There’s just something amazingly comforting about the voice of a loved one.
This week I am in South Louisiana — Cajun Country — visiting my dying grandmother. Last week we were told that my mom’s mother, who has bravely battled lymphoma for over two years, has taken a turn for the worse and is now bedridden at home. At 86, she knows her time on earth is coming to a conclusion.
Being the typical matriarch of a Southern family, my grandmother has called all her loved ones to her side because she wants to see them one last time before she departs for heaven’s gates. It is a time of sadness for my family mixed with the eternal hope of heaven and joy for the deep impact she has made on our lives. It is kind of bittersweet, to be honest! The fleshly side of me wants her to stay. The spiritual side of me cannot help but rejoice with her deep desire to go to heaven… right now. “I’m ready,” she keeps telling us.
Before I rode down here with my sister Heather on Friday, I was warned that my grandmother didn’t look like I remembered. She didn’t act the same way that I was used to. She was so weak, I was told, that she slept most of the day and barely was able to get up anymore.
This was NOT the grandmother I knew! She was always busy with something… projects, food preparation, balancing finances for the non-profit she co-led, playing Bourré (a Cajun card game) with her friends, giving her opinions and, of course, keeping up with her eleven grandchildren.
After picking up my older sister Jennifer from the airport, we pulled up to my grandmother’s house on Friday and I had conflicted emotions. What would she look like? Did I want to see? How could I interact with her? Would I even be able to do that? I always want to remember people as the strong, full-of-life persons that I knew them to be, not as the frail end-of-life persons that they have become. So I was in agony.
It is SO hard to see the ones you love suffer, especially those who have been around your entire life.
Heather, Jennifer and I entered the house and, after chatting with the sitter the family has hired, we slowly entered my grandmother’s bedroom. There she was, barely awake on her bed; she was frail, thin and cancer-ridden. It nearly broke my heart. She didn’t feel anything because of the pain killer she was taking. Her eyes weren’t fully open and she had trouble turning her head to look at us.
But then something familiar happened. Something that changed my demeanor completely.
She parted her lips slightly and I heard her voice.
It was weaker than it used to be but it was her same, familiar, comforting voice. It was amazing. Here, lying on this bed before me was my grandmother. She even cracked a few small jokes and showed the stubborn side of her that has made her legendary to her family.
There is just something cool about the human voice. It can speak at such a range of volumes and express every single human emotion. It can warn us of danger, make us feel ashamed, even start wars! But it can also calm a ranging baby, bolster an insecure heart, and soothe someone who is weeping.
I’m reminded of Mary Magdalene in the garden. Eyes full of tears, she weeps over the empty grave of her Lord. Then, out of the blue, she hears a voice. “Woman,” it says. “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Her own emotional state made identification of the voice tough, so she asked the assumed gardener about the whereabouts of the body of Jesus. He simply said one word: “Mary.” Her heart melted.
There’s something comforting about a familiar voice.
Jesus knows this well. It was He who said, “I am the Good Shepherd… My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:14, 27-28) The sheep, His followers, hear His voice and know it instantly.
Earlier in John Chapter 10, the Savior likened himself to the shepherd who comes to the door of the sheep pen and calls out his sheep to follow him. And they follow him into pasture because they know his voice and trust him. But a thief will not command such respect.
There is confidence in a familiar voice.
This is a tough time for me and my family because death is never easy to deal with, especially when it happens to someone you love. I watch my mother and her siblings go through the seriousness and painful routine of putting my grandmother’s affairs in order. I look in on my grandmother and see her numbed by medicine, still and pale, and having to be moved by multiple people just to go to the bathroom. It hurts!
But then, today, while she was still, I heard something familiar coming from her room. Laughter! She has a distinct laugh — a chuckle of delight I have known all 37 years of my life. I smiled. Her voice is somehow comforting to me in her hour of trial. I won’t have many more opportunities to hear it this side of heaven, so I’m desperately trying to soak it in.
The human voice is a marvel.