When I “graduated” from junior high, my parents gave me a new set of luggage. Three pieces of powder blue naugahyde Samsonsite, very stylish. You’ll need this when you venture out into the world, they said. Later, when I was a young career woman, I upgraded to a beautiful 7-piece ensemble in rich jewel toned tapestry, complete with garment and cosmetic bags and lots of little hidden compartments. I’d pick up my bags off the conveyor belt and wisk through the airport like I was a jetsetter – oh my, I was stylin’!
These days, I pack light. Give me a clean pair of undies, a toothbrush, and some hair gel and I’m good to go. Today, I own just two small travel bags – “rollies” – and they both fit under an airplane seat. You could say I’ve come a long way, baby. (Yes, I have. In more ways than one.)
My shop sees a lot of travelers these days. It’s the beginning of the tourist season and the roads are filling up with motor coaches. I love it when people tell me they’re “getting away from it all” and seeing the country … and bringing a whole house with them! At a quarter of a million dollars a pop and counting, with tip-outs and pull-outs and slide-outs, some of these RVs look like penthouse apartments on wheels. Contrast that with the Johnny Appleseeds who stop in my shop for an espresso – the cyclists and hikers who travel with just a backpack … and a laptop.
The early settlers who headed Out West loaded down wagons with all their prized possessions, never dreaming they’d be forced to lighten their load and abandon family treasures along the trail. For years, travelers following in their footsteps would find the remnants of their broken dreams … Grandma’s treadle sewing machine, Mother’s prized dishes, a cradle, pots and pans, cherished heirlooms left behind. When they finally arrived at their destination, very little remained … perhaps a cast iron skillet, some quilts, a few necessary utensils.
Stay with me as I work this through ….
My grandmother is nearing the end of her journey. At 96 years old, she has seen all there is to see, said everything that needs to be said, and done everything she cares to do. She’s let go of all the “baggage” she packed around for years. Old hurts, broken dreams, disappointments, harsh words spoken and never taken back, regrets … they’ve all been tossed out the wagon. She’s forgiven everyone she needs to forgive and asked the same of those she’s hurt. At this very moment, nothing is weighing her down.
When she was still in the hospital, I asked Granny if there was anything I could bring her. Yes, she said. I need my bible, my antiperspirant, and my White Shoulders perfume. I cannot go Home to Glory smelling stinky!
“Home to Glory” … that’s what she calls it. Sometimes it’s Beulah Land or Beyond the Sunset … the Sweet Bye ‘n Bye. But most often, she talks of Home.
“I don’t know what’s taking Him so long,” she has often said. And more recently, “I don’t know what The Master has in mind for me, but I’m willing to wait on Him.”
See, she’s wanted to take this trip for a loooooooooong time.
The hospice volunteers have been wonderful. They bathed her and washed her hair and instructed her caregivers on how to keep her comfortable. I’ve powdered her face and put on a bit of blush. And yes, she smells wonderful! She drifts in and out, sometimes awake and lucid, but mostly in a dreamlike sleep. “It’s lovely,” she says of the place she goes in her mind. The peacefulness that surrounds her is almost palpaple.
I read her the cards and emails that arrive and show her pictures on my phone that people send. A hospice volunteer calls and asks me if Granny would like a group of ladies to come and make her a scrapbook of all her cherished photographs. It’s a thoughtful gesture, but I say no.
I’ve watered her plants, just like she asked. Her little kitchen is neat and tidy and my daughter has done her laundry. I guess, in a way, you could say her bags are packed.
To be honest, I’ve struggled with my emotions when visitors come and want to engage her in conversation. It’s such an effort for her to refocus. She asked me to make sure she is painfree, and clean, and left to go in peace. And yet, she knew in advance that there were family members who would need to come, to say goodbye and have closure. It’s a little ironic but Granny has had more visitors in the last week than she has in the last four years. Just make sure I look presentable, she said. (Don’t worry, Granny, I’m on it.) And while I don’t know if she always recognizes who is here, I’m certain she knows she is loved.
People ask Can I bring something for her when I come? A box of chocolates? A good book? A pretty new robe? Is there ANYTHING she needs? No, I say, just bring you.
This leg of the journey is almost over, and a new adventure awaits. Granny’s going Home, and she’s packing light.
This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
(Reeves & Brumley)