After he died, she continued to live in the nursing home where they had lived together. The nursing home location was moved, and she along with it. I continued to visit her. As she grew quite infirm, suffering a stroke that took most of her spirit, she had little interaction with those who stopped to see her.
A typical conversation with her went like this.
Me: Hi, Grandma Mary. How are you doing?
Me: What are you doing with your time?
She: Reading the Bible. (She said this, as she looked up briefly from the open Bible on her lap.)
And read she did. She read it through, Genesis to Revelation, and then started all over again. I couldn't help but wonder if she was studying for a final exam. She read, seemingly without really engaging with the text. Just a rote kind of reading.
I confess, I have never read the Bible through, cover to cover. True, I have read great portions of it. In fact, I had sufficient Bible knowledge that when I was a freshman at the college I attended--where Bible 101 was a required course--I tested sufficiently high to be able to opt out of the freshman course. Among other things, I knew who Abishag was.
Perhaps to remedy the lack of reading, I signed up to receive the daily lectionary readings. So every day, I get an email with the lectionary readings for the day. The idea is that with lectionary readings, over a three year cycle, a person can read the Bible through.
Well, I am not the most faithful reader. Some days, I read the entire set--usually two morning Psalms, an Old Testament selection, a double New Testament selection (one from the Gospels, one from the epistles), and two evening Psalms. A lot of reading.
But, I have benefited from this cycle of reading. I have rediscovered the Psalms. The entire array of human emotions is captured withing these 150 chapters. There are outbursts of absolute despair (Psalm 22 or 42), expressions of exuberance, praise for creation (Psalm 19) and unadulterated wonder (Psalm 8). All the Psalms are wonderful poetry--with lilting repetition, strong images, poetic cadences.
This reading of the Psalms reminds me of an episode in my life. Some 30 plus years ago, my father-in-law died suddenly. The whole family was gathered at the hospital where he had been taken. All except his mother--my husband's grandmother. Through a family discussion, we decided I should go to where she was and stay with her until someone could come and tell her that her eldest son had died. I drove the 22 miles from the hospital to the house where she was staying. No sooner had I gotten in the house than she began to pepper me with questions. When I temporized a bit, she burst out--he's dead, isn't he? Well, I decided the truth then was better than waiting for someone else to tell her the same news. So I said yes. Then I asked--do you want me to read something to you from the Bible. Yes, she said, and she named a favorite Psalm. I wish I could remember which one, but I can't--I only know it was not Psalm 23. In fact, it was a Psalm that seemingly did not speak of death, or suffering through adversity. Whatever it was, it spoke comfort to her in such a trying hour.
So, while I may not make it from Genesis to Revelation, if I stay stuck in the Psalms, I can't go wrong.
The photo is of a Tiffany window in the church we attend.