On May 4, 2022, my Grandmother, Miriam Donovan, went home to be with the Lord. That day was also her 89th birthday. At the time she was living in a memory care facility in Salmon Creek. She had moved to Vancouver and bought a suitable house for herself in Hazel Dell following my Grandfather’s death in 1996. It was a welcome home for all her family, and we shared many Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and other holiday meals together at her house. She lived in that house on her own for 20+ years.
That move was a big deal. One of my Grandma’s wishes, which was well-known in the family, was that she would never be “put in a home”, but would be able to live out her days in her own home. So it was a gut-wrenching reality that my Dad, my Uncle, and my Aunt all had to face when it became apparent that the needs for her on-going care reached a point that was simply beyond what our family was able to provide. They each, along with others in the family, had gone to tremendous effort, making great sacrifices to keep her in her home for as long as possible.
Leanne and I went to visit her on Monday, May 2, in her new home. It’s hard to say what she was understanding or experiencing in those moments. It was clear that her body, which had been so healthy for so many years, was finally betraying her in the same way that her mind had betrayed her. She was nearing the end. It was clear because she was no longer eating or drinking. And so we talked with her, unsuccessfully trying to choke back the tears. I doubt she knew who we were, but I know she knew we were people who loved her, and people who were there to comfort her. She had enough energy to reach out and hold our hands. And so we held her hand, talked a little bit, and spent time just being with her.
It was in holding her hand that I noticed something remarkable. A ring. A silver band that had small black crosses on it. I believe she got that ring for herself. Shortly after moving to Vancouver, she recognized a need for community. So she began attending a church near her house. Columbia Christian Church, across the street from Columbia River High School. She and my grandfather had attended a church some when my Dad was a kid, but to hear my Dad describe the experience, it was more social club than a place where the Gospel was held in high regard. So it was a bit of good news in the family to see her plug into a church. And it was in those later years of her life, as a part of that church, where she began to take her faith in Jesus more seriously. She was baptized in that church, and her ring with the crosses on it was something she bought for herself after her baptism, a reminder that, though she was no longer married to my Grandfather since he had died, she was now betrothed to Christ.
As I held her hand on that Monday, it was a stark reminder that her home wasn’t in Hazel Dell. And her home wasn’t at the memory care facility in Salmon Creek. As He had promised all of us, Jesus had gone ahead to prepare a place for her, a home for her, so that soon she would be where He is. I got to see her again by myself on Wednesday, May 4 around noon. At that point, her body had pretty well shut down, and she was no longer responsive. She was truly at the end. So I sat with her for a while. Talked some, was quiet some. And then I left after an hour or so. And at 4:00 that afternoon, she saw in full what she had only ever previously seen in part. She was able to see the face of the Savior as she was welcomed home by her Lord. To a home that she will never have to leave, and to a home where neither moths, rust, nor dementia can destroy.