Wednesday, July 3, 2013

You Are My Sunshine

You are my Sunshine,
My only Sunshine,
You make me happy,
When skies are gray,
You'll never know Dear,
How much I love you, 
Please don't take my Sunshine away...

This was my Mamaw’s favorite song.  We sang it to her often.  In fact, on numerous occasions my sisters and I would belt out the song to honor my Mamaw.  Whenever our cousins were with us, we all sang it together.  Even her great-grandchildren have learned the beloved song and blessed her with the lyrics on special birthday celebrations.  

We recently enjoyed our furlough home and I had special moments with my Mamaw.  We landed in Knoxville on Thursday night, May 1st.  Early the next morning, I arose and headed straight to my Mamaw’s assisted living facility.  My prayer when we left last June was that the Lord would allow me to see her “one more time.”  

As I left the house to go see Mamaw, my mother prepared me that she might not know who I was.  As I knocked on her door from the hallway, I braced myself.  A muffled, “Come in,” beckoned from inside the closed door.  I slowly opened it, and walked toward my Mamaw.  Her eyes slowly focused on me, and she said in disbelief, “R-ah-bin..  R-ah-bin...”  Then she cupped her hands on my face and looked at me for a few moments to be sure it was really me.  I assured her of my presence, and we hugged tightly.  She was overjoyed to see me, and I was overjoyed to see her.  As I left that day, I praised God for answering the prayer I prayed one year ago.  

Throughout my time home, there were other special moments with her.   On Mother’s Day, I stood beside her in church and helped her stand with my arm holding some of her weight.  Her voice was soft, but I could audibly pick up the blessing of her voice lifting the notes of the hymns.  

On her 95th birthday, I made another special trip to see her and take her the perfect gift I’d found.  I know it sounds silly, but I believe God led me to this simple gift.  It was a frame that had all of the words to “You Are My Sunshine” on it.  When I saw it, I just HAD to buy it for my Mamaw!  When she opened the present, she read the words on the frame.  

“You are my Sunshine, My only Sunshine, You make me happy, When skies are gray...”

All of the sudden, we were both singing the song together.  Her wrinkled hands were held tightly in mine, and her blue eyes held my gaze as we belted out the notes.  

“You’ll never know, Dear, how much I love you...”

My strong voice overshadowing her weakened one...until the last line.  As I approached the words, my emotion overtook me.  I swallowed hard to fight back tears of the thought...  My Mamaw’s gentle voice was the only one singing the last line.

“Please don’t take my Sunshine away...”

My parents hosted a large birthday celebration for my Mamaw.  Many friends and family came to celebrate her long life.  After all, “95 years is a long time,” my Mamaw would say.  If you ever met her, she was sure to tell you her age within the first two sentences of conversation.  She was very proud of her long life. 

Yet, over the years she has let go of more and more of this life.  Her beloved husband died nearly 12 years ago.  She left the home she loved to settle in a temporary apartment.  She stopped driving.  She stopped cooking.  She stopped living alone and moved into a home that could provide more care for her.  In all of it, she NEVER stopped being thankful.  She praised God for her mind that still “knew who she was talking to.”  She thanked God for her family.  She praised the “Good Lord” simply for His goodness.  Her life was sprinkled with the Light of Christ that was a ray of Sunshine to others.   She lived her faith.  Quietly.  Humbly.

Before we left for the airport to return to Africa, our entire family went to see Mamaw to say goodbye.  Reid and I informed the boys that it would likely be the last time we would see her.  We arrived and she was getting her hair fixed.  (She didn’t know we were coming, but she looked beautiful in the pictures.  What’s more beautiful than a 95 year old woman with a new hair-do?)  

We told her we had come to say “goodbye.”  Her tears and mine immediately started flowing.  Even the stylist in the beauty shop started to cry.  

The seven of us walked beside Mamaw as she pushed her walker.  We slowly made it down the hallway to her room.  Once inside, we all shared hugs.  Mamaw kept saying, “I wish you didn’t have to go.  I wish you didn’t have to go.”  

I do too, Mamaw.

I told her again how much I love her.  I told her again how much she means to me.  I told her again how special she is to me.  Then we took pictures.  “One more picture with Mamaw...”  I kept thinking to myself.  Somehow, I knew.  Something deep within my spirit told me this would be the last time we would be together.  

As we were getting ready to leave, I knew I was supposed to sing her song one more time with her.  “You are my Sunshine, My only Sunshine...”  

Reid’s voice and some of the boys chimed in to the familiar melody.  

“You make me happy, When skies are gray, You’ll never know, Dear, How much I love you...Please don’t take my Sunshine away...Please don’t take my Sunshine away...”

Our time with her before boarding the plane bound for Africa, was my last visit with my Mamaw.  

She left this earth to join her Savior on Monday, July 1st at 2:08 EST.  My family surrounded her beside as she breathed her last breath.  I learned that all of them sang “ You are My Sunshine” to her as she lay dying.  Their voices were unjoined by mine, but I would have been singing too if I’d been there.  There is something about that song that binds all of us.

After my father called to tell me the news, it felt surreal.  I’d been in bed very sick for several days.  In fact, I think I was violently ill at the time my Mamaw passed.  I don’t think that is a coincidence.  

As the news sunk in, I kept thinking of her.  Memories flooded my mind.  Reid, Zach, the boys and I all shared stories we remembered.  Yesterday morning, I held our youngest, Godwin, and sang these words over him, “You are my Sunshine, My only Sunshine...”  Godwin, who is growing to big to sit and cuddle, snuggled warmly against me knowing I needed comfort.  

It felt very lonely to be facing this news without my family.  I wanted to hug my Dad who had just lost his mother.  I wanted to hug my Mom who was also grieving.  I wanted to reminisce with everyone who shared the joint memories.  “Lord, comfort me,” I prayed.

Then God, as only God could, sent me His comfort.  All the way in Ghana!  (He is Lord of Lords everywhere!)

I posted on Facebook about my Mamaw asking for prayer.  I shared her favorite song.  Then, guess what?  

Three FTO volunteers that are serving at an orphanage here told me that they had been singing “You Are My Sunshine” to all of the children!  All!! Day!! Long!!  This was the day after my Mamaw died.  None of them knew there was any connection to this song.  No other volunteers have ever mentioned singing this song in Ghana.  Can you believe it?  Oh, our God is so good.  He is singing over all of his children - over all of creation.  

I think this song for the orphans was a special request of my Mamaw.  I can just see her standing with Jesus asking Him if He would comfort her granddaughter.  “Excuse me, Jesus, would you let R-ah-bin know I’m okay?  Could you let her know I’m with you?  I'm afraid she will wish I didn't have to go, but I want her to know how happy I am to be here.  Would it be okay to let her know?  I have a little song I’d like to sing with You over the children if it’s okay with you...”

“You are my Sunshine,
My only Sunshine,
You make me happy,
When skies are gray,
You’ll never know, Dear, 
How much I love you, 
Please don’t take my Sunshine away...”

The Lord your God is in your midst, 
a mighty one who will save; 
he will rejoice over you with gladness; 
he will quiet you by his love; 
he will exult over you with loud singing. 
(Zep 3:17, ESV).

No comments: