Sunday, December 14, 2008

Away in the Manger

The opening hymn in Sacrament meeting today brought me back to last Christmas season.
I will never feel quite the same when I hear "Away in the Manger."

It was December 23rd of 2007.
We learned that a very special woman in our ward that I had been visiting often over the past several months as her Relief Society president, had been taken out of her care center and placed in a hospice home.

It had been a very busy week for me, as is always the case before Christmas but I wanted to see her again and I didn't know how much time she had left.

It was a typical December 23rd evening, very dark and cold. Dennis and I arrived at Nancy Hinds Hospice home and entered her little assigned room. My 87 year old friend, Lorraine McNaughton was asleep and I soon realized she was unconscious. I recognized the breathing as my mother sounded similar during her last hours. I knew she did not have long.

On the little night stand beside her bed was a small radio.
Christmas Carols were playing.

To the right, on the little stand at the foot of her bed was the November issue of the Ensign, our monthly church publication. It was turned to "Mothers Who Know" by Julie Beck. I thought this was positioned in such a way, but later learned Lorraine's daughter had been reading his article earlier and accidentally left it there.

I thought how this dear dying woman had raised six children. She had 32 grandchildren and 65 great grandchildren. She was very active in her community and her church as well. She had lived a full life. I coincidentally knew some of her children. Also, coincidentally, her daughter Nancy was my Relief Society President when my first husband was injured in 1989. She called me every single day of the 3 weeks he was in the hospital.

When I would go see Lorraine during those many months she was in the care center, I would read parts of her life story to her. She had dementia and also had difficulty processing conversations. But she did know her life story and her eyes would light up as I read it to her. I also learned to love this great woman after becoming familiar with her life story. I learned what she strived for in this life, I learned her passions, her beliefs. How she truly loved her family.

I will never forget the spirit in her hospice room. As we were leaving to go home, and heading down the hall to the main exit, I turned to Dennis and asked if I could see her just one more time.

We turned around and walked back into her room.
"Away in the Manger" was coming from her little radio. I just stood there looking at Lorraine. I wanted to be near her. I wanted to continue feeling that glorious spirit in her room.

There wasn't really anything left to say to her that I hadn't already said.
Being in that room I felt the perspective of life so clearly.
It was so defined.
I felt what truly mattered.
Family. Service. Love.

About an hour or so after Den and I returned home that evening the phone rang. It was Lorraine's daughter calling to let us know her Mom had passed.

As I sat in church today and listened to "Away in the Manger,"
I felt the words as we sang them. And I pictured Lorraine, and this hymn playing on her little radio beside her bed.

"Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay,
Close by me forever, and love me I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care.
And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there."


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing this with us.

grandmapeg said...

This is such a beautiful song and the message so comforting. I remember you talking about this experience. It is this kind of experience that reminds each of us to seek out those who need comfort not only at this time of year but all through the year.

Dennis said...

All our visits with her were such nice experiences, especially this one. She was a very sweet lady that had lived a good and productive life, and left a great legacy.


Kathy said...

Poignant moments in this life being born and passing on. It's a blessing on both ends. Thanks for sharing this story. Kathy

Kim said...

Beautiful post Jill.

Dad and Susan said...

This is a beautiful post, Jill. It is very telling about you and your compassion also. Thanks for sharing. Love, Dad and Susan

Lisa said...

Once again you penned so beautifully that I felt the Spirit. Not to steer away from this "moving" account of this experience. I know you would like to know you made a typo in the last paragraph where you mentioned the daughter laying in the bed, not the 87 year old friend.