Portrait of a Lady – Part II

Our Lady had been discharged from the hospital.  A friend of hers, took her in and is caring for her.  The doctor said she couldn’t stay by herself and in truth, she can’t.  Friday, Beverly called us to let us know the nurse said she would die within 72 hours based on signs her body was putting out.

 My mother and friend Elizabeth arrived at Beverly’s Saturday afternoon.  We could hear our pastor upstairs, praying.  We climbed the narrow steep stairs to the spare bedroom.  There she was, in a hospital bed, oxygen feeding into her lungs.  Her eyes were shut.  Sometimes during the prayer, her eyes would flutter open but they were blank, staring into nothing or heaven or a memory, but not seeing us. 

After the pastor finished praying, we moved closer to her, bending over to kiss her forehead, or stroke her cheek, or hold her hand.  My chest felt heavy and tears burned my eyes.  “I love you” I told her.  “Miss Joyce, I thank you for your presence and your spirit and your grace.  When I grow up, I want to be like you but I have a long way to go.  When you see Jesus, please, put in a good word for me.”  I held her limp hand –this time polished with deep rose instead of coral.  Her wig was perfectly groomed and she wore a gown frosted with silver lace.  Again, a fluttering of her eyes. 

Elizabeth went over to her.  She spoke and told our Lady of how her grandson had left for Norfolk state that morning.  She bent closer but I could not hear her words.  Mama then went up and said, Miss High Stepper, Smith and Wesson is here to see you. I brought you some plums. 

The pastor began reading scripture.  Her eyes fluttered more often but were still blank.  We stayed and visited a little more and told her how much we loved her and thanked God for her.  Back down the steps to the car, looking back, one last time. 

Monday evening, Elizabeth called.  She could barely speak and it took me a few minutes to realize she was saying “She’s awake! Joyce is awake!  She’s talking and eating ice and praying.”  I stood there my mouth open.  Mama said, “Is Joyce dead?”  I looked at her and then said,  “Oh no. Our girl is still here.  She’s awake, she’s talking, she’s praying and wants some of that plum you took to her.”  If I wasn’t so fat, I’d have turned cartwheels.  

It didn’t take us long to go by and pick up Elizabeth and go to see Joyce.  There she was – in bed, weak but smiling when she saw us.  Whispering, “Oh Glory, Oh glory, here are my girls come to see me.”  What a visit!  We laughed and cried and teased each other.  I fed her ice while Elizabeth rubbed lotion on her hands.  Mama told her how she had snuck into our neighbor’s garden and snitched some more tomatoes for her to eat.  Joyce said, well, I’ll pray for Jesus to forgive you but I sure am glad you did it.

As I fed her ice, she told me I was like a good mama bird feeding her baby bird.  I told her she was one of those sparrows God watched over.  “Amen!  I’m here and you are here.  Glory.” 

Her eyes were wide open and filled with light.   She didn’t want us to go but we could tell our Lady was tired and needed to rest.  She is an ordained minister and a true servant of her Lord – her love just spills over for Him and for anyone she comes into contact with.  If you visited her, you’d see and feel that love too. 

Today is her birthday.  We are going to visit and sing to her and take her a Slurpee because she likes them so much.  It is her birthday, but she is the gift.  I’m going to fry a couple of chicken wings for her to have a bite of because she said she wanted some.   So, a Slurpee, a chicken wing and some friends…not a bad birthday for someone who was supposed to be dead by Monday.

 Matthew 5: 8  Blessed are the pure in heart,  for they will see God

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