Mourning Mama

My precious mama was welcomed into heaven Monday morning. She passed on at home and in her own bed. My daughter, Annie, and I were with her when she breathed her last, and she left us with a gentle smile on her face looking more peaceful than I’ve seen her in years. We miss her already, but take comfort in picturing her surrounded by loved ones who have journeyed on ahead of her and in knowing she is in the presence of our Lord.

Meanwhile, I’m stumbling along here on earth, trying to adjust to life without her. I’m concerned about Daddy, suddenly in a much quieter home, without the coming and going of all who were caring for Mama.

People ask me how I am, and I think I’m doing better than I would expect. I asked my husband if this was all God’s grace or if I was still in shock. He said, “I think it’s the David factor.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know,” he said.  “David was praying and fasting that God would spare his son, but when his son died David got up off the ground and ate and was better.” (2 Samuel 12:15-23)

David’s servants were surprised and asked him about it. “And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.'” (Samuel 12:22-23, NKJV)

And it hit me how insightful Jeff was of my feelings. I have spent years praying and fretting over and caring for Mama. And the last week of her life had been so intense. I had slept with her all but one of the evenings. I had been with her most of each day. I had prayed and hoped and cried. I had called the nurses over and over and followed their instructions.

I had done all I knew to do for Mama and  had tried to make her comfortable. I hoped and prayed I had done it all right. I held her hand and sang to her. I read the Bible to her. I brushed her hair and rubbed her back. I cuddled with her and told her how much I loved her.

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15337656_10211859460628508_7808597532983961028_nHospice kept warning me that we were losing her. But part of me was in denial. And I would keep finding reasons to hope.

And then she was gone.

I sent out the news. Family came over. Friends and relatives messaged and called. Annie and I changed Mama into her pink dress. She looked so beautiful. Papers were signed. I watched as Mama was rolled away from her home and left us for the last time. Oh sweet Mama.

And now I’m learning more about grief. Most of the time it feels like this weight on my heart. I feel close to tears more often than not, but am still functioning okay. My family is watching out for me and doing the cooking and shopping, in between meals kindly given us.

I’m trying to manage my responsibilities. Dad is my new caregiving concern. We are trying to make sure he’s getting enough company. He loved his sweetheart, as he called her, so much and seems so fragile now.

I sat down with my prayer list this morning. And I came to Mom’s name and puzzled over the fact that I didn’t need to pray for her anymore. She is with Jesus now. Everything is perfect for her. So I prayed through tears that Jesus would give her a hug for me and tell her how much I love her.

After lunch I thought I’d better make more progress on my delayed Christmas shopping. I looked at my list and saw Mom’s name and burst into tears. I know she will be having an amazing Christmas this year, but I was struck that I couldn’t give her anything on this earth again.

God understands all my feelings.

“I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.” (Psalm 35:14b, NKJV)

He knows there is a special mourning for our mothers.

But what a sweet comfort to know that Mama is with Jesus. And with her own mama and daddy and sister. She is seeing friends and grandparents. She is pain free and clear of mind. She is having the best Christmas ever.

And someday we will all be together again. And for eternity. Because of Jesus and all that Christmas means.

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God is Here

It’s been a tough week. On Saturday we thought maybe God was taking Mama home to Him. She wouldn’t wake up no matter what we did. She was unresponsive. She was so cold. Her breathing was erratic, with long, scary gaps. I was sending messages to people asking for prayer. I was comforting my crying daughter and trying to stay calm myself.

But after many hours she did wake up! And she ate a very late supper. And we all exhaled a big breath and smiled. We hadn’t lost her. Not yet. We could savor some more cuddles. We could still hold her hand and feel her squeeze back in response once again.

The next day, Sunday morning, Mama told my daughter, “God is here.”

Annie answered, “Yes, He’s here.”

Mama said, “He is bigger.”

And we continue to take comfort in those precious words. Because even though Mama rarely seems to know who we are anymore, if at all, she knows that God is here. God is with her. God is with us. And He is bigger. Bigger than Alzheimer’s. Bigger than our pain and sorrow. Bigger than our stress and worries and fears.

