completely whole.