So I will be the first to tell you I believe Religion/Faith is a very personal affair and I won’t judge you for any differences you and I may have… but I would like to share this story with anyone interested in listening. Whether you are Christian, Catholic, Mormon, Athiest…. the point is, no matter how one’s life was lived PLEASE take note that in those very last days and final moments before they take their last breath- peace can be found.

As a child I heard bits and pieces of stories from a different life, long ago. I heard stories of my grandfathers childhood and how he was going through the intense process leading the way to a life of religious service. At the time as an altar boy for the Episcopalian Church he and his family attended in up-state New York. He later ended up joining the Navy at 17years old and soon after marrying my grandmother.

My grandmother similarly was involved with their church choir and was very proud of her involvement in Sweet Adolines singing group. Other than listening to her sing along with the radio occasionally I would never have pictured her participating in such a group. Much less a church choir. One of her favorites she’d sing was Blue Skies… which I only know because I had learned to play that song on the flute for Jazz band and while I practiced in my room I could always hear her singing along.

I honestly am not sure if my uncles and father grew up going to church as a family, it seemed like something happened in their youn adult life that lead them away from the church… what I do know is by the time my brother and I came around church/God was not something we discussed. And if it was ever mentioned it was some kind of condescending remark out of my grandmother’s mouth.

Ironically enough they somehow came to the conclusion in the early 1990’s that in order to help deal with my pre-teen ‘behavior’ and emotions, they would send me to a rather expensive private Christian school. But first, they sent my brother for a year to see how it would work. He was always a compliant child and did as he was told with no quarrel… when it came to my turn to tale the entrance exam I vividly remember attempting to fail the dang thing because I was so angry about having to leave my 4th grade class of friends who, along with our favorite teacher, were all moving up to 5th grade together…except for me. Man I was angry.

Nevertheless… I was accepted. Surely they all knew what I was attempting to do…

The school was like baptismal by fire as I was thrown into a world of “God this” and “God that” and weekly mandatory Chapel services and daily prayer in the classroom. I felt like a fish out of water with so, so many questions.

Thankfully I had a very patient teacher and staff at the school who took the time, knowing who I was and where I came from. Maybe they took pity on me, maybe they saw me as a new pupil ready to conform… who knows. I appreciated their time and fell in love with the idea of a Heavenly Father who loved me unconditionally and created me uniquely special.

This opened a door for me to for the first time feel valued and challenged me to find my unique gifts and purpose in this world. I felt peace and fulfillment believing in a God who loved everything about me and had a great destiny in store for me. I was excited to learn more and be more.

The day I sat in at lunch with my teacher and prayed with her to join in her faith and Christianity I wanted to confidently run home and share with my grandparents this momentous occasion. However, I was faced with grunts and sarcastic remarks about conforming and something about being a sheep…. my excitement and passion had been doused by her negativity and judgement. I very quickly learned to keep my faith and beliefs in this department to myself.

Later that year I was invited to join a friend from school at their church on Sundays. At first we had a sleepover so that I could attend with them the following morning and be brought home after. Then her parents kindly had the discussion with my grandparents about just picking me up on Sundays on their way to church. Without this precious family, I would probably not have been able to connect with church and our beautifully small girls group that year.

I was given my first Bible that I use to this day, that year. I threw myself into ALL the activities; whatever was on our youth group calendar I attended and I also signed up to help in the children’s classes one service each Sunday too. At this church I finally felt like I wasn’t broken. I felt like they loved and appreciated me. This was my home.

I remember as the years progressed my grandmother complained that I spent too much time doing all my church activities. My grandfather gently argued that the more involved I was the better it would look on my college applications…. although at the time I had expressed no desire to even attend college. It soothed the argument and as long as I completed my chores at home she mostly complied with allowing me to attend the various weekly events alone.

School functions were rather awkward. The very few my grandparents actually attended were uncomfortable simply because each one involved prayer, speeches about or thanking God, and in some cases worship songs as well. They never really gave the impression that they were uncomfortable or disagreeable to the subject matter, but I felt uncomfortable because I knew it was not something we discussed at home. It just went unmentioned and after the events we went on with our lives as if that awkwardness had never happened.

