By Anne Maxwell
The courtyard patio of the hospital where my grandpa stayed during his recovery from a stroke was small with a few trees for shade.
Tucked along the inner area of the maze-like building to stave off strong Kansas winds, it wasn’t the square footage of the space that mattered. Going outside for a little sunshine on visits to see Grandpa provided a welcome change from the normal gathering in the family visiting room. While my Mom and my Grandma spoke with hospital staff in Grandpa’s room, my sister and I were too young to come along, but old enough to sit together by ourselves in the waiting room.
And that’s where we’d usually be.
And, still waiting for the chance to see Grandpa.
I both anticipated and dreaded those visits. My 9-year-old heart brimmed with childlike hope, willing this would be the day I’d see the Grandpa I knew. This time, I’d hear his baritone voice call my name after the stroke had robbed him of speech. Today – yes, today -- he would walk toward me and stretch out his arms to offer one of his trademark bear hugs, no longer wheelchair bound.
Those hopes would disappear as a nurse wheeled him out to the patio. As soon as he appeared, my heart knew as much as I wanted things to be the way they were, this was my Grandpa now. It was evident in his forced half smile and eyes that held an almost unbearable depth of sadness. Short bursts of long remembered phrases awkwardly sprang forth instead of his deep voice recounting tales to entertain us.
My Mom, Dad, and Grandma moved the conversation along as they encouraged my sister and me to join. It was a brave attempt to keep everyone’s minds off the fact that Grandpa couldn’t vocally chime in.
“Tell Grandpa about school,” they’d urge.
“Talk to Grandpa about what you did last week,” they’d continue.
I knew it was bad, but as a child, you take your cue from grownups and you mimic the attitude displayed. So I smiled and I talked. And my heart broke.
My Mom’s heart broke on those visits as well even as family and friends tried to keep her spirits up.
He’ll improve a little bit each time you visit, they’d say.
You’ll see a change the next time you come, they’d add with comfort.
The damage done to his brain was too great. He never did.
It wasn’t until fate placed us back on that patio last year, that things had changed. The hospital was no longer a hospital, but a business complex. The cafeteria that once bordered the outside area was now a restaurant, where we met for brunch. As the rest of us scanned the menu, Mom looked out the window quietly said, “This all looks so different … but there’s that patio. Oh the tears I would cry after we’d sit out there.”
I nodded, recognized the emotion in her voice, and guided the conversation elsewhere -- as she once did. The years since had taken us far beyond those days, but now gathered in the same place, time was insignificant.
The meal continued. My sister, niece and my daughters were there along with my Dad. The girls started some spirited discussions, our hearts lifted, and we began to enjoy the moment. Hoping to keep a piece of that day, I suggested a photo before we went our separate ways. We gathered in the sunshine, posed for a photo, and said our goodbyes. As I drove the more than two-hour trip back home, a verse quietly knocked at my heart.
Behold, I make all things new.
I always thought it spoke of how God would guide us in an alternate direction.
Create something completely different in our lives.
Make all that surrounded us new.
Until that day, I had only considered how God could recreate circumstances, actions, situations.
What I had not fully grasped -- was His desire to make me new. Even though He could not change painful past memories, He could offer me a new vision.
He revealed while the same trail might be traveled, it doesn’t have to be paved with tears. Ever faithful, he brought those of us who remained from those days together again. A new set of grandparents and grandchildren gathered in a place where some of us had endured so much sadness.
And as we stood in the sunshine of that day, it was His love, the gift of family, and the grace of healing that filled my heart.
He had made us new.
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