|Nan, dad and Freckles|
My nan (my father’s mother) is 86 (going on 87 in May), lives on the third floor with her cat Freckles (Nan: “She hasn’t got a freckle on her!”) and enjoys tea and biscuits. She has fewer grey hairs than my mum does (don’t tell my mum I said that) and is in quite good health for her age, really. About 3 years ago, she had a fall and broke her hip, and ever since then her mobility and independence has been steadily decreasing (though she refuses to admit it). She can’t hear or see very well (she likes to watch TV with the volume up- she’s so busy watching TV that she barely has time to do the crosswords she loves, or read). My dad goes to her house every couple of days to do all of her domestic chores, she has meals on wheels come, and there are a couple of women who come to help her with personal care (though I am her hairdresser- I can only try).
Last year, my dad asked me to visit her and have a cup of tea after work (I work less than 5 minutes away from where she lives). I hadn’t seen her in over 6 months- partly due to being busy, and partly being scared of how I might react to her failing health. My fears were unfounded. And so I began to spend an afternoon with my nan, each week, though dad’s idea of making it a half hour visit is quite impossible as she loves to talk (and I’ve heard a handful of stories quite a few times)!
My nan (her name is Vera) was brought up Catholic, going to mass every Sunday and doing all the bits and pieces. She hasn’t been in quite a few years, with it being so difficult to get outside these days (see the story below). She believes in God, and was taught that Jesus is the Son of God. She prays to the saints regularly for her grandchildren and says the Lord’s Prayer (we said it together once, she didn’t think I knew it). Her memory is quite bad and so often, I have to remind her that she is the last of her 14 siblings left (she was the youngest), prompting her to joke that “God mustn’t want me yet!” She hopes she’ll go to heaven and see her parents and siblings there. She thinks that I’ll definitely get in because I’m such a good girl.
I told her that I’m not (she didn’t believe me) good enough for God. So how do I get good enough? Jesus is good enough, and he died for my sins, so that even though I’m not good enough, he makes me good in God’s sight. It’s only by believing in Jesus that we can go to heaven.
She hates the idea of religion. She’d mentioned this before, that she hates it when people try to tell other people they’re wrong and try to convince others of particular faiths. I tried to explain that it’s important to encourage people to understand that they need to believe in the truth. Just because someone might believe that God doesn’t exist, doesn’t make it true. God exists whether we believe it or not. She seemed satisfied with this.
She doesn’t like how the Catholic church call it a “mortal sin” if you skip mass. And how, if you die whilst still guilty of a mortal sin, you go to hell. I empathised with her (quite enthusiastically). The bible is all we need to understand who God is- we can’t add anything to it. By saying that we have to do anything for our own salvation means that we are claiming that Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough. She agreed.
I’m not sure that she quite understands yet. But it’s the deepest we’d talked about Jesus together before. I had doubted how well I could minister to her because of the communication difficulties (almost everything I say needs to be repeated at least once for her to comprehend it because her hearing is so bad). But the conversation we had last week gave me a renewed energy and enthusiasm for trying different ways to share the truth about Jesus with her. I’m going to give her a Mark’s gospel (I gave her Luke’s last year and she promised to read it, but it’s gone missing). I’m going to ask if we can read it together (she’s so busy- watching TV, feeding the cat, making her way to the kitchen table for breakfast- that she just doesn’t have time to read!).
Praise for the relationship that we have now, and the way we’re both encouraged by each other. Please pray for her. And for me for courage to try new things.