Growing up we would spend quite a bit of time with my grandmothers sister visiting us. I believe she was 6 years younger, and man did my grandmother act her senior. Aunt Bobbie, as we affectionately called her, was such a sweet beautiful woman who loved God with all her heart. I’m not exactly sure which denomination she identified with but she never left home without her Bible handy.

For most of what I can remember she was married to a much older man named Howard. He was pretty gruff and grumpy most of the time but got along with my grandfather rather well. He swore up and down he didn’t believe in God and would grumble and huff when Bobbie would say prayer at meals – not just dinner, but All the meals. My grandmother too would make comments and mock her faith when she’d choose to go out of her way on vacation visiting us to find a local church to still attend on Sundays. Bobbie stood her ground and seemed to be even more motivated to pray for her naysayers.

Bobbie was very confident in her Faith and stood up to her sister, openly telling her that she prays for her and responding confidently to her constant negative remarks. I was in awe at how she could do that and not waiver. How she could openly discuss her faith and religion with someone so clearly against it all…

My grandmother really did not change over the next few years. Despite my faith growing and my beliefs guiding me, she would never respect a decision made out of a faith she didn’t believe in. She argued and pushed back anything I felt God had in store my life. Eventually this lead to moving out and beginning to make my own decisions without worry or consequence about what she might say. I gave in to the understanding that I would never live up to her expectations and that was okay.

Because of her stubbornness in 2002, she even refused to attend my wedding as a newly turned 18 yr old. My grandfather actually left her home and came, which was the first time in my entire life I ever saw him do anything other than support her decisions and stand by her side, even when we all knew she was wrong. It meant the world to me that he was there. I refused to let her disagreement and discouraging comments deter me from marrying the man I believed God had planned for me. Thankfully, as the years passed she grew to love him and he honestly was her favorite person to have around by the time she passed away. It was pretty funny actually. I think in her own way she was admitting she was wrong.

Many years later Eric and the kids and I moved into the guest house on my grandparents property to help take care of them in their old age. Shortly after my grandfather passed away and she was left without her partner, her soulmate… the only person who could ground her and understood her. She struggled for a bit. She went through some intense stages of grief and then found a kind of balance with her new life without him. I spent many mornings after taking the older 2 kiddos to school going down to the main house to talk with her and let her play with Peytne while she ate her breakfast. Those moments seemed to help her heal from the loss.

One day she happened to ask me what my plans were for the upcoming weekend. I hesitated, but answered honestly that I was going to attend a women’s conference with some friends from my church. I cringed and waited for her judgement. Instead she actually asked to go with me. I stumbled through a quick response letting her know I’d get an extra ticket for her. I was in such shock and to be honest was terrified she might say something horrifying while at the event so I quickly emailed my table group and warned them.

The day of the event I couldn’t believe she had not changed her mind… I guess loneliness can motivate some miraculous change in people. We sat together at this beautiful event, enjoyed a wonderful lunch, she listened quietly as we sang a few worship songs lead by my beautiful friend who many years before was the only reason I could attend this church, she respectfully bowed her head during prayer and listened as the amazing Carol Hopson spoke about the power of God and his ability to change your life.

The ride home was complete and utter awkward silence. I was terrified to ask her anything or begin a discussion…. it was already miracle enough that she attended the event, much less respectfully and without comment during. That day passed with silence between us but I felt like something huge had happened. I prayed to soften her heart but struggled with the idea that maybe God would want ME to be the one to talk to her… I felt so unqualified. And so I did nothing and said nothing.

She matched my silence. We spent the next year focusing on the kids and learning to find joy in life without my grandfather there. The next year however also took a disturbing turn as she struggled mentally and physically with lewy bodies dementia. She was in and out of the hospital for many months and it was hard on all of us.

In September 2015 she came home from her last hospital trip on Hospice and was not given long to live. She was not aware of where she was or what was happening most of the time. Although she talked about food and wanting things like waffles or ice cream she did not eat anything. She struggled to sleep and began hallucinating and calling out for help or wandering through the house and getting lost. I put some music in her room and played the oldies she used to enjoy. That seemed to help her a little but some nights I found myself quietly sitting at her bedside reading and just watching her.

