I love my Nanny.
My eye traces the scar just above her left temple, where the silver cloud of once black hair pulls back just a bit, refusing to conceal this reminder to me of the fragility, the vulnerability inherent in even the most courageous, resilient lives.
I still feel responsible. It was probably a dozen years ago when Nanny was a young octogenarian. We were visiting Aunt Margie, laughing as we approached the front steps, when suddenly my dear nanny just tripped over the edge of the walkway and fell, striking her head on the iron rail. I'd never seen a head wound, and I'm not prepared to turn your stomach this morning by letting you in on the grisly details, but I do remember needing to pull off my pale pink cotton sweater and wrap it tightly around her head and quickly realizing it wasn't thick enough to absorb all the blood. The cut was so awful that, when the ambulance arrived just minutes later, one attendant let out some choice expletives and was rebuked softly by my weakened but ever alert Nanny, for his language.
Nanny's hand moves to the edge of the blanket, lingers for a moment then lays curled once more on top of the beautiful flowered nightgown Aunt Nellie bought for her. I love those little hands. Hands that crocheted baby clothes and knitted Barbie outfits, crafted lacey doilies, kneaded bread, washed dishes, washed and untangled and cut my mop of red hair, patted my hand as she sat beside my bed when I couldn't sleep, couldn't breathe, couldn't cope. Hands that comforted my mother when she was a baby, corrected her when she was a child, folded in prayer for her when she was broken-hearted and lost, and that cared for and comforted her once more when she was sick and frail and dying.
Nanny's chest rises and falls evenly with each breath, a little pulse visible at the base of her throat, and with each breath, each heartbeat, I can hear the faint echo of her long ago alto blending with and supporting my thin childish soprano in the little Independent Baptist Church in Lockeport. I hear her light, fun "mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy...a kid'll eat ivy too, wouldn't you?" while she washes the dishes, I dry them, and Grandad reads his Bible and twirls his hair in the rocker in the front room. And I hear her more recently, clearly singing ditties and hymns, tapping her hands against her lap, or smacking Jessica's teasing fingers, grinning up at Gaëlle, rolling her eyes at me, not a self-conscious care in the world, no more dishes to wash, hair to braid, cookies to shape or clothes to fold or mend.
So I sit and watch this face, these hands, and I wait. She's ready to go home. She's fought the good fight, finished this race. And it's my honour, my delight to spend a few hours, cheering her on to the finish line.
Oh yes, I'm sad...when i find myself alone and unguarded my whole body shakes with the sobs of grief; my heart is heavy with loss and with shadowy moments of regret and sorrow. But this is not sad. It's a victorious end to a life well-lived, the beginning of a legacy of 3 children, 8 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren who have all put their trust in her Saviour and Friend, and who will continue to train up her 6 plus great great grandchildren to love and serve him.
I hope I get to watch that face again tonight. But if I don't, thank you, Nanny. I'll see you soon...hug Grandad and Mom and Auntie May and Aunt Millie and Uncle Gordie and little Bethany for me...
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate~ Proverbs 31:30-31