(Moved over from previous faculty website; originally written in 2002)
Saying 'Goodbye' To Granny - by Louis F. Morgan
Growing up in rural Mississippi, my usual past times were playing in the woods and racing my bicycle down a seldom-traveled street. But those things were secondary; my favorite thing to do was spend time with my great-grandmother. “Granny” was my best friend for as long as I can remember. As a child, I could never imagine life without her.
When I was five years old Granny moved into our home and became my roommate. About a year later she moved into a trailer next door, and I spent most every weekend with her until I entered high school. Granny and I were a pair. Each day following school she had a snack awaiting me. We talked about our day’s activities as we ate, and then we watched television together. After that I listened as Granny shared stories about her life’s experiences. Through Granny’s love for me, the Lord let me experience a measure of His unconditional love. I am forever thankful.
Granny also taught me many things, such as how to cook, buy groceries, plant trees, wash clothes, research genealogy, balance a checkbook, and thousands of other things. I often drove her to town, the doctor’s office, or for rides in the country to her old home place. To say the least, I was her pride and joy. She always called me her “heart.”
She also encouraged me to live for Jesus. I remember her evening prayers and our discussions about the meaning of certain biblical passages. Too, I preached my first sermon for Granny after she became unable to attend church regularly. Using a bookmark I found in her Bible for my outline, I preached on the plan of salvation. Of course, she was already born-again, but one would have thought my name was Billy Graham the way she told people about that sermon. (Granny always did brag on me—too much, I know.) Yet, she always knew how to build my confidence, and she always believed that I could do anything with the help of the Lord.
Granny was a caregiver to me, which caused me to feel guilty when she moved into a nursing home. Even though it was her own decision and I was attending college 500 miles away, I wished I could help her nonetheless. Initially, we talked for about an hour every Saturday on the telephone, and she told me how good they were to her at the nursing home. That made me feel better, and hearing her voice was reassuring. Too, I always looked forward to our visits on my return trips to Mississippi.
As the years passed I saw Granny growing weaker, and I often wondered how I would make it when the Lord called her home. After her eightieth birthday, she began telling me that she would leave for Heaven one day. I always told her that she could not leave me yet; I still needed her too badly. During a visit when she was 94, she told me, “No tears when I go now! No tears.” I told her that was one promise I could not make, and, besides, I could not let her go just yet.
Strangely, shortly after that visit I dreamed that Granny came to my bedside and told me, “I sure miss home.” Uncertain, I questioned, “Which home?” With a longing look on her face Granny replied, “Where ever Jesus is.” I then told her that I hoped she would soon get to go home, and with that I awoke from my sleep. One Saturday evening following, I wiped the tears from my face after my evening prayer. I thanked God for blessing me with such a loving Granny, and I asked Him to let her go on and be with Him. She was so eager to go to Heaven.
I received a call the following Monday afternoon and learned that the Lord was answering that prayer. Quickly I made the 7-hour drive from Tennessee to Mississippi. Granny was still holding on when I arrived, but it was different from my previous visit. Then we had talked, shared a joke, and expressed our love for each other, but now she was unresponsive and unable to look around. It was odd not hearing her welcome me with a hint of surprise. It seemed like she should be saying, “Look who I see!"
When I reached her bedside, I was grateful the Lord had let her live until I arrived. I took her hand and spoke to her, and she began to groan in response to my voice. Through my brokenness and tears, I told her how much I loved her. And those were not just words that I felt were momentarily appropriate. That was, and is, a feeling overflowing from deep within me. Ours was a unique friendship— an inseparable bond between a boy and his Granny.
That last night with Granny was perhaps the longest of my life, and, ironically, it passed much too quickly. As I sat at her bedside, I remembered the many times I had stayed with her through the years. Through the flood of memories, I realized that the time had finally come. Never before had I been willing to let her go, but I knew that I had no choice this time. The Lord was ready, and Granny had been ready for so many years. It was unfair for me to desire that she stay with me. I prayed for the Lord to give me strength.
About 11:15 the next morning, still at Granny’s bedside, I knew it was time to let her go. I brushed her hair with my fingers and took her by the hand. I told her that it was okay to make her passing. She had done all she could do for us here, and the Lord was ready for her. It was okay for her to go and be with Jesus. I told her that we loved her—that I loved her. And then, she grunted loudly. “Yes,” I said with a quivering voice as tears streamed down my face. “I know you love me—more than anybody else ever has. But you go be with Jesus now and we’ll be behind you soon. We will see you in the morning.” Those were surely the most difficult words I have ever spoken, but I knew it was right. I knew it was time, and I knew Granny heard me and understood.
The day continued with family members and nurses periodically checking in. My grandmother and great-aunt remained with Granny all day long. By early evening, all the visitors had gone. As my grandmother, great-aunt and I were sitting with Granny something happened inside me, and I knew that Granny was leaving. I jumped from my chair and rushed to her side. My grandmother placed Granny’s hand in mine. Fifteen minutes later we noticed a difference in her breathing and color. I kissed her hand and then her forehead. The three of us were beside Granny when she took her two very deep and final breaths. Still holding her hand, I yelled out to her that I loved her—most certain that she probably did not hear me but that she knew it nonetheless. And when her spirit departed, it seemed as if something inside of me left too. Next to the Lord, Granny was the best friend I ever had.
I wish I could put into words the impact that Granny had on my life. I was born a child with special needs but was always full of big ideas. She managed to nurture those “fancy thoughts,” build confidence in my ability, and help me accomplish many childhood goals. There were times in my youth that I needed a good friend. Granny never failed to be there for me, and now I realize that my presence was just as helpful to her.
Today I thank the Lord for such a Christian example. No matter where I go or what I do in life, a part of Granny will always remain with me. My memories of her are many, and I will forever carry her love in my heart. Too, I have the assurance that I will see Granny again in Heaven. And, I have the opportunity to make the same difference in the life of others who need encouragement and friendship. That would make Granny very happy.
[My great-grandmother, Dessie Pittman, went to be with the Lord on March 5, 2002. She's in my future now, and I look forward to meeting her again in Heaven.]
I am a professor, author, librarian, historian, and speaker living in beautiful Cleveland, Tennessee-- but I will always call Mississippi "home." I enjoy my work at Lee University and my hobbies include traveling, being outdoors, hiking, fishing, gardening, writing, reading, and movies.