Many of you follow me on Instagram for which I’m very grateful. You’ve seen in the last year several photos of my mom and me; the most recent was four days before her departure from us to her Home on February 5, 2020. I’ve been very preoccupied in the last six weeks with caring for her as much as I could. Gratefully God gave me many days with her.
In the days since her last breath I remained present in my brothers lives both in person and via email, text and calls as we planned two services to both honor my mom and her wonderful life and to bring hope to our combined 15 children plus spouses and 26 grandchildren who were greats to my mom. We felt eagerness and urgency to turn their eyes to Jesus. Ecclesiastes says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting for this is the end of all mankind, and the living take it to heart,” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
My mother was as fallen as we all are. She had her doubts, her faults, her guilt-tripping, her fears, but she believed in Jesus from an early age, got my father going to church again and kept all of us there regularly without fail until we were on our own. And then she and my dad continued to attend and invest in God’s people in their small town.
For her memorial I wrote a poem to share a peek into our lives, to honor her legacy and to point those in attendance to Jesus. I’d like to share it with you, my friends. In addition, I’ve added below the words of my sweet husband who really loved my mom, calling her the kindest person he ever knew. You might want to read what he wrote if you are or will be one day a mother-in-law.
We fixed the pillows
tucked her in
“are you warm enough?”
“I want a drink of water.”
The pink sippy cup
in my hand, to her lips,
she swallowed a few sips.
I prayed for her,
requested from God above
restorative sleep, peaceful dreams, abated pain.
Like so many times with my kids,
I thought for tonight we were finished,
it was way past her bedtime already.
But her soft voice interrupted my intentions …
“Sure. What would you like?”
Eyes closed … two words … “don’t know.”
“How about Dad’s favorite?”
We sang, my sister-in-law and me,
It Is Well With My Soul;
neither have singing voices,
but it was lovely enough
for my sweet mom.
I walked from her room,
asking in my heart,
“I don’t understand, Lord, why …
why must she suffer such indecencies,
endure discomfort, multiplied pains,
becoming a child again
almost completely dependent … again?”
I will trust Him.
Mom has become small.
Jesus blessed smallness
told all adults to become like children
pronounced humility the path to greatness
to honor in His kingdom.
My Ashley spent the night with her one night.
Mom loved it, loved not being alone,
so every night after, someone was present
on the little pallet we made
with memory foam and quilts
next to her bed.
our steady presence to serve every need
produced precious … holy … moments
as we went near heaven’s doorway with her.
Not all moments were sad.
One day she fussed that my shoes were too loud
on the old yellow pine floors.
On another she demanded with feisty authority
“bring your conversations in here”
her greatest desire was being with … us.
Sounds like my Emmanuel.
Jesus came here to be near me always
to be near mom forever.
On the morning of her departure
she asked me, “where is everyone?”
It was 5 am.
I was sitting on the side of her bed
hoping to soothe, calm her,
her body was shutting down and everything hurt
every fiber deprived of nourishment and water.
Who was everyone I wondered,
then realized she meant her family.
So many had come to be near one more time.
Why weren’t they all here … now?
“They are all sleeping,” I said.
Her eyes closed.
That day, like many before,
she had talked in disjointed phrases,
but with a steady theme,
“God, please take me Home
Now we who are left
wonder at her invisible-to-us transformation.
She is gone from our sight
but more alive than ever because she believed in Jesus.
Calvin Miller wrote,
Living is a temporary art,
dying is getting dressed for God.
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.
We stood there on holy ground.
Still … today … we are standing on holy ground
because He is always near.
A Tribute from Dennis:
I have no idea what it’s like for a mom to give her “only” daughter away to a young man, but I do know that it couldn’t have been easy…at least, I’m sure I didn’t make it easy on you. But I want you to know that you sure made it easy for Barbara and me to start our journey together more than 43 years ago and I want to express my profound admiration, appreciation, and affection as you celebrate your 90th.
You make this tribute a privilege and easy to write. Read Dennis’s tribute here.