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Broken Ribs and A Place in Heaven

(Note: There will be no FYI next week. May your Christmas celebrations be blessed by the knowledge of Emmanuel, God With Us. See you in the new year!)

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3 NASB)

I had been feeling sad for some weeks, but it seemed to come to a head last week. On Monday, my two-year-old grandson went to urgent care in the evening for breathing complications of a cold. Tuesday was a 10-hour marathon at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance as my husband tried a new chemotherapy. Wednesday was babysitting, except the baby was too uncomfortable to even be with me. All day, in his distress, it had to be Daddy. A very sick little boy.

On Thursday, we left a little after 7:00 am for Olympia to attend the Clemency Board hearings. While we were en route, I got a call. My mom, who has memory trouble, had been found on the floor by her bed, complaining of pain on the right side. I could picture the EMTs talking with Mom and her reaction to the ER, while I was driving in the opposite direction! It is hospital policy to admit patients to the ICU if they are over 65 and have three or more broken ribs. “No, no, no!” I said. “No ICU!” I would have had her immediately returned to Corwin, where she’s known and (sort-of) knows people, but consented to have her placed in an ordinary hospital room at least overnight.

I came by that evening. She was absently watching the television. With Tylenol and lying still, she was in no pain, and when I told her she had three broken ribs, she said, “I don’t believe it! How do you know?” And finally, “How did it happen?” We would have this conversation maybe fifty times in the next 48 hours. And we’ll have it maybe a thousand times over the next several months, as her body leans into the long, slow task of healing.

On Sunday, I felt raw and ready to cry by the time church started. Kent was playing music for the first time since his health problems began. And then Heather shared an encounter with God.

She had planned, even meticulously prepared and practiced, to tell a story about how she encountered God with her premature babies. But she woke up that Sunday morning and put that all aside, to tell a story about her 99-year old Grandpa Hansen, in his last days of life. I knew then that this story was for me.

The focal part of her wonderful story was an odd thing that occurred in her Grandpa Hansen’s life, after he’d recovered from an illness. As a nurse’s aide reported it, Grandpa Hansen, a strong life-long Christian, told the aide that he had “confessed his sins and was going to heaven.” How odd, thought Heather.

Grandpa Hansen died four days later.

Although Heather had had no conscious doubts that Grandpa Hansen would return to his God at death, she felt that the “odd” report was a confirming message of comfort for her and her sister who had cared for Grandpa Hansen.

Later Sunday, with Mom, I had an inspiration: there was an action item for me, stemming from Heather’s story. Maybe I’m God’s messenger to take a message of comfort to Mom, rather than the other way around. I’m constantly giving her messages already: “You’re my momma.” “I’m your daughter.” “He’s your husband.” “You’re 99 years old.” “You have three broken ribs.” “We think you fell.” “I love you.” “Thank you for taking care of me all these years.”

Isn’t it odd that I’m so intent on telling her she has three broken ribs and less intent on telling her about God’s preparation of a place for her in heaven? Mom is a decades-long follower of Jesus.

I’ve dedicated 2019 to Mom as the year when her 100th birthday occurs. The New Year’s resolution that goes with it is to tell her at least as often as I assure her of her broken ribs, that she is dearly loved by God, and He awaits her in heaven when the time is ripe.

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