It’s never easy to say final farewells to those we love, even if we know that the day approaches. Sometimes the day arrives much sooner than we expect. Such was the case today when a local police officer arrived at my doorstep to inform me that my mother’s caregivers had discovered her lifeless body in bed early yesterday morning, having passed peacefully in her sleep, just six weeks after her nintieth birthday and two weeks after her homecoming after six weeks of hospitalization and rehabilitation. Admittedly she had not been herself following her time away from home. The old energy was gone, she was weaker physically than she had ever been, and her memory, already in rapid decline, had deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t remember events of the previous 24 hours. The Lord, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, had decided that it was time for her suffering to end and take her home.
Guilt is an emotion some of us feel when we want to prolong the suffering of our loved ones by keeping them among the living, even when they’ve lived as full of a life as possible and can no longer enjoy a life free of pain, immobility, and dependence on others to do what they’ve always done for themselves. We tell them to be strong even when we know full well that they can’t. We tell them that we will attend to their every need, even if that’s the last thing they want. We tell them that we still need them even though they know we don’t. As much as they love us and know that we love them, they also know that God loves them more and that His plans for them are not theirs or ours. He blesses us and them by doing the right thing even though we cannot. Love can be painful, but sometimes pain is necessary for right to prevail.
It’s a strange feeling, knowing that the last link to your immediate past is no longer there to provide continuity, to provide sage advice that only the wisdom of years and the love of one who brought you into the world can provide. You realize that YOU are now the oldest generation, the repository of wisdom gained by years of living, the source of guiding love to your immediate posterity. It’s a daunting feeling to realize that the torch has been passed.
Already I have caught myself wanting to call Mom, to share some bit of good news, some accomplishment or event that would make her happy or proud, only to realize that it’s no longer possible. It’s something all if us either have experienced, or eventually will, and yet it’s a unique experience for each of us from our own perspective.
But it’s time now to be unselfish, time to realize that eternal life with Our Lord Jesus is the greatest reward for what will ultimately be proved to be this brief and insignificant life in the temporal realm. Mom now joins Dad in this life eternal, where one day we will all be reunited and this brings us untold joy to contemplate.
There is still the tying up of loose ends, the acts of closure we must perform to wrap up the remains of our loved ones’ life on this earth. This is an occasion for a mixture of sadness, nostalgia, contemplation, prayer, and ultimately a celebration of lives well lived. My mother was a loving, caring, Christ-following woman dedicated to her family and her faith, and my siblings and I were blessed beyond words to have been her children. I would not be the man I am today without her influence in my life, just as she and Dad together were instrumental in faithfully carrying out God’s plan for raising a Christian family. I could never have repaid her for all she has done.
As we prepare to celebrate her life, I recall my father’s celebration a decade ago in which over 500 people packed the church to share their stories of how he and Mom had touched so many lives. I look forward to seeing many of these old friends in the week that follows to join me in this celebration of a life lived to its fullest.
Farewell, my beloved mother. Although I grieve your passing, I rejoice even more knowing that you are safely in the arms of our Lord Jesus.
I love you.
Your eldest son, the most blessed and richest man on this earth.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 (KJV)