A week ago I was in a hospital in Spokane, Washington celebrating the birth of our first grandchild. There were tears that day, too, but of a different sort.
Tears of joy.
I remember little from all those religion classes I took at University but the one thing I do remember is how eternity was once viewed not as a cloud to sit upon, or a harp to strum, but the passing along of one’s self into the next generation.
All those begets meant something of great import.
I caught a glimpse of all that as I held Sullivan during what now seems like such a long ago weekend as I sit in yet another hospital. This one all the way across the state from where Sullivan was born.
It is the granddaughters who are doing the cradling in Room 116.
“Here let me help you with that, Grandma,” says one as she pushes the IV out of the way lest someone stumble and fall.
“Do you remember the bathroom on that train car we took?” asks another. Never a fan of flying, Grandma took her then 10-year-old granddaughter on a trip South to the motherland.
“That feels better than any of those meds they’ve given me so far,” Grandma says as granddaughter moves her long fingers over knotted back and neck.
And I marvel over how mothers and daughters the world over know this silent dance, this movement of ministering. One steps into Room 116 and another steps out. One gets coffee, and another brings the phone charger. One prays and the other weeps. And then they swap, and the praying one weeps and the weeping one prays.
All the women gather like finches to a newly filled feeder when the Doctor says, “We will need more scans, to see if that which is in her brain is from elsewhere in her body.”
She who hates to fly, hates confined spaces of any sort.
And when the medical staff is tempted to speak to the women gathering and over the top of the woman about whom they are speaking you remind them — She was a nurse by profession.
Ah, they say. Then they speak to her in a language common to those who have cared for the dying.
You long to hand every medical professional present a copy of After the Flag has been Folded, the book that was once titled Hero Mama, so that they will understand the sacred honor of being in the presence of a war widow, and treat her with the respect that strong women like her deserve.
What a difference a day makes, people say it all the time.
On this day, you know exactly what that means.
There was a headache. That’s all.
But it was bad enough to cause her to ask to be taken to the hospital. A first for her.
What a difference a day and six tumors later can make.
Yes, there are tears of grief but there’s a sweetness to them as women gather and the healing hands of granddaughters minister to the grandmother who begat them.