“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth” (Job 19:25)
The phone rang last night, exactly at midnight. We all knew that a phone so late at night could only mean that something happened, and that it probably had to do with Saba (grandpa in Hebrew).
I heard mom answer it. “Is he gone?” she asked. I couldn’t hear the answer, but I knew he was, as mom told to the nurse on the phone “He is in a better place, resting now. We are leaving for the hospital”.
For the past two years and five months, Saba had been hospitalized and was on life support, being helped to breath with artificial respiration. He was connected to tubes and various appliances in almost every part of his body. Over two years ago, at 01:00 am, we received a call that he had heart failure and attempts at resuscitation were not successful. The feeling I had at the moment was unbearable. I felt like a huge gap had been opened between us and Saba and we would never see him again. Amidst all the tears and anguish, we prayed from the depths of our spirit that God would restore him, bring him back and save him, so that he may spend eternity with Him. An hour later, after all the appliances indicated that he was dead and while we were on the way to my grandparents’ apartment, the medical team that responded to the emergency call succeeded to resuscitate him. There was an incredible sense of knowing that God was going to save him. We had what seemed to be an unexplainable assurance that He would not let Saba go until he belonged to the Lord. During the weeks and first few months that followed, there was considerable uncertainty about his physical future, but we knew and had absolute confidence that Saba came to know the Lord Yeshua as his saviour. Though unable to speak or move anything but his eyes, grandpa was attentive – he was able to open his eyes and follow us around the hospital bed, heard us speak and responded to our speaking.
Whenever we talked with him, prayed with him and sang hymns with him, he would open his eyes wide and stare. I would pat his cheek and hair, and massage his arms, telling him what was going on in the family, how we missed him and loved him.
When we would ask if he believed with all his heart that Yeshua is Lord and God, we’d ask him to wink twice. He would. Twice.
I remember dreaming of him a few months after his heart failure. I thought of how he would be excited with the changes that were taking place in our lives. He always asked how we were doing and took an interest in us, his grandkids. I missed his hug, his sitting near me and talking with me. In my dream, he looked happy and relaxed. He gave me a big hug and told me not to worry.
The months turned into a year and then into almost two and a half years. Saba’s situation worsened, with lots of up’s and down’s. During the last few weeks, we knew that he was fading.
These two and a half years in Saba’s life were uneasy to say the least. Many times at the hospital and around, people would say “ Don’t you understand? He has brain damage. He can’t hear you”. We knew my grandpa’s condition, yet we truly believed he could hear and understand us. There were a few occasions when I would talk to him and ask him to squeeze my hand if he heard. He did, and I knew that he was listening. We needed to keep a watchful eye on the medical staff, to make sure they did their job properly. This was hard. They messed up a few times. My mom and her siblings took turns in visiting every week, several times a week, because it was important to let Saba know we were there, that we cared for him and loved him. Over this period of time, we saw lots of others who were on life support, whose families rarely visited them, if at all, and they passed away quickly and alone. Those visits were very sobering and reminded me of the verse from Psalm 71:9 “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone”. Sadly, we saw many who were, in a very real sense, cast away, whose families just left them to die.
As I tried to sleep last night, a stanza from the well known hymn, “Amazing Grace”, came to mind, which I think reflected the situation with Saba.
“Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace”
There were those who thought Saba’s brain was so damaged that he was like a black box that could not be opened. Indeed, he could not move his hands and could not talk or walk, but he could still convey his feelings. We knew when he was suffering, when he was content and when he was peaceful. Saba’s eyes and face reflected how he felt, and when he was dying, we saw it. With all that, Saba had a pure heart. Though his physical heart had failed him throughout most of his life, he received a new heart, a spiritual one, which would never fail. It was a gift from God.
There is so much to say about Saba and all that he had been through. He was a combat veteran and a fighter. But I want people to remember him like this – a child of God saved by grace. He is free now. Released from his vessel of clay which was so so fragile, freed from the tubes and wires and everything he was hooked up to for so long. Most importantly, he was cleansed of sin. The peace on Saba’s face throughout this time is incredible. He suffered, yet the peace he radiated could not be explained by medicine, despite the medical staff’s efforts to try to understand it. It was the peace of God which passes all understanding.
Saba went to his eternal home last night. It hurts we will not see him again here, on this side of eternity, yet we have hope and faith that we will see him once more, and then for ever, with our Lord Yeshua. Indeed, we do not agonize over his passing as those who have no hope. This separation is only temporary and one day we will share eternal joy together.