The finish line is in sight. Here is a small snippet. I have been kind of embarrassed to share bits because there is no time for editing or revising this month, but i'll post this bit today anyway.
Monday, April 21st 2008
We’re leaving tomorrow for our trip. I was kind of glad that Jack had to work today so that I wouldn’t have to miss my writing class.
Mr. Henry brought a short story that I’m sure I have heard before. It was the story about a bunch of British soldiers who got trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. They managed to send a three word message to their leaders, who wanted to save them, and who had sent them a message of hope and resolution. Their three word reply was, “And if not...”
He told us how at that time, the people of Britain all recognised the phrase and understood the words referred to the bible story about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who faced the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar. They said that God could save them if He wanted to, but even if He didn’t, they still weren’t going to bow to him or any idol.
We talked for a long time about having a shared frame of reference with those who would read our words.
Then he placed the sheet of paper he was working with gently beside him, and turned to us, “How would you finish that sentence, ‘and if not’?”
I had to think hard about that.
Those soldiers were hoping for a best case scenario – being saved from their enemies as they lay trapped on the beaches. And if they were not saved – they made clear by their message that they would choose the fire over bending to what their enemy wanted to make of the world.
When my best case scenario is held hostage, do I have the courage to peek at my ‘and if not’?
I find that I want to uncover my eyes – and take a good, long hard look at what I believe because if it changes with my circumstances, then it’s just not good enough.
Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
Believe it or not, it was snowing again when we left this morning.
I almost thought we should cancel our trip, but Jack scoffed at me, so I decided to just trust him. I brought my blanket and pillow and wore my yoga pants so I could sleep in the truck. When I woke up, it looked like we were driving through a blizzard. We decided to stop for an early lunch and see if the weather would clear a bit.
It did clear a bit after lunch and we got to mom and dad’s in time for supper. I was so exhausted I didn’t feel like heading out again, but Jack really wanted to go see his Grandma tonight, so after supper, we headed out to the hospital. It’s only about 10 minutes from Mom and Dad’s and we got there just as Grandma was finishing her supper.
I couldn’t believe the change in her in only three and a half months. She has lost so much weight, and it makes her look so different. Her usual prim little perm has grown out, and her white hair rises in a feathery cloud around her face.
She smiled when Jack walked in the door, and I could see the mild paralysis on the right hand side of her face.
Jack, being Jack, took off his snowy boots and climbed right into her bed. She chucked as he put his arm around her and asked her jovially, “So, Grandma, were you lonesome for me?”
We had to listen carefully – her voice sounded higher and thinner; not as bright and clipped as it used to be.
“I have been lonesome a lot in this past year, Jack, but I discovered that loneliness is only the invitation of God, and so I decided to accept.”
Jack grinned and said, “Well then, that’s a better offer than I can give you.”
Grandma laughed, and suddenly I was so glad Jack made me come. I found a seat beside the bed and made myself comfortable as Jack helped himself to the tiny bowl of caramels that Grandma kept by her bed for just this type of visit. Even now, she was ever the hostess, making sure that her visitors were welcomed taken care of.
He told her all about work, and the course that he was hoping to take in the fall. He told her how our baby looked like an alien on the ultrasound, and that he didn’t know what colour to paint the little room that we were preparing. And then, he turned to her and asked, “And what about you, Grandma – are you doing okay?”
She turned to Jack and said, “At first, I was frustrated when this body,” here she picked up her twisted right hand with her stronger left, “suddenly became so disobedient. But, when I talked it over with my Father, I came to the conclusion that he brought me from infancy to the independence of adulthood. If it should be in His plan to take me back to infancy... Who am I to question Him?”
She spoke slowly, deliberately and intentionally.
“Jack,” she touched his cheek with her left hand, “I’m so glad you’re my grandson. I was afraid at first to lose my independence, and to be alone and broken. But now I realize that I am far from alone, and that my Father, knowing the days and hours allotted to me to live on this earth, is encouraging me for the sake of the generations to come; to finish well. I hope He gives me what I need to faithfully, gratefully persevere, even in this present difficulty.
Neither Jack or I knew what to say to her. She seemed so purposeful, poised and confident.
Suddenly, the image of the soldiers trapped on the beach flashed through my mind and it was as if I heard Jack’s Grandmother’s fervent prayer for health – and the three words of faith that would follow it.
And if not...
We didn’t stay too long because we were tired from our trip. We promised Grandma that we’ll go see her tomorrow.
Now, I’m about to fall into bed and I hope that the tiny one inside will sleep too.