I prepped them all the way home from school. Everyone knew his or her role. They kept singing the appointed song over and over again as I was silently biting away tears that threatened to overcome me.
I had no idea how long these precious moments would last. Would we be able to see her for half and hour or would it be only a few minutes?
It was time. The text message came. “We’re ready.” I sent out a gazillion prayer requests to every single prayer warrior to pray for the fragile, unreliable Wi-Fi we were about to use to Skype with my Mom in South Africa. My friend drove several hours to make this happen. A beautiful, selfless act to give a dying woman and her daughter and grandchildren the opportunity to visit face-to-face, sort of, across the Atlantic ocean and more than half a world away.
We called and connected for a moment. Long enough for us to get a glimpse of her weathered face before the image froze and the call was dropped. Silent prayer. Try again. No answer. “We’re moving to a different spot to see if there is a better connection.” The text read. Try again. “We are not going to turn the video on from our side, it slows the connection, but she will be able to see all of you.” Not what I was hoping for but growing up in Africa you learn to be flexible. You have to.
I hear the cuckoo clock ticking off seconds.
Lené sings her Thanksgiving song. Bernu shows her pictures of his favorite game, Jurassic World on the I-pad. Carli has time to recite half of her Forensics presentation as if we have all the time in the world.
Then they sing.
There is nothing like children singing God’s truth.
It hits you in the heart and smashes every bit of pretense to pieces.
They sing from the book of Isaiah.
“Surely it is God who saves me
I will trust in Him and not be afraid,
For the Lord is my Stronghold and my sure Defense
And He will be my Savior
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing
From the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say,
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon His name.
Make his deeds known among the peoples;
See that they remember that His name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things,
And this is known in all the world.
Surely it is God who saves me;
I will trust in Him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my Stronghold and my sure Defense,
And He will be my Savior.”
I could hear her cry, ever so softly.
“Ouma will not be afraid” she tells them with the stubborn faith that has carried her through years of hardship.
Then I got my few seconds. I prayed for her and before Amen the call dropped once again.
We called one last time.
This time with video from her side.
I looked into her tired, yet grateful eyes.
The same eyes that held my very first gaze in the world. The same eyes that could speak chapters without saying a single word. The same eyes that only needed a glimpse of mine to see behind the brave front I was trying to uphold for all of our sakes.
The same eyes that lit up when I came home from college or brought her a limp flower from the garden when I was little like my baby girl. The same eyes that always searched for the good in those around her.
The same eyes that took time to really see people and the same eyes that read those things unspoken and in between lines.
The same eyes that now clearly said without a word that we were going to be okay.
Not because we were brave or ever going to see her Cancer defeated this side of the grave. Not because we would embrace again before I get to see her in Heaven. Not because I would get to hear her voice again or see her face to face.
No, we were going to be okay because she has taught me that our eyes cannot be fixed upon the here and now. Our eyes have to look beyond what appears to be final and broken and they have to see more than a casket and a stone with her name on.
Our eyes have to see beyond years of missing out on conversations and beyond the loss of her seeing my babies grow up and me growing old.
Our eyes have to be fixed on Someone bigger than us and bigger than time and bigger than the grief of saying goodbye.
So what do you say with only a few seconds left?
If this was the last time we saw each other face-to-face, what do we say? How do you put your heart, your hope, and your hurt in words that would be the words you look back on as the last words spoken face-to-face?
With only a few seconds left all of a sudden everything becomes crystal clear. She cuts through the chase and helps me through her hardest moment to point to the only things that truly matter.
With only 30 seconds left.
From my Faith Warrior Mamma’s lips,
“I know God is with me, and He is there with you.
I love you so so much.
Chances are that we have plenty of 30 seconds left on this planet.
But, chances are that we may not.
I want to live today.
I want to love today.
Be in the moment today.
Say the things and be the person I was created to be as if all I had was 30 seconds left. I want to cut through the senseless and the fluff and the Selfie-ready-filtered fake of plenty-of-time and be the woman who knows that her breaths are numbered.
I want to make every single one of them count.
So with my 30 seconds left with you today, here it is.