Mon., Jan. 15, 2018
Romans 6:5 – For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Early in our marriage, Rick and I often commented on how fortunate we were that all of our parents were alive. We knew this was not something to take for granted. We tried to make special times and memories with our parents as a married couple and appreciate who each person was.
Just a little over five years ago, my Dad was the first parent to pass. (https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2013/01/04/dads-departure-has-come/) Ten months later, my mother-in-law, Ersel, passed away. (https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2013/11/24/everybody-loves-ersel/). Then, June 2016, my father-in-law, Tony, left this world. (https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2016/06/19/good-bye-tony/)
Our last parent, my Mom, left this earthly world on Sat., Jan. 13. While her health had been steadily declining, the last three weeks, she changed nearly daily. Having stepped back from serving churches six weeks ago and with an understanding boss from my part-time job, I had the flexibility to spent significant time with my Mom the last three weeks of her life. While with her, I often privately reflected upon the lessons my Mom taught and was teaching me about living and dying. I share a few here.
My parents taught their children how to work hard. I remember being encouraged if I worked hard enough, anything could happen. No doubt about it, my Mom was a hard working individual. In ministry, I have often reflected upon the story of Martha and Mary in Luke’s gospel. Martha is a busy-body who wants to be a great hostess when Jesus and his friends show up at her house. Sister Mary is not distracted by all the preparations and simply sits at Jesus’ feet. When Martha is fed up with Mary’s lack of assistance, she asks Jesus to get Mary to help her. Surprisingly, Jesus sides with Mary’s decision to just be in his presence.
My Mom spent nearly all of her life being a Martha. She raised four Martha children. Possibly, she overworked her body into some of the health challenges she struggled with. Even in the last months while living at a nursing home, Mom would often talk about “all the things” she wanted to get done. It’s hard to flip the switch and move into a more Mary-like lifestyle, something my Mom never really became comfortable with. I watched this happen these past few weeks. It has encouraged me to continue reflecting upon how Martha’s can build more Mary into their lives.
Fiercely independent, it was NEVER easy for my Mom to ask for assistance or help. As my siblings and I became more involved in her care needs, it was very difficult for her to accept this. The nursing home staff loved her independence, even if it drove them (and her children) a little crazy. I greatly treasure her acceptance of help in her last days. Helping her eat, rubbing lotion on her skin, reading to her, listening to music and praying together became the single most important parts of each day.
We are not in control. There were many times we saw Mom’s independence continue in her last days. She taught us patience, interestingly not one of her dominant traits. We discovered the gift of peace and just being. Her living and dying journey brought my sisters and I together for several days, something that has seldom happened in our adult years. We discovered that we were along on Mom’s journey and needed to just accept how it transpired, which we came to peace with. I’m confident my sisters and I will treasure those last days together and pray we honored our Mom in the process.
Our greatest peace comes from knowing that in death, Mom would not really die. She simply would be united with Christ in a resurrection just like his. We knew and felt Mom’s whole journey was surrounded in God’s love and grace. We learned to accept each day with Mom as a gift and one to relish and enjoy.
In the days and weeks ahead, I’m confident I will remember and relive many more lessons I have learned through Mom’s living and dying. I close with the last sentence from Mom’s obituary and encourage you to honor my Mom’s living and dying by participating:
As an memorial, the family encourages you to reach out in kindness to someone or play a game of UNO in memory in her.
Almighty God – I thank you for the woman who was my Mom. Thank you for loving her and through her, teaching me so many important lessons on living and dying. I celebrate her life and death. I pray You will continue to teach me things through her journey of living and dying. Amen.
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