While She Still Breathes

Miss Georgia

I sit next to my friend, Georgia, while she sleeps in her bed. Her body is wracked with infection. Her organs are shutting down. She hasn’t been able to eat or drink in more than a week. While Georgia inhales and exhales deeply, I watch. I listen.

In and out, in and out. Every two seconds. Like clockwork.

I think about all the millions of breaths Georgia has taken over the past 80 years. And how God has provided every single one. How he was present with her very first. How He’ll be there during her very last.

The oxygen tank hums. Georgia still breathes.

In and out, in and out.

My eyes drift from my friend to her nightstand. The table is covered with medical supplies: oral swabs, wipes, mouthwash, and a bottle of hand lotion. The lotion catches my eye because of its name – “Cherish the Moment.” I pray aloud. “That’s what I’m trying to do, Lord.”

I look at this woman – this sweet lady that God brought into my life, and I cry. Tears fall because she’s dying. But, more than that, because I don’t know what’s next for her. I’m not sure where Georgia will be when she stops breathing.

Since God brought Georgia into my life in 2010, I’ve talked to her repeatedly about spiritual matters. Although she has always been polite and considerate, she has never showed interest in the things of God. When I first met Georgia, I asked if she believed Jesus died for her sins. She replied, “I’ve never sinned.” I didn’t know if she really meant it or if it was her dementia doing the talking.

You see, Georgia has battled mental illness for decades. From what I can tell, she suffered from some traumatic event in her early 40s and has never been the same since. Medical records list “schizophrenia” as a result. Although I’ve been able to piece together stories from her life, there are many gaps. There are missing pieces.

And the main one is: Has Georgia ever made the decision to follow Christ?

I don’t know.

Georgia doesn’t seem to know.

But God does.

The Lord – the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient One – knows every detail of Georgia’s life. He alone knows the condition of her heart. Of anyone’s heart, for that matter.

Last week when Georgia was much more alert and responsive, I told her repeatedly, “God loves you so much. He’s always loved you. Do you believe that?” But, today, she sleeps. I say it anyway.

God brought me this beautiful gift of Georgia, but sometimes I feel I’ve failed Him. Failed her. I want more than anything for her to become a Christian. To be set free from the fear that has kept her bound for many, many years.

But I know it’s not my job to rescue Georgia. It never was. No, my only responsibility is to love her. To laugh with her. To care for her. To sit by her bedside while her sick body slowly deteriorates. To hold her weak, frail hand while she sleeps.

While she still breathes in. While she still breathes out.

Comments

  1. Oh, Kristen, I was thinking about you and Georgia last week. I pray deep in her heart she is talking to Jesus or more than that, He is talking to her. You have helped her when no one else cared. You listened to God and obeyed Him. So He must be calling her home. I pray she does not linger. Your post and the way you wrote it is just so good,so real, so human… Be at peace my friend, Georgia go to God now and rest. Love you much…Judy

    • Thank you, my dear friend. Your words blessed me deeply.

    • Susan Jurich says:

      Hi Kristen,

      That really was beautiful. I dont know you or your friend and yet feel as though I do know how you are feeling. I have had and still have friends and family that I pray for daily and have always talked to about Christ and His Salvation and still feel…unsure.

      I am sure your friendship has been beautiful and thank you for sharing.

      God Bless You!
      Susan

  2. Mark Shaffer says:

    Kristen,
    Thank you so much for your love and care for Miss Georgia! She was quite a lady, and I will always remembers seeing her walk around the facility wearing one of her pretty hats, long before she was even enrolled in hospice care. As her chaplain, I did my best to tell her about the love of God through the Lord Jesus Christ, and I truly believe she knew Christ, as I asked her one day, “Georgia, do you have faith in Jesus Christ?” Georgia responded, “My faith in him is important.” Praise God! During those last days of her life, I remember watching her in bed, breathing in and out, as you so well described, and singing and playing old church hymns on the guitar for her. Indeed, a special time in the Lord! Thanks for all you did for Georgia, Kristen, and for all you do to share the blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ!

    Dr. Mark L. Shaffer, Chaplain
    Hospice and Palliative Care of Springfield

    • Mark, thank you so much for your comments! I thank God for you and that the Lord placed you in Georgia’s life as well. I’m amazed at how He surrounded her with believers, who could love on her and encourage her in the Lord. Yes, I believe that one day we will both see her in Heaven, fully healed and overflowing with joy! And, I’m pretty sure she’ll be dressed to the nines! 🙂 May the Lord continue to bless your ministry and fill you with His power and peace, my friend.

  3. Kristin Bumpass says:

    My daughters and I so enjoyed reading your stories about Miss Georgia! Such a beautiful act of kindness you and your family have offered her! Your act of kindness has inspired us to be more compassionate towards others. Thank you for sharing Our prayers are with you all during this time. God bless you all!

    • Thank you so much for your comments. I’m glad you and your girls have been encouraged by Georgia’s story. I appreciate your prayers! May the Lord bless you for your kindness and compassion.

  4. God will bless you for your compassion. What a blessing for her to have you praying and being at her side even when she is asleep. I’m sure you will meet her again in paradise.

  5. Dear Kristen,

    Thank you very much for being “God-with-Flesh-On”. Thank you very much for living the word out in love, just how Jesus did. My heart is touched by how you loved when you didn’t have to. To choose to really love is a choice and you chose to truly be the love Jesus talks about in His word. It touches my heart to see that there are people in the body that actually love. In all of my years as a Christian, I have not seen such a love displayed and in action. Thanks again!

    • I appreciate your encouragement so much. You’re right. We have to choose to love. Being selfish comes so naturally, so we have to submit to the Lord and receive His love FIRST. Only then are we able to give that love to others. I’m still learning how to love like that. 🙂

  6. I couldn’t stop reading about Miss Georgia until I read every story! My Grandmother was the one person who always had time for me when I was little. She was the activities director at a nursing home. She would take me to work with her from the time I was young. I would read to the residents, play games with them and do crafts with them. At 23 I started by working with disabled adults. Later I worked as a phlebotomist, a nursing assistant, and currently I’m a licensed practical nurse working at a detox center for people with substance abuse issues. I’m also continuing my education for the RN (registered nurse). I’ve always joked that I didn’t know my grandmother was training me for a career. For a long time now I’ve understood what my grandmother really taught me was to make time for people. My purpose in life is to make a difference in someone else’s life. Thanks for a beautiful story and a beautiful reminder to love others.

    • Angela, what a beautiful tribute to your grandmother’s influence on your life. She left behind a legacy of kindness, compassion, and concern for others. I have no doubt you will pass on those Christlike attributes to the next generation. Thank you for sharing a part of YOUR story!

  7. Rosemary says:

    I love reading your post regarding Georgia. It reminds me that I need to be more compassionate and patient. Thanks Kristen.