One year ago today, my mom went home to be with the Lord. I remember the morning of her passing very clearly. I was in the midst of my morning rush trying to get the kids fed, dressed, their teeth and hair brushed, etc. Just our normal hectic daily routine. The weather forecasters were calling for snow and I was feeling uneasy about when I would be able to get up to visit mom. On good traffic days, she was only a three hour drive from our home, but having to pass directly through three major cities to reach her meant a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability with the commute, even on good weather days. My mind was racing about how to handle the week. The doctors and nurses told us to ‘get prepared’ and mom’s increasing fragile state let us know she would soon be leaving us. In the middle of my morning rush, God slowed me down long enough for me to close myself into one of the little’s bedrooms and pick up the phone. Though she could no longer respond, her eyes let us know she understood. I called her home and my dad placed the phone up to mom’s ear so I could talk to her. I told her snow was in the forecast and although I was planning to make the trip up after the kids were out of preschool for the day, I wasn’t sure what that would look like. I felt God urging me to say more, so I went to to tell mom that it was OK for her to let go, to go home to be with God, that although we loved her very much and would miss her, that we would see her again one day. I promised that we would make sure dad was OK and that we all would take care of each other. While I have no idea if this is even possible, I asked her to ‘meet’ me when my time comes and that she be one of the first people to greet and welcome me home. (In the year leading up to mom’s passing, she talked on several occasions about people off into the distance waving flags and banners and cheering for her. I took that to be her celestial homecoming committee and asked her to be part of mine, when the time comes, if possible.) In hindsight, I was extremely blessed that morning to be able to say goodbye to my mom while she was still conscious.
Not two hours later, when I called back to check on her, my dad walked into her room and after a few seconds of silence just kept repeating, “Oh, no. Oh, no!” Mom had slipped into unconsciousness and, although still breathing, was longer with us. My head was spinning as I looked at the clock. If I wanted to beat traffic, needed to be on the road no later than noon. It was already 1:30, the kids were in preschool that day, and it had started to snow. I called my husband at work and thankfully he just happened to be in the office and was able to come home. I started throwing things into an overnight bag and went to pick the kids up from school. Standing in the parking lot, dazed and confused, I ran into a friend and told her what was happening. In my state of confusion, I asked her if she thought I should go. The answer to this may seem obvious now, but my head my spinning out of control. She assured me the right thing to do was to get on the road, so after bringing the kids home and waiting for what seemed like eternity for my husband to arrive home, I hit the road. He was slightly offended that I did not ask for everyone to come, but in that moment, I wanted silence, time to pray, and hopefully a few final moments with mom before she left us.
One of life’s little miracles occurred that day. Driving in mid-afternoon normally would have meant that I hit parts of rush hour in three to four cities. I believe there is only one other place in the country that has worse traffic than here. However, on that day people must have left work early due to the weather forecast. Finally hitting the road at 3:00, I breezed through the entire drive. Crying, praying, praising God, listening to music, and preparing my heart for our final earthly goodbye. As I approached my exit off the highway, I called my sister to see if I should bring food. This probably seemed like an absurd request to her, but I think it was my attempt to try to normalize the visit, although this visit would be anything but normal. There would be no more playing Yahtzee, no more laughing together over funny days past, no more drinking caramel la-TAYS (she loved to over-emphasize the second syllable of latte for some reason), no more life-as-we-know-it with mom. Off the exit ramp and a few quick turns before pulling into the drive. Walking into her bedroom and seeing mom in the most fragile of human conditions, breathing mechanically, and eyes half-closed, it seemed as if she was saying, “Finally, everyone is here. Now I can go.” I truly believe that mom was waiting for all of us to be together so that we could say goodbye as a family. We gathered around her, exchanged some small talk and banter to try to lighten the mood, said our goodbyes, massaged her head, and prayed over her. I imagined Jesus’ hand reaching down, taking hers, and away they went. Not one hour after I arrived, mom took her final breath, on a gorgeous, bright, snow-covered evening, and was carried into eternity where we will one day meet again.
Just the other day I was mentally recalling a story about our last vacation as a family before mom got sick. We were in Florida, visiting Disney World and the other parks. Apparently, the glass windows and doors at our condominium were cleaner than any windows in my house because one morning as mom sat on the couch watching, I walked right into one. Full speed. I thought the sliding glass door was open and was attempting to walk onto the deck. However, starting with my face, then hands, and down to my knee, I smacked clear into the door. Mom about peed herself, and for the next year or so, she made it a point to ask me, “What were you thinking? Didn’t you see the door?” Anyway, not long after I recalled this story the other day, my sister messaged me asking if I remembered ‘the time I walked into the door’ in Florida. It made me smile because I believe it was God’s way of letting us know mom still has her sense of humor and still finds it hysterical that I walked into a plain-as-day door. It would also be mom’s wish that we do not cry over things past, but get on with life because we are not dead yet. Mom had a great ease in which she lived her life; a love of simplicity, friends, and family. She loved to laugh. So, today and always, when I am tempted to cry, I will cry joyful tears remembering mom’s lightheartedness, good nature, and authentic spirit. Until we see each other again, and until all things are made complete, I will do my best to live a life that honors the way mom raised me and values the things she showed me were important, through the way she lived and the way she gracefully died. Father, please give mom and big hug today and let her know how much we love and miss her and look forward to being together again, with you, in a place where all is made whole and tears are no longer.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”