It’s a good day.
My 85 year old mother passed quietly last night, comfortable, at a beautiful hospice facility with people she loved by her side. It was the answer to the prayer she has been praying for several years, that God would call her home.
I remember one of her most recent stays in a rehabilitation facility. We covered her walls with family photos to show her how much reason she had to stay and recover. I remember playing videos of grandchildren telling her to hang on and work to get better because we wanted her with us. She’d force a smile,, thank us and say, “but I just want to go.”
The call came last Saturday night. “They found mom unresponsive.” I think I’ve had that call or text three times in the last three years or so. The calls came here and there mixed in with what had become normal messages of falls, confusion, sickness and seizures. The calls had become expected; broken bones, UTI’s, shoulders out of joint. sprains. I took this call with what had become my normal “here we go again” mindset and we headed north to be with her.
The doctor said she had a massive stroke and would go at any moment. Honestly, I didn’t believe him. I knew the drill. I was determined to protect my emotions from this roller coaster ride that I’ve come to hate. Surely, she’d be spending the next month or two at yet another rehabilitation facility fighting with her physical therapists and refusing to do the work.
My emotions bounced from tears to disbelief. With no life-saving measures, I knew this time was different but somewhere within, I still expected to have her wake up again. I had 5 days of sitting in her room watching efforts to make her comfortable. I had five days of “it will be any time now.” Gradually the thoughts that she would prove them all wrong and wake up again faded and were replaced with the reality of saying goodbye.
But yesterday, it was clear that Mom was going. I sat in the nearby chapel, not able to bear being in the room with her, and I wrote her obituary and planned her memorial service. I tried my best to focus on her new life ahead instead of my life without her. I did my best to be happy for her and push down my feelings of being sad for me.
My sisters wanted to be with her when she passed but I could not bear the thought of that. Everyone told me it was okay. I wanted my last memory to be when I sat and read the 23rd Psalm with her, hoping she could hear me but also hoping she was already gone. I wanted my last time with her to be a happy memory of joking and asking her if she remembered dad asking, “who’s this ‘Shirley’ character and why is she following you” every time we recited the last verse together when we memorized the Psalm for church homework: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
I kissed her on the forehead, told her I loved her and once again told her that she was free to go. I told her that on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, Monday afternoon, Tuesday, and Wednesday but on Thursday I couldn’t watch anymore and spent very little time with her beyond a quick kiss and one last, “I love you.” I played a video of my son Josh singing “House of God Forever” and decided that would be my final time with Mom. Today, I am glad I did.
This morning I feel sad and heavy and on the edge of tears. And this morning I feel happy that Mom’s battle is finished and she is raising her arms high in praise, walking with no cane and breathing deeply without that horrendous cough that has plagued her. I feel joy knowing that no, she is not an angel and did not just graduate to getting her wings, because heaven and life with Jesus is way better than a “It’s a Wonderful Life” tale. I feel joy that she is complete and with God, not worried at all about us. She has no more worries and no more pain.
I’m sure my sisters and I will cry and laugh and cry some more today. I pray my daddy’s disease will buffer him from the devastation I know he would experience had he not had Alzheimer’s. I pray her grandchildren will be able to focus on the good and grieve healthy grief.
It’s a good day. It’s a good day because of our Hope and the fact that the resurrection of Jesus redeemed this whole messy, up and down thing we call “life.”