written by Sandee Milhouse
“I wouldn‘t wait until Monday, it may be too late,” I heard at the other end of the phone from the Hospice nurse. My grandfather, who I have always called “Papa” with the deepest adoration, was dying. On the second day of December, I flew to FL to be with him, hoping I would make it in time and have the honor of being with him at the very moment he passed away.
I was anxious to get there and once I arrived, I was compelled by my love for him to stay by his side as often as possible. I was antsy when family would drag me away to share a meal or when I‘d leave his room to get a sandwich at the Hospice café. I wanted to spend every precious moment with him I had left.
I easily passed the time with him just being there, content to hold his hand, clean it and apply lotion, play his favorite music on the CD player, my heart heavy hearing 40s songs like, “I‘ll Be Seeing You” and “I Don‘t Want to Walk Without You”. I even found myself singing to him, dropping my fear of the nurses hearing my fluctuating key – pouring my love into “Amazing Grace”, “You are My Sunshine” and any soothing song that came to mind.
Though he was unresponsive, I wanted him to know I was there, so I kept telling him, “Papa, it‘s Sandee, I‘m here.” I said it to him about every 15 minutes and I would rub his shoulder or hand as I said it. I longed for him to open his eyes and respond to me in some way, but he just laid there, struggling to breathe as his lungs filled with fluid and the drugs kept him “comfortable”. On Sunday, December 4th, at twilight as the Florida sun was beginning to drift from the sky and into the ocean, my Papa transitioned into Heaven to the sound of my urgent last words to him, “Papa! I love you!“… an immediate, deep gasp followed my words, perhaps in response… a pulse check by the nurse, one more breath and he was free.
A few weeks after he passed away, I realized I can be unresponsive and God is like my presence was with Papa. I clearly see how God is constantly saying to me, “Sandee, it‘s God, I‘m here.” He was speaking those same words to me each time I said them to Papa and He never stops saying them to each one of us. His love for us compelled Him to a Cross, restoring us to Himself, and it compels Him to be by our side every precious second of our lives and even into, and through, the “valley of the shadow of death”.
As you read this, He is right by your side (Ps. 46:1), singing over you (Zeph 3:17), gently rubbing your hand saying, “(Insert your name), it‘s God, I‘m here.” It breaks His heart when we “lay there” not responding to Him – prayer is responding, talking to the God who can‘t help but love you, who ADORES you so deeply… respond to Him, it might be as simple as saying, “I know You are there, God, thank You. I love you, too!”