By Lindsay Fernandes
My grandmom died when I was eighteen years old, and I was in her hospital room when it happened. She had been heavily medicated but responsive. Nodding, blinking, sighing, or squeezing my hand to indicate that she heard us, knew we were there.
My mom, my cousin and I were all three in the room when it happened. There was nothing special about that moment. We were simply three people gathered around a loved one, sitting quietly with our own thoughts. And then there was a burst of air in the room, and an audible creaking, as if the room itself suddenly clenched and released. It was loud, and it was weird. Certainly not a sound or a sensation we had felt before in that room, which had been the center of our world for a solid week.
And then my grandmother gasped, her mouth opened wide in an expression of surprise. Her eyes widened and sharpened, the cloud of medication gone. Her gaze was pinned to the corner of the ceiling. She looked both shocked and happy. Then she blew out a breath, closed her eyes, and was gone. It took another day for her body to stop fighting, but my grandmother was gone. Never again would she respond to our presence.
The three of us present approached one another in the days to come, wanting to confirm what we had experienced. Each of us had the same sensation. The gust of air, the creak, the gasp. The sense that grandmom saw something none of the rest of us could.
As a person of faith, I am absolutely positive what happened that day, and I have no doubts who was present in that room. I believe, with full certainty, that my grandfather and my uncle had come to collect Emma Katherine Smith and usher her into their realm. I call it Heaven. I believe she saw them, and was simply delighted. I believe they saw us, and smiled with a certainty that they would, one day, see us again.
And now I’ll come around to my point.
This week was rough. Rough for me personally. I felt bombarded, shattered, overwhelmed by the struggles of those around me. I have always been one to carry another’s heartache as my own. I’ve lost sleep with worry over a multitude of friends and family who are staring into the chasm of the unknown, terrified to jump, but knowing there’s no way around.
And then I’ve checked the news and guess what I’ve found. More struggle. More heartache. More pain. More suffering. More fear, more dread, more anger, more cruelty. The stripping down, it seems, of every safeguard on our future, from the environment and the very air we breathe to the laws guarding the money we depend on to live.
The future doesn’t seem a very appealing place right now.
Then serendipitously, I happened to have a meeting at my church on a weeknight. This is unusual, because I live across town, and I’m normally at home, being mom, rather than out and about, being Lindsay. So there I was, with what seemed an impossibly heavy heart, consumed with worry about those I love and care for and carry with me, and I found myself in the one place, I realized, I would most love to be.
I found myself in church.
I made my way down to the sanctuary and entered in the pitch black dark. I knelt at the altar and clasped my hands and lifted my head to the simply wooden cross that hung above. Its shadows cast two more crosses on the wall behind, bringing the total of crosses to three. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So consumed was I that I had no words. I just sat quietly, lifting my head to the crosses, sitting still and listening for the sound of peace. After a while, I began to shake with the weight of my emotion. Then I began to cry, but still there were no words. Just images of every loved one I have who is facing the impossibility of a future in which all that is certain is struggle and pain.
And then it happened. The room around me, the empty sanctuary, moved with an audible creaking sound. As if the whole room suddenly clenched and then released. It was a sound reminiscent of someone standing from a creaky old pew. I wondered, idly, if someone was behind me but I felt no fear. My tears stopped and I turned to look with eyes that had grown accustomed to the darkness, but of course no one was there. And yet of course someone was there, and I knew who it was. And I knew that sound because it was one I could never forget.
The very definition of faith is the assurance of things unseen. Things like the future. No matter how fearful we are, no matter how consumed we feel with dread and sadness and desperation, my faith assures me that God has already begun moving things behind the scenes, things we don’t expect and cannot predict, to catch us when we fall. To boost us over that chasm and deliver us safely to the other side.
Sometimes we just have to be still, be with Him, and listen quietly. And then we can be brave.