The red lights flashed against my window as I watched the ambulance pull away from the curb; this would be the third time my Mama broke a rib from a fall. However, this night would change our lives, for it would be the last time she lived in our home.
A few days before her last accident, she spent hours hosing down the house because she saw insects crawling all over. The day before that she danced with Dora the Explorer on TV. Then thinking the animated girl was real, she blew kisses at the screen and danced.
Alzheimer’s had taken over her mind.
Mama lived a difficult life. My great grandmother gave her up for adoption to repay a debt she owed, and although she lived near her family, she was never a part of them. Mama’s adopted mother raised her with a heavy hand and a stiff Bible. Even so, her new parents took her to church and ingrained a love of Scripture that stayed with Mama throughout her life.
At 19, she married my grandfather, a butcher by trade, but he abandoned her several times for other women. His affairs forced my grandmother to work several jobs to provide for their three children. In the 50s, she moved the family to New York, where she plugged into a church, supported her pastors financially, and became a prayer warrior. Often, she became a resource for people looking for advice, and comfort. My mother used to tell me that, “She always had a Bible in her hand.”
I struggled with the thought of this being the end of my grandmother’s spiritual life.
A month after she arrived at the nursing home, I went to visit Mama. I found her hunched in her wheelchair in the dining room with other patients. Most of the people stared through me, and others shouted, quaked, coughed, and grabbed people walking by. I made my way past them and sat next to my grandmother. I rubbed her arm as she dozed. It broke my heart. I wondered why God had allowed such a vibrant follower of Christ to lose her mind. “How will she serve you now, Lord?” I whispered. “Will she remember you?”
Then, to my surprise, she looked around the room and then clapped her hands. With her sweet soprano voice, she began singing in Spanish, “This is My Story, and this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long… this is my story; this is my song…I’m praising my Savior all the day long.” Mama looked around again and said, “Que Pasa?” What’s wrong with all of you? You don’t sing.” She started to laugh. “Are you scared? It’s okay; I’m scared too.”
I sat with my mouth opened. I couldn’t believe it. Mama then raised her hands in the air and counted out the beats of the song, as if she conducted a choir. Then Mama started another round of songs, in which I happily sang with her.
I drove home that night grateful that God had given me that time with her. She had remembered God after all, and the hardships of life ingrained in her heart the knowledge of Him.
Mama’s condition worsened the following year. Then a few days after her funeral, I went back to the hospital to retrieve her items. However, before I left, a nurse grabbed my hand and said, “Your grandmother was an angel.” I asked if she referred to Mama’s singing. Then the nurse shook her head, teared up and said, “Every night after I tucked your grandmother into to bed, I stood outside her room. At first, I stood alone, but then a few others joined me.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because we loved to hear your grandmother pray; first she prayed for all of us, and then she prayed for all of you.”
“Yes, I pray like her now,” she laughed.
I couldn’t help but thank God. Even in her state of mind, Mama shared her faith in song and taught the staff the value of prayer. First Corinthians 9:4 says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (NASB) Unbeknownst to Mama, she ran her race of faith and finished well.