When I was growing up, I was extremely fortunate to be surrounded by a force of grandparents: two grandpas, two grandmas and two great-grandmas. And I lived no more than 15 minutes away from all of them. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time with them — Sunday lunch, Monday after school, Tuesday after basketball practice, Saturday morning for cookies … and the list goes on.
My great-grandma Jennie has always had a dear place in my heart. She only lived a few miles away, and growing up, I visited her several times a week. She made the best ginger snaps, and I always loved to play games like Rummikub and Memory with her. She always insisted that we didn’t play Memory because she said she was no good — she beat me every time.
As I got older, I started to ask more questions beyond what cookies she had baked for me that week. I wanted to know her story. When I realized she was in her 90s, I figured she must have had a pretty interesting life. And she had. She has been through so much, and continued to be this rock-solid pillar of faith for my family and everyone around her.
There are two things I can remember her saying during each visit, and often times more than once. We would be talking about something and she would shake her head and say, “You can gain the whole world but lose your own soul.” I would nod, not really knowing how to respond or even what it meant. As I get older and see how easy it is to want to “gain the whole world,” I cherish those words and think of their truth so often.
But the second thing that Grandma Jennie always repeated struck a chord with me as a little girl with big hopes for a happy ending. “It’s Grandma’s prayer every day that her great-grandchildren find a good Christian spouse to marry. It is so important, Chelsey. Grandma prays that for you every day.”
I remember thinking it was weird that grandma was already praying for my future husband before I was even allowed to date. But through the past couple of years, those words have resonated in my mind as I traveled the road to where I am now. I knew that if it was something one of my heroes of faith prayed about daily, then it must be important.
This past weekend I went to visit Grandma Jennie. Two weeks ago they moved her to the nursing home from the assisted living, and only a few days ago, moved her to the Alzheimer’s unit within the home. I hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks and was terrified she wasn’t going to know my name. I walked through the silent hall, my fiancé Steve’s hand in mine.
I sat down next to the woman who used to be so full of life — mowing her lawn and helping husk corn until she was 93. She looked up at me, and I just hugged her. She didn’t remember Steve, but I think she at least knew I was someone very special to her. Making conversation was difficult, and holding back the tears was impossible, especially when I realized the most beautiful thing.
I looked up at Steve as he looked down at Grandma. He didn’t know her, nor did he know that the confused woman in front of him had been praying for him for years. He was an answer to her prayers and the man she had been praying for my whole life. All those years of her repeating that same line over and over was now a part of my future. I wanted to thank her without confusing her and tried to say how grateful I was for the years of prayers. “He’s a Christian man, Grandma, just like you prayed for,” I told her. For the first time since we had been there, Grandma looked up and engaged both Steve and me: “It’s all that matters … now live a long and happy life together.”
We walked back down that silent hall, and joy filled my heart. Yes, it was sad to see her that way, but God has blessed her with 97 years of life. She has been faithful and a warrior of prayer. Alzheimer’s or not, she continues to bless people in her path.
Never doubt the power of prayer.
Who are you a prayer warrior for?