God is bigger.

I’m so thankful Mama knows this. I’m so thankful God continues to teach us through the few words Mama says these days.

Other concerns and stresses weigh down on us too. Our prayer list is long. This is a challenging season of life as we oversee the care of three elderly parents, one who lives with us. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and cry and call out for help and prayer.

And I feel the comfort of God in kind words and offers from friends. In family members who step in and help. In devotional passages and Bible verses I read. Like one I read today…

“If I say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Psalm 94:18-19 (NKJV)

Yesterday I cuddled Mama before supper, “Mama, it’s me…Cheryl.” She repeated my name so clearly! I rarely hear her say my name and often it sounds slurred. But yesterday she said it clearly twice! “You said my name, Mama! Thank you!”

She answered, “Yes, Ma’am.” Which made me smile even more and gave a nod to her Southern upbringing. I’m grateful for this gift of hearing Mama say my name again. And especially for the pricelessness of hearing her speak of God’s presence.

God is here. He is bigger.

GOD is here. God IS here. God is HERE!

And He is bigger!

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The Comfort of Balding Gray Heads

I went to a funeral yesterday, of an older cousin of my husband’s. And sitting in front of us, filling a couple pews, were about a dozen old men. And I found the backs of their balding, gray heads comforting.

They were the Casket Bearers and the Honorary Casket Bearers, aka Main Street Coffee Group. Many of them had hearing aids attached to their eye glasses, hiding behind their ears. They sat shoulder to shoulder in the pews in front of us, dressed up in their suits and sport coats.

And as the pastor spoke of their friend, I saw some of them nodding. And a few wiping at their eyes.

And the pastor shared that the man’s widow had said,  “He ate dinner with his family at home Thursday night. And by Friday morning he was eating a meal with the rest of his family.” And I pictured the joyous reunion with his parents and his brother.

And then this morning my dear 93 year old mother-in-law told my husband she thinks she has lived too long. Her memory is so bad and she has a hard time doing anything and she feels useless.

And my husband told me that he told her, “God numbers your days. If you are still here, He still has a purpose for you.  You can still sew. And you can still pray for people. That’s very important. Even if you can’t remember names, God knows. And even if you could do nothing… Think about your great-granddaughter (just months old) what can she do? But she is still precious and loved. And so are you.”

And I so loved that he said that.

And then my daughter came home from helping my parents. Mom is getting so difficult to get up and is struggling to walk and fights against standing up.  She said Dad is fearing that Mama will have to go to a nursing home and they won’t take good care of her and that he’ll be left at home alone.

And he told Annie that he’s praying a tornado will just take them both at the same time. Because he doesn’t want to live without her. And he can’t stand the thought of being in bed without her cuddling up to his back. He loves her so much.

And I cried.

And I wondered why life is so hard. And I thought about all the people I’m praying for and all the difficult challenges friends are dealing with.

Life can be so painful. And heartbreaking.

I have no answers to the “why questions” in my mind. All I can do is echo King Jehoshaphat’s prayer, when he heard a vast army was coming against him, “…we have no power against this…that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chronicles20:12, NKJV)

I don’t know what to do. But I can keep my eyes on Jesus. And I can listen for His promptings and do my best to follow them. I can pray for my hurting friends. I can serve Dad and Mama and try to give them moments of joy.

And I can know and trust that He is with us always, and we are not in this battle alone.

And I can’t help but remember the backs of the old men in front of me. And I wonder how many funerals they have been to. And how many friends and loved ones they’ve said good-bye to. And I think of them as soldiers marching on, showing me how to keep going.  I picture them meeting up on Main Street for coffee. I wonder if a chair sits empty, or if the circle gets tighter…

But I somehow know they are there. Drinking their coffee. Remembering their old friend. Laughing over a joke while they wipe away a tear. Carrying on.

And I picture their backs, and their balding gray heads, as they pay respect to their friend. And it is comforting.