featured image

Years after a period of significant loss and grief, Jen Scheuermann can now see God’s Presence during that time. 

“Oh no,” I whispered, staring into the eyes of a favorite patient’s photo. Just five days earlier I’d spoken by phone to her husband; now her chart indicated she had died. I shouldn’t have been surprised; her health had been declining. But it saddened me still, for she always brightened my days. 

I read through her chart, piecing together her last few days. Several family members were with her when she died. And while I was glad she was not alone at the end of her life, thinking of the grief her family must now be experiencing saddened me even more. 




“I have to stop watching this,” I told myself, finally turning off the television. I should have said it sooner. I was crying. Again.  

For seven weeks I’d watched the news coverage of my once vibrant, now ravished city in a near obsessive fashion. Hurricane Katrina may have devastated New Orleans, but it was the non-stop barrage of tragic images and stories that broke my heart. I was separated from nearly every friend and family member, and somehow watching the news made me feel connected—or so I told myself. I watched it incessantly. And my spirits were lower than they’d ever been.  

It didn’t help that during those seven weeks nearly every aspect of our lives had been filled with uncertainty:  How would the city we’d loved our entire lives recover, and would New Orleans ever be the same again? When could we go home? Did we even have a house to return to? I’d not worked since the storm; was I still employed, and did I have health insurance? And since I was seven months pregnant, in what hospital—and in what city—would I deliver?  

The ground beneath our feet was shakier than it had ever been. And it’s no exaggeration that I was an emotional mess.  




I climbed out of bed and threw on clothes. It didn’t matter what I wore—at nine months pregnant, comfort was the goal. Still out of work, I drove to my uncle’s house as I’d done daily for two weeks since returning to New Orleans. I entered, kissed everyone hello, and walked down the hall leading to my grandmother’s room. Her two-year battle with cancer was ending, and she was home with Hospice.  

It’s funny, the details from that time that are still etched in my mind: Family members and food. Specific songs that filled the room. Pieces of conversation. Holding hands and lingering hugs. And it’s amazing that years later God is still speaking to me through the details that comprised those days.  

I kissed my grandmother’s cheek and sat beside her. We all knew the end was near. Her time awake had decreased significantly, and her eyes, when open, were cloudy and unfocused. So I will never forget the moment she suddenly looked up, her eyes uncharacteristically clear as she focused on something in the distance. Her face came to life and a beautiful, joy-filled smile spread across it. In amazement I watched as she lifted her hand and waved—to someone only she could see.  




It was nearly eighteen years ago that I watched my grandmother take her last breath, but each time I think of my patient’s passing I am transported back to that room. I still recall the way my heart broke open as my grandmother stepped forward, crossing that threshold between this world and the next. But now, what I remember most is the joy and life in her eyes as she smiled into the distance.  

I’d love to tell you I saw it clearly then, that grief hadn’t precluded me from recognizing the beautiful ground on which we stood that day. But it’s taken God’s grace and many years for me to fully receive the gift hidden within those moments. Only now do I appreciate that, for a moment, only a very thin veil separated the finite world around me from the infinite one to come. And I witnessed my grandmother peer through that veil, greeting all that awaited her. As I sat by her side, sorrow filled me as I held her right hand in mine for the very last time. But today, peace and hope anchor me as I recognize it was God who held her left. 


Click to tweet:
It’s taken God’s grace and many years for me to fully receive the gift hidden within those moments. #CatholicMom


I didn’t know God then, not as I do now. But He was not offended by the distance of my heart. When everything around me was in ruins, He brought close the beauty of the world I was made for. When every circumstance of my life felt out of control, He grounded me with what really mattered: love and family. When my heart was broken with grief, He allowed the baby I carried to be His very real promise of new life. And when the ground beneath my feet was crumbling, He allowed me to stand on sacred ground. 



Copyright 2023 Jennifer Scheuermann
Images: Canva