One evening, I sat there working on a Bible Study I was completing called Armor of God by Priscilla Shrier. My grandmother had fallen silent most days at this time and just laid there, hands on her chest, not moving just staring at the ceiling. About 1am she suddenly, having somehow known I was sitting there, asked me what I was doing. I felt myself, despite all the years that had passed, cringed. I hesitated to tell her, but I did. Instead of criticizing me she asked me what it was about. I gently found the words to describe it. Then what came put of her mouth next was yet another miracle:

“Do you remember that lady that spoke at that women’s event?”

*silently trying not to freak out*


“She spoke about letting God take away your worries….”

*holding my breath completely confused and shocked by this early morning conversation*

“Yes, what she said is true. He asks us to let go of our worries to find peace….”

*silence as she seems to be thinking that over and I’m still not breathing*

“I feel so bad giving Him all my worries.. .I am going to be dumping a big load on His shoulders but she says to give your worries to God…”

For the FIRST time ever in my life I hear her not only admitting fear/worry but simultaneously acknowledging God… I felt the weight of this moment and knew how incredibly momentous this was, but still felt so unqualified to be ministering to this women who mocked my faith and beliefs my entire life.

So I said to her, “Would you like to talk to her again? Carol still attends our church. I could ask her to come by and speak with you in the morning…”

What felt like an hour passed before she said “yes, I’d like that.” And she closed her eyes.

I immediately pulled up my phone and shot off an email to Carol. It was still like 230 in the morning, but I did not want to wait. I explained to her my grandmother’s condition, a little about our history and repeated that she may neither remember this conversation nor have the ability to speak by morning because the previous week she had not spoken at all.

By about 830 am I had a reply from Carol in my inbox. It had been a year almost to the date from the previous women’s conference we attended and on this day she had blocked her entire morning off to devote to last minute errands before speaking at this weekends annual event. She said she could come by and would be happy to speak to my grandmother personally.

I was terrified to wake my grandmother up and find out that she didn’t remember anything. I feared she would be angry at me, like she was when Hospice sent a chaplain to our home until he pulled out his guitar and played music instead of ministering to her. I feared all the worst case scenarios playing out in my head.

But… she didn’t forget. She woke up when I softly disturbed her and let her know Carol had arrived and wanted to speak to her. She nodded her head but did not speak. I ran outside to greet Carol and prepared for negative impact. Carol walked into the room and the moments that followed not only are fogged in my head, but I also stepped out and let them have privacy shortly after they began praying together.

I heard her respond to Carol. She asked a few questions earnestly and listened to Carol’s reply. She asked her if she’d like to pray together and my grandmother very clearly said, “yes.” My heart burst. Shortly after I stepped put. Carol told us after that she repeated most of the prayer with her then halfway through, despite looking directly at her, stopped speaking. Carol asked if she was still praying on her head and my grandmother nodded. Carol finished praying with her and left her rest.

The moments that followed this day are so beautiful. Instead of now laying there staring at the ceiling looking like she’s in discomfort, she was full of peace. It was and still is to this day the most amazing thing I have ever seen. She had quite a few beautiful days where she spoke clearly and was mostly clear minded as well. I was able to even call her sister and they spoke on the phone AND PRAYED TOGETHER. Well, her sister prayed and she listened…. but she really listened.

About a week later she did not speak again and then a few days after that she passed away surrounded by her family.

For those of you that stuck it out and read all this way, you can understand a bit about how difficult and seemingly anti religious this woman was. I don’t know the details of what happened in her young adult life but I realized it wasn’t that she didn’t believe but that she was angry and hurt. In the end, it didn’t matter how many years she spent being angry and dissmissive… it was not too late and the beauty of that peace she found in her final days, I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

No matter how someone has lived, no matter far off path they may have fallen, no matter the wrongs you feel you’ve done… it is not too late to try and make things right and find peace. Whatever your beliefs, this is mine and the experience I choose to share and show the beauty that can be experienced in those last moments before death.

… it is never too late.

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