Rukhsanah Israel Lighari is my eighth grandchild. She is my oldest daughter Bethany’s third child. I chose to think of her in the present tense. She is gone from us, but someday, we’ll see her again. I know it isn’t scriptural but I picture her with her great grandfather, my dad and the baby that I miscarried. Like some family sub-grouping in heaven, waiting for the rest of us to join them.
I became a grandmother much too early. As I have written about before, I became a grandmother only six months after my last child was born. It seemed I never had enough time for these grandchildren. I certainly wasn’t the dotting grandmother I would have liked to have been.
I tried to get to the hospital the morning Rukhsanah was born. I did try. I didn’t make it. Jesse Alexander, smart, articulate and lively, Alysabeth Joyce, named for me, quiet, shy and beautiful and now, Rukhsanah made a full house for Bethany.
Such a strange long name for a little girl, you probably wonder how she got that name? Rukhsanah was chosen after her aunt, my daughter, Bethany’s sister. Strong willed, generous, smart, kind and determined all describe her name sake. I suppose Bethany wanted her daughter to grow up like her aunt.
What sort of a name is that for a girl?
All Bethany would say is that God told her to name her daughter Israel. One doesn’t argue with God.
Later as we agonized with God over her death, I asked God about this name. Israel means struggle with God. Rukhsanah means dawn of day. Truly, God knew the future. Rukhsanah Israel slipped from this world into the arms of Jesus at the dawn of day.
God knew that we, all of us who loved her, would struggle with God. He also knew that our lives would be changed forever. That we would walk with an emotional limp just like Jacob because of our encounter. (Genesis 32) We’ve had our Penuel. We have seen the face of God in the deepest of grief.
Days before I had a beautiful time with my granddaughter. I honestly don’t think I really bonded with her until a few days before her death. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to; I was just busy with very legitimate things. Legitimate things often make us too busy.
I was holding Rukhsanah for her mother who was in the store. I had the truck for hauling her purchase. The cab was small, a perfect place for some intimacy with my granddaughter. She was in a good mood giving me many toothless smiles. I held her. She was so sweet.
I was preparing to speak at women’s ministry that night. I was going to speak on signposts of revival. I was looking for some way to talk about worship. I was stuck. That day in the truck, I saw it.
As my daughter returned and took her daughter, she started to nurse her. I had nursed six of my children so I know the bond of a mother and her nursing infant. I saw that familiar look come over my granddaughter’s face as she looked at her mother.
A look that says I can trust you for everything. I know that you will meet all my needs. I know that you will take good care of me. It said more though, hard to put into words. It was love, dependence and security all at once.
As Rukhsanah focused on Bethany’s face, never wavering in her look nor did she blinking. God said “that’s it Joyce. That’s worship. That is what it looks like. It’s a sweet love, a gentle tender surrender. It’s the look on your granddaughter’s face.”
For some reason, I did something I never do. I wrote my sermon out that night – a manuscript. I wish I still had it. I did have it long enough to give to the pastor who read it at her funeral.
I have more to say – tomorrow.