|My Grandma and Grandpa Phillips|
The day before my grandpa’s birthday I sit with another old man as he takes dialysis. He is lying flat on his back and there are tubes of red swirling and sighing around us. Life’s blood.
I remember his sharp nose and those ears—how can I forget those ears? He was tall—always towering over, even when stooped into old age. He would have been 114 tomorrow—and has it really been that long?
My grandpa lived to be 100—sharp and independent until the last. He was a farmer in his younger days and I remember those lush red strawberries in his garden. How they tempted. Red.
This gentle man is hooked up to so many machines and all this tubing and he tells me, Every time I go to the doctor they find something new wrong.
And I nod sympathetically, reflect it back, give him the gift of the presence of my body. But my mind is remembering that time I sat with my grandpa on his porch swing. How he cried that day, missing my grandma.
I feel an ache and the red swirls through those tubes and I can smell life oozing through that thin plastic. I’ve always squirmed at those Old Testament atonement passages—all that blood…it seems too gory…too much. And I wonder at the way the person offering the sacrifice would lay his hand on the animal’s head, acknowledging the exchange. Giving this life, for my sin…
I am thinking about all my regrets. How I wish I had more time with the people I love…how I never give the right gift.
The gift of me.
We used to have a big party for my grandpa on his birthday. All the family came from far away places and local politicians would sit with him as he waited for the cake to be cut. Our Jeffrey was only three months old when he passed. As soon as I could travel after birthing that child, I took my two babies up to see “Pap”—anxious to have his blessing on this new one. Jeffrey carries his name: Ray. Jeffrey Ray. When I asked Grandpa if we could use his name, he was so pleased.
I sit and listen to the dialysis machine whisper life and I miss my grandpa. And I wish for a party. And I want to do something to remember him well. My thoughts ebb and flow and suddenly I see this man that I am sitting with.
He is someone’s grandpa too.
Blood has been shed for me and atonement is a weighty thing and as I watch this gentle man receive the gift of clean blood, I think I understand those Old Testament sacrifices better. It still makes me queasy, but shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t I feel how hard it is? Life.
Why do I take it so for granted?
I remember my grandpa so I open my heart to this man before me. I ask him questions I wish I had asked my grandpa. I see him.
It helps me remember with my heart. It helps me remember well. And I marvel at the way the past and the now and the future are all spun together—tied together by the red ribbon of sacrifice.