Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

One Foot in Heaven

Drama enacted December 26, 2004
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

Order of Worship

Characters:  N - Narrator
                     H - Holly, a teenager
                     G - her Grandfather (add a bit more belly with a pillow)

        Stage:  the chancel area between lectern and pulpit.
        Props:  2 folding chairs and a tray table

        Notes: actors each have a chair and creatively move it between one of three pre-determined spots - one of which represents a living room, one a side-by-side front seat of a car, and one a face-to-face with table between donut shop stall. The three locations can, in fact, be the same, but best if they are not. Never sit with back to congregation.

N - Christmas is a wonderful time of year, full of opened presents, delicious meals, and family gathered together to celebrate. Perhaps your heart and belly are overflowing with such good cheer in the afterglow of this holiday now past. Of course, not all Christmases are merry and bright. We have only to look to the Christmas story itself, as told by Matthew, to realize things donít always happen in the way you think they should.
        The first Christmas was a rough one for many families in Bethlehem that year. And the family of the One whose birth we have just celebrated found themselves on the road - not exactly a best case scenario for beginning a life. Even so, life goes on. Christmas is still Christmas. Those who have experienced loss, or gone through hard times as the year comes to a close, they know of what I speak. Hope, peace, joy, love (remember those Advent candles we lit?), how do we find our way to these as we stumble our way through difficult times?
        This morning we catch a glimpse of one family (or should I say, two persons within that family) trying to find their way through a very different Christmas ... and beyond.

(Holly enters and sits - as described below - in a chair
to the side of the stage. Once H. is in place, continue)

N - She sat in Grandmaís easy chair, hugging her knees to her chest on the day after Christmas. Rays of sunlight spread over the floor in front of her, but she was lost in dark thoughts. "I donít want to be here," an inner voice repeated over and over. "Itís important that we spend time with Grandma and Grandpa," Mom had said earlier that day. "They need us, Holly."

(Grandpa enters and stands off to the side,
observing H who is oblivious to his presence.
Gradually G makes his way over to her, unseen)

N - "I know they need us," the inner voice spoke, "I just donít want to be here." The truth was: she really loved her grandparents. If Grandma were better, sheíd rather be with her than anywhere else. Ever since Grandma started not being herself, however, Holly started not wanting to visit. It was tough seeing someone you loved who didnít even remember who you were. Early on, it was okay, for Grandmaís forgetfulness was covered by her cheerful nature. "Of course, youíre my granddaughter," sheíd say when reminded, "youíre such a pretty girl." Nowadays, though, Grandma was lost in some foreign world. She didnít even look at you, just stared at the ceiling. "I donít want to be here," Hollyís inner voice said.

(G. places his hand gently upon her shoulder)

G - "A penny for your thoughts, Holly."

H - "Hi, Grandpa" (a weak smile)

G - "Not much fun here, is it? (she nods) Letís say you and I go for a doughnut and some hot chocolate. I need to get out of this house. How about you?"

H - "You read my mind, Grandpa. Iíll tell Mom and Dad."

G - "Already did, sweetheart. Letís go."

(Holly gets up and, with chair, moves to "car" setting side-by-side with Grandpa on her left
facing congregation. G pretends to drive. Both are quiet for a bit, then H breaks the silence:)

H - "Grandpa, how do you do it? I get depressed just thinking about Grandma. But, then, I can do something else: go to school, be with my friends. I can stop thinking about her. Youíre with her all the time, though. Doesnít it get you down?"

G - "Sure it does, Holly. I do try to get away when I can. I have friends, also, though not as many as I used to. A problem with growing old is that your friends start dying on you. I still have some, even some younger, newer ones who come over and take care of Grandma so I can get away. But, youíre right, it does get me down, too."

H - "How do you handle it, Grandpa? It seems so hopeless. Grandma is not going to get any better, thatís what Dad said. He said sheís sort of fading away before our eyes. I want the old Grandma back, the one who baked the best Christmas cookies ever, who buried your face in her breast in a big hug. I miss her so much."

G - "I do, too, Holly. More than you can imagine. I miss her tender words, as well as her angry ones. She could cut me with comments sharper than any knife. Crazy that Iíd long for her quick temper, isnít it? You remind me of her."

(Holly blushes and looks out the window for a moment)

H - "Grandpa, what is there to look forward to? Sheíll only get worse. Does she even hear us anymore? Last Christmas she at least had a smile on her face when we opened presents. She was like a little kid. I feel guilty for saying so, but I didnít want to spend Christmas with her this year. Sheís like a stranger. I feel so uncomfortable around her."

(Holly falls quiet, afraid of her own words. After a moment, H & G get up
and move to doughnut stall configuration. Be creative with transition.
Pretend to drink from mug and eat doughnut, thoí H mostly picks at hers.)

G - "Itís okay to feel that way. I do sometimes, myself. I try hard to remember your grandmother the way she was, which is easier for me than you. Iíve known her for longer than you. There are moments when I see a glimmer of her old self, but those moments come less and less. I donít really know this woman anymore. Iím not giving up, though. I have hope."

