Twenty years ago in the middle of the night my mom made the transition from earth to heaven. It was a night filled with small and big blessings, which eased the process of saying goodbye on this side of heaven. Mom’s health had been more and more challenging, leading to a massive heart event, with two of the four heart valves giving way under the duress of long term steroid use for her severe arthritis. But i will remember always that evening, with the snow flying, crisp wind at the face, and an inner sense that this was gong to be a life changing night.
My mom had hearing problems… with deafness to the left ear for some 30 years, and the hearing loss from aging to her right ear communication could be challenging. To add insult to injury the hospital had lost her hearing aid. But that was a big blessing – Mom could hear. I was talking very loud to compensate for what i knew to be her inability to hear when she said softly “lets use our indoor voice… you don;t have to shout”. Wow, she could hear? Amazing grace of God in a time of need.
I remember her little face, scanning my face, sensing apprehension and quickly wanting to encourage me that things would be ok. She assured me of her faith, and that we would one day again in heaven see each other. And she was so worried that I eat dinner, take care of myself, and Steve.
And that night we made a few phone calls… my mom’s church and her pastor (priest – orthodox), and a friend who was the counterpart of our nursing home ministry. If you know me you will know that as an only child i often prefer small settings to large gatherings. My friend came with her husband, food for an army and called everyone i knew. That waiting room to the ICU swelled to 25-30 people, and took on a party like atmosphere. She meant well, wanting to feed me as a way of comforting me, gather people around so i would not be alone… but the buzz of that throng of people was so much at a time when i just wanted to soak in the last minutes with mom, and pray hard.
And then it came, the doctor pulling me aside to explain the depth of the damage to her heart, and that it was not repairable. He only confirmed what i already knew. Sometimes I think God prepares you for moments like this. But what i will never forget was his harsh sense of life and death. We had a rather heated discussion on who has the right to make life and death decisions, and how that fits into the faith i hold strongly. Scientific method versus sovereignty of God…. He wanted me to sign do not resuscitate orders, to pull any plugs if needed. I firmly believe that life is in the hands of God, and he will decide when and how our life on earth ends. So i prayed… give me wisdom to do and say what you want Lord, what will bring glory to you. And he answered my prayer.
Mom’s orthodox priest was on vacation, they sent a fill in – who was young, and clearly overcompensating for his discomfort in this situation. He asked to speak with my mom, and then pray. And I remember we prayed together… it was not an “orthodox prayer” written in some book, but it came from deep in his soul… grant peace in death, peace and comfort to the family and thank you for the gift of eternal life. Mom was vocal in agreeing. I know the moment she passed on she was in the presence of the Lord.
Her heart monitors began going off, and they asked us to say any last thoughts, and then scooted us out of the room. We hugged, kissed, said blessings to each other, and that was the last of our conversations. It was off to a waiting room. Moments later the nurse came out to tell me she had passed. “Abscent from the body is to be present with the lord.” “In the presence of the Lord is fullness of joy.” Wow, the scriptures rumbled through my head… And then it came… that intense gripping pain of grief and loss filled my heart and mind. This was going to change my life forever. No longer would l have the whit and wisdom of my mom to come to, the big hugs and “it will work out” pep talks. And no longer would my best friend in life be there to share the highs and lows.
So here we are, twenty years later. The sting of that night has lessened, giving way to memories that are filled with joy and fond remembrance of a woman who impacted my life profoundly. From the earliest moments I can remember she was a loving, hard working woman apt to teach, give selflessly, and hope eternally for the good in others. There were a lot of amazing qualities of her character: strong work ethic, selflessness, faithful friend, and the one i admire most was her gift of discernment. She would know someone’s character in 2 minutes… and was highly accurate. I have asked God for that gift, but it is not in my tool box of character qualities.
So today I celebrate a life lived well, and one that is missed so often here on earth. And I celebrate the goodness of our God to call her from her physical suffering to a place of peace, free from the limitations of earth’s sin scarred experience, and free to be in the presence of the Lord where there is peace, safety and blessing forever more.
I miss you mom, but i know you are ok in heaven, and i look for that day when we will again see each other again. Memory Eternal.