John 15:13- Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
To lay down one’s life.
I’ve often thought of this scripture as I call on a friend for counsel or help, or as a friend calls on me for the same.
We get one life. A limited amount of time, as well as the guessing game of when it will end.
To lay down one’s life, or to trade one’s time here on earth for a friend in need, is precious. It’s love. True love.
My family and I have experienced death after death in the last few years. A sad succession of fond remembrances. Quiet times lost in memories and grief. Tears and smiles. Never questioning to lay down our life for the stolen last moments of last words and I love yous and thank yous and caretaking. Never questioning trading the time of carefully choosing dresses and ties, funeral hymns, honoring, travel, goodbyes and “til we meet agains”. We lay down our life to honor yours.
There’s a heaviness that is trying to settle on my shoulders. My grieving is not finished for my grandparents.
I used to make drives to western Kentucky to visit. To rest, to play, to cook and eat and laugh and garden and sleep. Rejuvenate in the all-encompassing love of family. Staying for weekends, and weeks, and never really ready to leave.
Then I made drives to western Kentucky to give care.
Laying down my life to go with my mother and her mother to make funeral arrangements. Carefully selecting caskets, pallbearers, hymns for my grandparents, all still living. We smiled and held each other’s hands and signed off on our decisions. And loved on each other. Laying down our life to honor each other. Laying down our life to move them to our town.
I was not ready for the after-midnight call from my Grandmommie’s caregiver. Her keening into the phone over the loss. I was not ready for the drive across town. Alone.
I comforted the caregiver and welcomed the lady who directed the process. I called the undertaker. My brother came for a while. I waited. I called the undertaker again. Trading time in my life to honor hers. I wiped snow off the board they would put her on. I asked them to keep her blankets around her. I watched the daybreak snowfall from the window of the other room that they asked me to move to. I drove home. Alone.
I was not ready for my Granddaddy to pass. An accident and a succession of events had his passing come quickly. I held his hand for days knowing he was going. Grateful for a few more hours.
I was not ready for my Nannie to pass a few weeks later, only having a few days and hours to prepare and keep her comfortable.
I laid down my life for theirs as we packed, sorted, moved. I was glad to grieve this way. Trading time for sorting through memories and trinkets and treasures and pictures. Trying to comfort family as they grieved.
And it begins again. I will spend the next few overnights with my Nannie’s sister as we find caregivers.
It awakens and brings the grieving early. It pokes the grieving I am still going through. It prods the tender spots that are valiantly trying to heal. Again.
I miss them. I will miss her. Tu me manques. They are missing from me.
It is a blessing to lay down these hours for her care. I am grateful to care for her for this little while.
It is a gift. I will lay down my life for her this little while.