H - "What do you mean: hope? Sheís not going to get better."

G - "I know. My hope isnít based on her getting better, at least not in this life. Youíre only now coming to understand that life is more than what youíre going through right now. At my age, Iím very aware that I wonít be around for all that much longer. Your Grandmother will die one day, and so will I." (pause as H quietly reacts, perhaps a tear or a sniffle) "I have to look ahead I look at you and see Grandma as a teenager. Life goes on. Some of my hope rests in you. Iím excited about the person you are becoming. In a way, Grandma lives on in you. Donít think too hard about that, however. Itís not a weight you have to carry around, though some people see it as a burden. You are her and my legacy, one way in which we touch the future, long after we have passed away. No disease can wipe that away, at least I hope not. Alzheimers may have felled the tree that your grandmother was, but from her stump comes a new shoot: you."

(Pause ... H dunks her doughnut in the hot chocolate.)

H - "Did you and Grandma come here much?"

G - "All the time. How do you think I became so fat?"

H - "Youíre not fat, Grandpa."

G - "Sure, and Santa is really a skinny guy. You need glasses more than I do." (They laugh)

H - "You said Ďsomeí or your hope is in me."

G - "Youíre a pretty sharp young woman. I did indeed. Can you figure where I would go on from there?"

H - "Well, yeah, something about God and what Dad calls Ďthe great by and by, pie in the sky.í I donít think he thinks too much of it."

G - "I think youíre right, However, Grandmaís illness has shaken some of what he used to understand. Once upon a time, your father and I could get into a pretty good argument. He couldnít accept much of what we taught him growing up. He was an angry young man. Protested the war in Vietnam, burned his draft card, got arrested."

H - "Are we talking about the same man? I canít imagine Dad doing stuff like that. Heís so ... quiet and conservative."

G - "Well, believe it, Holly. You have seen pictures of his long hair, havenít you?"

H - "Yes, he looked so silly."

G - "Those would have been fighting words at one time, young lady. Still, we loved him, and he loved us. Actually, he and I werenít that far apart. I didnít go off to war when I was a young man, either. I believed that Jesus had a better way. Still do. In spite of all the terrible things that have happened during my life, I have hope that Godís Way will prevail. My refusal to fight was based in this hope. I think your Dadís was based in anger."

H - "I donít understand this Ďhope,í Grandpa. When I think about Grandma, I just get angry. Maybe Iím angry with God for allowing her to get like this."

G - "I get angry, too. Only, anger isnít the last word. Anger only gets me so far, then it loses steam. Hope, on the other hand, is a long-term power. The Bible says it is something the Holy Spirit plants in us, like a tree that grows and grows, one that is there for more than a season. I believe that your Grandmother is in Godís hands - all that she ever was, is now, or will be. God will not let her go, even when death comes. Call it a Ďsweet by and by.í I believe in Godís tomorrow. Something new is coming. God is making it happen. You are a part of Godís future, but there is so much more than you or I can see. God is at work at something much bigger and better. Maybe Grandma can see it. Perhaps thatís where sheís looking when we think her mind is gone. Maybe she already has one foot in heaven. She just canít tell us."

H - "Iíd like to believe that, Grandpa. Is that what hope is: imagining another possibility when things look pretty bad?"

G - "You have wisdom beyond your years, Holly. Again, you remind me so much of your Grandmother. Listen, weíd better head back home before your folks start imagining something bad happening to us."

(H & G creative shift back to the car setting. Pause a moment before continuing)

H - "Christmas with Grandma the way she is still makes me sad, even imagining Grandma in a better place."

G - "Me, too. If it helps, though, remember that this holiday has often been celebrated in desperate times and places. Christmas is the story about how, when things were pretty rough in this world, God was at work on a new possibility. He gave his very own to the world, Jesus, in the form of an infant. You know the story."

H - "Yeah, I know the story."

G - "When you think about it, honey, your grandmother is a bit like a little child right now. Canít do much. Depends on us to take care of her. She even wears a diaper."

H - "Grandpa!"

G - "Well, itís true. Sometimes thatís how I see her - as a little baby I need to love and care for, just like she took care of your Dad long time ago."

H - "I never thought of it that way."

G - "A different sort of nativity scene. I donít think we could fit her in a cradle."

H - "No, I donít think so."

G - "Might be interesting to try..."

H - "Grandpa!"

G - "Well, thought Iíd try lightening it up a bit."

H - "Thanks. I do feel better."

G - "Here we are, home again." (G pretends to pull in driveway and put transmission in park) "Better go in and see how everyone is doing. Your Mom is cookiní up a good meal for us, Iím sure, and could probably use some help, donít ya think?"

H - "Yeah. Letís go." (They get out of car and walk off stage arm in arm)


©2004 Peter L. Haynes, adapted from a short story by the author.
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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