This episode is a little bit different from the others. I’m reading some personal letters I’ve sent to friends and family, and share the outcomes of those letters. Here is one excerpt from Thin Places that details what happened with one of my letters:
I stand above my grandmother’s grave, a gaping, muddy hole in the Ohio earth. The casket holding the shell of her body teeters on top as the wind blows through me, around me. Barren trees reach stark limbs to the sky as if to beckon it to send sunshine.
When I learn of her cancer, how it ravages her body though it spares her mind, I fly out to visit, knowing it may be our last time to clasp hands on earth. The feisty woman stares back at me, her body visibly shorter, her eyes holding a flicker of sass, but mostly sadness. I want the evangelical gumption others furiously possess, to share with my grandmother the beauty of Jesus with a flurry of perfectly scripted words. But the words don’t spill out. Instead, I play cards with her. We reminisce about our summers together, laughing. I enter her world, hold her hand, tell her I love her.
I accompany her to Bingo, enduring the choking smoke and grilling despair that seeps into the Bingo Hall. While the caller shouts out letters and numbers and folks near death stamp card upon card, I know that if Jesus walked the earth today, He’d hang out in a Bingo Hall, loving on folks whose only hope is a five-hundred-dollar jackpot.
I panic before I fly home. Billy Graham shouts in my conscience, You have to share the gospel. You have to share the gospel. I pray, keep quiet. I listen to the Holy Spirit’s sweet voice. Pray for her, He says. So I do.
“Do you mind if I pray for you before I leave?” I ask.
“Not at all.” Her voice sounds small, needy. “I’d like that.”
I pray. Pray she will understand Jesus’ winsome love for her, that she will be relieved of pain, that she’ll know beyond a doubt that God sees her there, hurting. I ask Him to please shoulder her burdens, whatever they may be. When amen leaves my lips, my grandmother’s shiny Jesus-eyes stare back at me. I remember the scripture about doing things unto the least of these and how, in serving those who were needy, I serve Jesus Himself.
And I say goodbye.
Still, I am haunted. Why don’t I spell out the entirety of the Gospel? What if she wants to know? I pray again when I arrive home, clearly sensing God wants me to write her a letter, share my heart about my life, Jesus, all the healing He’s done inside me, the forgiveness He offers even now. Though I feel like I’ve flunked Evangelism 101, I send the letter anyway.
A little later I call her.
“Thank you for the letter,” she wheezes.
“You’re welcome,” I reply, still hesitant.
“You don’t understand,” she says. “I love that letter. I read it over and over again. Thank you for writing it.”
I choke out an “I love you” and hang up.
A few days later she lets out her last breath.
Standing above her grave, I remember Bingo, the prayer, the letter. I have no idea if my grandmother met Jesus, but in that sacred silence, I am stirred to sing Amazing Grace over the coffin, though the wind blows and the trees creak branches together.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
Tears warble my voice just as others join in.
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Thin Places is my memoir where I share so many things that happened back then, but with an eye toward redemption. The book trailer is the best of all of mine.