+ Psalm 139:7-10 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
I’m told she was waiting on our front porch the day my parents brought me home for the first time. Arms wide open, heart filled with love for me even before we ever met. That was my Nana.
Pictures from my 2nd birthday show Nana bringing me a cake she baked for the party. It was a Barbie cake: a beautiful blond doll wearing a ballgown and her entire skirt was the birthday cake. Nana loved to go over-the-top for her family.
I remember signing my ballet recital program for Nana when she asked for an autograph after my brilliant performance as a flower at age 5.
She always seemed to cheer the loudest from the stands of my brother’s sporting adventures- even though I promise- she didn’t even know what a touchdown looked like.
Nana would take me on a ‘dog day’ once in a while- where we would go shopping for whatever I wanted- new toys, or later clothes- then, we would eat out at a restaurant that I chose- just the two of us. After this, we would catch a movie or indulge in a decadent dessert. From start to finish- the day was mine to create and design. She spoiled me rotten on these dog days.
Nana offered me wise advice and a compassionate hug the day of my high school graduation, my college graduation, my grad school graduation, my wedding day, and my ordination day. Whenever a big moment arrived in my life- Nana showed up.
You would think she simply drove across town for these events- but instead, we always lived nearly 2,000 miles apart. Distance meant nothing to her. She made me feel like she treasured every step of my life- and looking back, I believe she really did. The miles never prevented her from arriving just in time to cheer me on and nudge me forward. Nana always showed up.
This afternoon, my mom travels from Memphis TN, to Cupertino, California to show up for Nana one last time. Hospice says it will be days, maybe hours. Nana’s breathing is labored and her eyes are distant. My aunt wrote an update to the family about the plan to keep vigil with Nana, saying: “Kate arrives at 6pm, and she and I will stay bedside each night with Nana so she won’t be alone at all. After all, this is the Nana who was with each of us for every big event. She won’t go alone.”
As Nana waits at the doors between this world and the next, my mind races through all our shared memories- all the times Nana showed up for me and encouraged me on this wild and unpredictable life. I realize, now, as I grieve, that it is always excruciating to lose someone you love. Whether you expect it or not, whether they are old or young, whether you wait for the final breath or you are surprised by their sudden departure… grief is real and raw and difficult every time.
I think it’s because, relatively speaking, we have very few people who are truly in our corner. Out of the 7 billion people on this planet- really- each of us is lucky to have a handful of them who would be willing to show up for us, to bear witness to our little lives in this vast world. And when you lose one of your witnesses- one of your cheerleaders- one of your people- the loss pierces your heart.
I love Psalm 139. If you’ve ever felt the comfort of someone who shows up for you- then the words of the Psalmist in 139 are tangible and beautiful. Tonight, or another night soon, I will lose one of the people who showed up for me over the past 30 years. And I will grieve this loss. But Psalm 139 reminds me that some things are eternal, and deep, and wide, and all encompassing. Nana will soon be a part of this divine, transcendent presence we call The Holy- and I find peace in that.