God as my witness, I have never shared what I’m about to share with another person. Not Matt. Not my best friends. No one.
Before you go thinking I robbed a bank in college or am about to confess to burying a body in the backyard, you need to know what I “did” won’t land me in prison. Though, it has kept me in a type of chains.
A lot has happened over the past month or so . . . a lot of change for us. Positive change. And I feel more is to come. I’m not good with change. I wish I could be, but I’m just not. Each time I feel a shift in life, something that makes me uneasy or brings me a bit of hesitance or uncertainty, I do what so many of us do—I want my Grandma. There’s just something about being held in a mother’s arms that drowns out fear, even if it’s just for the briefest of moments.
I’ve thought a lot about her lately. More so than normal, and so, the reminder of what I’m going to share with you has been with me more than normal as well.
I called Grandma the night before she got sick, as I always did. I will never forget . . . Matt and I were sitting in bed in our house in Siloam Springs, and I was ready to get off the phone before I even dialed her number. Who knows why? Maybe I wanted to watch tv. Maybe the girls weren’t asleep yet? Maybe I wanted to get some writing done. That, I don’t recall. But I know the phone call I made to her that night felt more like an obligation than something I wanted to do.
I can’t remember everything we discussed, but I do remember it was a very short conversation. Grandma had begun to lose a bit of her hearing, and I had to repeat much what I said, sometimes more than once. I was incredibly frustrated. I remember holding the phone in front of me and speaking so loud that Matt gave me a look, which frustrated me even more.
Some days Grandma and I talked three or four times, and our nightly conversations were typically long ones. I looked forward to them. But that last night, I wanted to be anywhere, doing anything other than sitting in that bed, talking to her.
After only a few minutes, I said, much too loud, “Well, since you can’t hear me, I’m just going to go. I’ll call you tomorrow!” I remember her saying, “Ok,” in a sad, dejected voice. She wasn’t ready for the conversation to end. We’d been talking about the girls, and she loved hearing about their day. But I hung up the phone after a quick, I love you. Almost instantly, I felt guilty and wanted to call her back. But I didn’t.
The next morning I would get a phone call telling me she’d become ill during the night, and an ambulance had come and taken her to the hospital in the early morning hours. I made the three-hour drive to be with her, praying all the way, begging God to let her be ok. But in my heart, I knew.
When I arrived at the hospital, she was sick. So very sick. She tried to talk to me, but I couldn’t understand a word of it. She was moaning a lot, and the pain meds made her go in and out of sleep. I stayed with her. I talked to her and prayed over her. I held her hand. The night before I had wanted nothing to do with our conversation, but at that moment, all I wanted to hear was her voice, telling me it was all going to be all right.
I spent the night with her and slept very little. The next morning, she wasn’t in as much pain. She wasn’t moaning, only resting. I was relieved until the nurse came in to do a blood pressure check and her blood pressure did not register on the machine. Within a matter of minutes, I was whisked inside a family conference room and later told she was not going to make it through the day.
Maybe someday I will tell you about what it was like to be there, holding her hand as she slipped out of this world and into Heaven. Or maybe no words could ever describe that moment. But after she was gone . . . after the funeral . . . after it was time for life to begin again, one singular thought plagued me—our final conversation.
My mind raced with notions like . . . She died thinking you didn’t care about her. On her very last night, you made her feel small. She had no idea how much you loved her. She was disappointed in you. On the day she died, you made her feel unimportant. Look at the opportunity you lost! You had one last chance to let her know how much she meant to you and you blew it because of your selfishness. After she hung up the phone she probably cried. How sad you must have made her.
If only I could count the number of times since her death, ten years ago, those words have wreaked havoc in my mind. They’ve tortured me, relentless and cruel, flooding my heart out of nowhere. MY words, played over and over again, bringing overwhelming shame and regret and tainting the relationship Grandma and I had.
You might be wondering. . . . So, if you’re so messed up over this—so guilt-ridden over what happened—why are you sharing it now? You might assume I have some message to bring such as, “You only have people in your life for a little while, so be good to them while you can.” Or, “Words can build up or destroy. Use them wisely.” While those statements are true, there’s something much truer I want to tell you.
One of Satan’s most effective tactics is to distract us from what we know is true by persuading us to believe a lie.
And here is what I know is true. I loved my Grandma, and she loved me. We adored each other. There were times, yes, when we disagreed, but as I got older, those times were few and far between. I held her hand when we shopped. I painted her fingernails. We laughed together always. We talked about everything. I told her everything. She could tell by looking at me if I was happy, sad, bothered, worried, afraid. No matter what was happening, when I walked into a room, her expression changed—something in her eyes lit up and let me know I was important. I told her I loved her every single time we spoke, without fail. And while I obviously can’t know what she was thinking after our conversation that night, what I do know about the way she loved me leads me to believe she probably went to sleep praying for me, having heard the stress in my voice, asking God to help me with my little girls—that she knew it must be hard being a mommy to a one and two-year-old—that rather than being upset by me, she probably wished she could be there to help me, to hug me. That’s what I know.
I wanted to share my ‘secret’ with you, not to rid myself of guilt or get it off my chest, but to be honest in the struggle and to encourage you to fight to let the truth reign in your hearts and minds. Satan’s lies are nothing short of a dark, dank prison that leaves us shivering inside.
You’re a bad mama. Lie.
Your parents didn’t love you because you’re not worthy of love. Lie.
You’ll always be damaged goods because of what you did. Lie.
Life will never be good again. Lie.
Dreams come true for other people, but not for you. Lie.
The filth of your past can never be washed away. Lie.
I don’t know what lie you might be believing, but if you’re locked inside its walls, what I want you to know is that you are holding the key to your freedom. Truth is the key, and the very second you choose to believe it, you can walk out of that blackness, free to live fully without the chains that bound you up tight.
Please understand, I haven’t won this battle. I’d like to say I’m free, but so often I crawl back inside those prison walls and lock myself in. And not just with this particular lie, but others as well. It’s a process. Satan is dang good at what he does. But I’m trying. Maybe writing this for you to read was part of my fight. I’m not sure.
What I am sure of is if you’re struggling against believing a lie, you’re not alone. It’s every single day for me. And every single day I have to get with Him and work it out. That may reveal my weakness, but that’s ok.
Believing can be hard. The easiest lies to believe are lies about ourselves. But don’t you dare believe you are anything less than loved, adored, and able to do big things for a world who is crying out for what you have to give.