Mama’s Legacy

Four months ago today Mama had her last night on this earth. She was taking long gaps between breaths. Scary long ones. It seemed like she was taking her last breath a hundred times over. I remember shaking her arm and pleading with her to breathe. “Breathe, Mama, please breathe!” I felt like I was holding my own breath waiting for the next gasp to come.

I was crying and praying and calling for family to come over and be with us. And through it all I was somehow also praying for my nephew and his wife. Because I had gotten the message that they were at the hospital, in labor, struggling through the birthing pains of their firstborn.

Then I got the news. They had a healthy baby boy! I leaned close to Mama and said, ” You have another great-grandson, Mom! Simon has been born!” And I smiled through tears and prayed that Mama would make it past midnight, so she didn’t pass on his birthday.

And then, after hours of agonizing breaths, she started breathing regularly again. Only now there was a gurgling sound. And that was even scarier, in a different way. My husband called the hospice nurse, who got there about midnight. She confirmed that Mama was passing. It could be hours. “Make the most of this time,” the nurse said. “Talk to her.”

And I remember thinking, I’ve been making the most of this time for years now. I’ve spoken my apologies. I’ve expressed my love and gratitude. I’ve sung and read the Bible and told her stories of my life and hers. I’ve spoken to her about heaven and how beautiful it will be and who she will see there. I’ve reminded her that Jesus saved us and we trust in Him and we’ll all be together again.

I was thankful I’d said it all over and over again through the years of dementia. I only wish I’d said more of it while her mind was still strong. But I had taken the time to say every word I could think to say, every word I had needed to say, over and over again through the years. And now as Mama lay dying, I was at peace about that.

She never opened her eyes that night. I don’t know if she heard anything or not. But I played a CD of hymns and I held her hand and I told her I loved her, again and again. And I cuddled up next to her on the bed.

In the morning, as my daughter and I were giving her medications and repositioning her, we suddenly noticed she had passed somewhere in the process. The hospice nurse later told me this was very common. We cried. We sat on either side of Daddy and told him and we all held onto each other and wept.

I went to look in on Mama again, and I noticed a gentle smile on her face– so slight. And she looked so incredibly peaceful. It brought me such a comfort to see a peace I hadn’t seen for years– if ever. My daughter, and others, marveled at it, too.

And now we’ve been adjusting to life without Mama for the last four months. Last night I was babysitting my youngest granddaughter. I can’t see anything in her that resembles my mom, and yet she wouldn’t be here if Mom never had been. My sweet granddaughter is part of Mama’s legacy.

And then it dawned on me that God gave each of my brothers and I precious gifts, the same year he took Mama Home. He gave me my first biological grandchild in April. He gave my older brother his fifth grandchild in October. He gave my younger brother his first grandchild, as Mama was slipping away. And He gave my baby brother the news that he will be a first time daddy this July!

Mama, your love lives on! Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren are beautiful and strong! And I can’t wait to meet your newest grandchild this summer! Thank you for passing on a heritage of faith and love that is rich and warm and deep. Your heart beats on in the legacy you have left behind.

We will do our best to tell your great-grandchildren about you, Mama. And we will pass on the family recipes and songs and stories. And most importantly we will teach them about Jesus, and share the faith you shared with us. And someday, because of His tender mercies and our faith in Him, we will be together again.

My beautiful picture

My sweet mama with my baby brother

 

 

 

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Christmas Mourning

     I’m missing Mama so much today. Having a day of tears in between trying to get some things done. It is such a strange mix to have Christmas and mourning together. But how much deeper would our grieving be if we had never had Christmas and all that it means. I can’t imagine.
     So I call Social Security and wait on hold for forty minutes to tell them Mama has passed, as I’m surrounded by boxes and gifts that need to be wrapped. And I tuck thank you notes, for meals and memorial gifts, into Christmas cards. And I open an envelope of death certificates that came in the same mail with a mix of sympathy cards and Christmas greetings.
     And I miss Mama. I think about our last week or so together. The last way that Mama really communicated to me, when she had lost her ability to speak, was holding onto my hand. A few days before she died she still had such strength. She would grip my hand so tightly it would almost hurt. Sometimes I’d have to move and pull my hand away for a minute, and it was actually difficult to do. I marveled at her strength.
    And then I missed it, that last day or so, when her hand no longer squeezed mine. I’d slip my hand under hers, so I could feel like she was touching me. And I’d hold her hand, but receive no pressure back.
     This is a tough Christmas. But I keep reminding myself of one of the last things Mama said to my daughter, “God is here. He is bigger.” I say that to myself often these days.
     And I was wondering what the last words she said to me were, that were responsive. So I just looked back at some notes… On December first I had said, “I love you, Mama.”
And Mama had answered, “I know that.”
     And I smile through tears and am thankful.
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A Father’s Love

My four adopted children found out last night that their biological papa passed away this week. The boys were 8, 5, and 3, and Annie was one, when their mother died. Their papa had previously suffered from leprosy and had lost many of his toes and fingers and couldn’t care for his children. About a month after their mother died, with all the children showing signs of serious malnutrition, their father surrendered them to a children’s shelter.

He was illiterate, and maybe couldn’t hold a pen anyway, so he made a stubby finger print with his deformed hand on the paper to show he was giving up his parental rights. I wept when I saw it more than three years later as we were in the process of adopting.

I’m grateful these dear children had a papa that loved them enough to want them to have a healthier life.  I’ve thought of him and prayed for him often through the years. My youngest son said that the last time he saw his father, his papa told him, “Now don’t worry about me.  I have lots of friends.” What a loving, unselfish thing to say.

In 2012 my two oldest adopted sons went back to the Philippines and visited their papa. He was so happy to see them—the answer to his prayers, he said. And they brought him gifts and photos and letters from the two younger children.

He said he wanted to see all his children again before he died.  And I prayed he would. But it didn’t work out.

And I think about how a man on the other side of the world longed for his children. And I think about how my mama longs and cries out for her own mama and daddy, who died years ago.  And I think about how, even though I can hold my mama’s hand and kiss her cheek and take care of her, I long for her to know me as her daughter.

And my heart hurts and I wonder why life is so hard.

And I remember that we all have a Heavenly Father who loves us more that we can comprehend. He never lets go of us.  He always was and always is and always will be. And He never, ever forgets who His children are.

And he loves us so much, that He allowed His very beloved, only begotten son to die for our sins—so that we can be redeemed and forgiven and have a future with Him for eternity. What an incredibly loving, unselfish thing to do!

And all who believe in Jesus and follow Him are adopted into God’s family and are allowed the privilege of crying out “Abba, Father!” to the Creator of the universe. We are children of God.  We are loved beyond measure.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)

Our Abba Father is so good and loves us so much. Forever.