The ice storm blew in with a fury the day after a tiny woman lay in a hospital bed curled like a delicate leaf. Branches cracked and broke and we mourned the loss of our ancient, prized trees, stripped of their glory and strength. She, hunched with bony limbs, lost her dignity and vigour as a blizzard of pneumonia and weakness assaulted her one hundred year-old mind and body. We gazed out the window, powerless to stop the death of our landscape's privacy, pride and beauty. And the lovely, wise and kind woman who had nurtured many, breathed her last and we were powerless to keep her with us.
We had held her hands in that cramped room and wept over her attempt to rise up out of that bed in her discomfort. Our precious Oma faded rapidly and it was so difficult to watch as she had just squeezed us and called us by name with a smile a couple months earlier at her birthday party. I surveyed the fallen trees and couldn't push away the blast of comparison between my missing boughs and her absence.
Our trees remained encased in ice for days, and Oma was encased for burial. My husband dragged away branches and cleared the ground to evaluate the damage. He shook his head as he stood in the doorway in his clompy rubber boots, and pulled off his gloves. It seemed there was irrevocable damage and there'd be a great deficiency after the ice melted. I thought about my mother-in-law and her siblings who'd face the deficit of their mom.
A power outage hit far and wide--the shutting down of life in many respects--and a couple of days later (Christmas Eve Day) we stood around Opa's nearly twenty year-old grave. We sang, Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow as we lowered Oma next to her husband. Another branch cracked above me and I heard a crow caw in the distance--lonely, cold, empty sounds that reverberated how we'll feel the loss of her. My little boy looked up at me with brimming eyes and I fought my own in the minus twelve degree temperature.
"Now I have officially lost all of my grandparents," my husband sadly whispered.
Across the crowd of family, my father-in-law's tears flowed like ice thawing after the proper niceties of the earlier family greeting time. Mom, wiped her own as they lingered a moment by the graves. All at once, I missed my Mama and Grampie and thought that the world really needs them and Oma. I pined to my husband that I needed the sun to see the goodness of all this death. What I really needed was the Son.
But then, the sun did come out and just as cousins, aunts, uncles and caring friends had encouraged, "She's finally home", the weather agreed with this truth and suddenly, the cold, cocooning, life-binding ice morphed into crystals and diamonds strung from the tips of limbs like costly jewelry. Hope was renewed and moods were improved. Although we knew all along that Oma's death was welcomed by her, the previous day's power outage and searching for candles and sadness over her passing was replaced by an awe of the elegance around us. Instead of feeling a lack and dropping our heads at what was lost on the ground (and in the ground), we were forced to lift our eyes upward at the sparkling beauty that comes after the tempestuous tearing away. Our Oma is dazzling in the light of Jesus who has taken her by the hands and lifted her up out of that bed and into His glorious presence. What is left behind is a family that is a little closer to the knowledge of how precious the death of His saint is in His eyes.
The twig above me dripped with the thawing. I snapped pictures and smiled as I imagined the warmth of heaven and how Oma will never again experience a cold world. She said she wanted to be home for Christmas and her prayer was answered. As we celebrated Jesus coming as a baby to earth, she celebrated meeting Him face to face. More ice slipped into water droplets and new hope defrosted my heart.
Farewell, sweet Oma, until we meet again.