Over a week ago, I received a call that my grandmother was approaching death. The suggestion was if I wanted a last visit, I should come sooner rather than later. Looking at the week ahead, I realized I could go with my children last weekend with minimal impact to their school schedule or my own work obligations. I was not sure what to expect – whether I would be able to have meaningful conversation or even eye contact with her, or especially how my three- and eight-year olds would respond to her in her current state. At some point, a family member pastorally suggested I not come, knowing how hard such a long journey for such a brief visit would be. But something kept pushing me to go, even if the journey seemed fraught with potential difficulty.
There were things that did not happen. We did not have one last, long, meaningful conversation as I had with my other grandmother. My grandmother was much too weak and her thoughts much too confused to answer any of my lingering questions about our family. My children did not get to interact with my grandmother extensively. They had beautiful moments of tenderness with her, and they played nearby, but they also needed to be kids and move. I did not leave with a sense of real closure. No one really knows how long she will be able to thrive.
What did happen was a much clearer understanding of why Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet, while her sister Martha busied herself with the duties of the home. For full confession’s sake, I am much more like Martha most days – I am always washing one more dish or finishing one more piece of laundry instead of playing with my kids or hanging out with my husband. But sitting beside my grandmother, holding her hand, realizing all the things I was not getting, I came to see the beauty of presence. I do not think I have ever just been still with my grandmother. I have never looked into her eyes for an extended period of time without saying anything. I am pretty sure I have never just held her hand. In the midst of all that could not be said, I felt a different kind of closure. I could finally see in my larger-than-life grandmother her vulnerability, her desire to love, her humanity.
I left my grandmother last weekend wondering if I might be able to create more space for Mary-type moments in everyday life. Whether I might put my phone away more often at home and be more present with my family. How I might stop worrying about my to-do list, and spend more open time with our staff and parishioners. Whether I might write that note to a suffering friend instead of letting the thought pass. What Mary-type moments have been missing in your life lately? When was the last time you sat at the feet of Jesus, or sat at the feet of the holy in others, and stayed for a while? What might you need to do this week to find your own Mary moment? I look forward to hearing about your reflections.