An Unexpected Moment
~By Sara L. Henderson~
It was hard to watch her fail. Physically she was growing
thinner and more stooped. Mentally she was losing her ability
to sort out reality. Initially, my grandmother had railed
angrily against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that were
eroding who she had always been.
Eventually, the anger gave way to frustration and then
resignation. My grandmother had always been a strong woman.
She had a career before it was common for women to have careers.
She was independent. In her eighties, she was still dragging
out her stepladder every spring to wash all the windows in her
house. She was also a woman with a deep faith in God.
As my grandmother lost her ability to live alone, my father
moved her into his home. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren
were often in the house. She seemed to enjoy being surrounded
by the noise and activity of a large, extended family.
As she slipped further away from us mentally, my grandmother
would occasionally have moments of lucidity when she knew where
she was and recognized everyone around her. We never knew what
prompted those moments, when they would occur or how long they
Toward the end of her life she became convinced that her mother
had knit everything she owned. “Mama knit my boots,” she would
tell strangers, holding up a foot clad in galoshes. “Mama knit
my coat,” she would say with a vacant smile as she zipped up her
raincoat. Soon we were putting on her boots for her and helping
her zip up her coat.
During my grandmother’s last autumn with us, we decided to take
a family outing. We packed up the cars and went to a local fair
for a day of caramel apples, craft booths and carnival rides.
Grandma loved flowers, so my dad bought her a rose. She carried
it proudly through the fair, stopping often to breathe in its
Grandma couldn’t go on the carnival rides, of course, so she sat
on a bench close by and waited while the rest of the family
rode. Her moments of lucidity were now a thing of the past
having eluded her for months, but she seemed content to sit and
watch as life unfolded around her.
While the youngest members of the family ran, laughing to get in
line at the next ride, my father took my grandmother to the
nearest bench. A sullen-looking young woman already occupied
the bench but said she wouldn’t mind sharing the bench.
“Mama knit my coat,” my grandmother told the young woman as she
We didn’t let my grandmother out of our sight, and when we came
back to the bench to get her, the young woman was holding the
rose. She looked as though she had been crying. “Thank you for
sharing your grandmother with me,” she said. Then she told us
her story. She had decided that day was to be her last on
Earth. In deep despair and feeling she had nothing to live for,
she was planning to go home and commit suicide.
While she sat on that bench with Grandma as the carnival noises
swirled around them, she found herself pouring out her troubles.
“Your grandmother listened to me,” the young woman informed us.
“She told me about a time in her own life, during the
Depression, when she had lost hope. She told me that God loved
me and that He would watch over me and would help me make it
through my problems. She gave me this rose. She told me that
my life would unfold just like this rose and that I would be
surprised by its beauty. She told me my life was a gift. She
said she would be praying for me.”
We stood, dumbfounded, as she hugged my grandmother and thanked
her for saving her life. Grandma just smiled a vacant smile and
patted her arm. As the young woman turned to leave, she waved
good-bye to us. Grandma waved back and then turned to look at
us, still standing in amazement.
“Mama knit my hat,” she said.
~By Sara L. Henderson~