This will be my last Mama & Me post. Those simple words cut. I’ve put it off for over two weeks. Mama went Home on November 29, 2014. I was privileged to be with her. It seemed so right – she was there for my first breath, and I was there for her last.
I know this post will elicit your sympathy for us, and I’m grateful for that. But the point of this post isn’t a plea for comfort. I am trusting and believing in God. My faith isn’t rocky although the road is. I realize my words are raw, and some of you are facing a similar future. And that will make this very difficult for you to read. It’s okay if you stop here.
I promised God and Mama I’d be honest about the journey, and this is me keeping my word. Do tell me your stories, but please – no pep talks or advice okay? I know my pain is not the worst ever suffered, but it’s the worst I’ve ever suffered, so don’t put me down for putting it out here. In the darkness of my sorrow, I am keeping my eyes on the One who is the Light – trusting His will and His Word. I greatly appreciate your prayers and your stories about trusting Him in the middle of your pain.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:2-4 (NIV)
This post is about one of Mama’s rough mornings a couple of months ago when she took a turn for the worse. She was tired and slept on and off – more restless than restful. Each time she woke she was delighted to see me and childlike (transparent and honest) in her surprise. Each time she said, “Oh there are you!” as if she’d just found a great treasure or something valuable she’s misplaced.
I knew she was in pain, but she resisted help. She told me at one point, “I need to feel the pain.” Then she tenderly reached out for my hand because she could see the grief in my soul.
In a very clear moment that morning she said, “I hate what’s happening to my brain.”
I responded, “I hate it too, Mama. And I hate your pain.”
She looked at me quizzically and said, “What pain?”
Either the pain was gone or she didn’t remember that I knew about it. Most likely, it was the dementia. Truly, I hated the dementia, but never Mama. And that day, she was with me – alive, holding my hand, and even though I knew we were approaching the end of her life, I had her. Thoughts beyond that were too heavy to bear.
She watched me closely that day and told me to get back to work. As my fingers worked my laptop keyboard, I stole glances at her. She watched me in that way she always did- as if seeing someone beautiful and to her, I was.
Before she nodded off again, she asked, “What are you doing?”
“Writing,” I said.
She smiled. “Of course you are.”
I stored this conversation and many others in my heart because I knew that one day, when God called her Home, they would end, and I’d still need them.
We put off some things that day. I looked at her fingernails, and she said, “Oh please, not today.” She wasn’t in the mood for a manicure. Instead, we held hands and listened to Elvis for a while because it was the desire of her heart. And it was fun to give her what she wanted.
Later, we read Psalm 122, and she said, “That’s a good one.” I said to God, Oh Lord, she is right. Our help comes from You.
While she slept, I watched her wondering, what God’s plan in all of this was. Surely He has one. I asked Him to show me. Because I needed there to be value in this journey; in the story of a woman who rarely said I can’t and whose life was now full of them.
I know God gave her a number of days before she was created in her mother’s womb. I knew He wouldn’t take her a second too soon or too late based on His plan. I believe that with all my heart. But still, even believing, this hurts. The void where she was is huge.
On that fallish day, I wrestled with my desire for her to stay even as I knew she was suffering mentally and physically. I told God I trusted Him, and when my soul rebelled the truth coming at us, I begged Him to help me trust Him more. On my own, letting her go to Him made me want to stomp my foot and demand a healing. Because He could have, and I knew it. But He didn’t. And there has to be a more to it right? A reason that will glorify Him and give those of us left behind a better understanding – an answer to our whys.
As I battled these things out that day, Mama watched me. I could feel the gentle, weight of her eyes. After what seemed like a long time, she said, “Joy, it will be all right.”
It is one of the last times she called me by my name. The one she gave me. Her mother’s name and now mine. I had no idea how much names mattered until I stopped hearing her say mine.
It is also the last time she comforted me. And I knew she wasn’t talking about the dementia – she meant it was going to be all right forever.
Visiting her grave the other day, I knew Mama was right – she usually was. About almost everything. God. Boys. Writing. Love. Generosity. And the rest. Even this and especially this.
The wind blew cold and harsh, but the truth in my heart was warm and tender. For her, it is all right. She is with God and is fully healed.
It is hard, lonely, and terribly sad on earth without her. To be honest, I had no idea how much it would hurt – the pain still takes my breath away, and I think it always will. Grieving is like that. It will get easier to handle, but it will hurt until I see Jesus and her where they are.
In the second it took for her to leave here for there, Mama was more than all right.
And there is great value in her life – including the dementia. I have no idea what it is, but that’s not my job. That’s completely up to God. He will use it all for His glory.
Mama loved Romans 8:28 passionately. To her, it was the truth spoken to us by the One who is Truth. For me, in these dark days of sorrow, I cling to these verses like a child who has lost her mother, but not her way. I believe this with all my heart, mind, and soul: Because He is God and she is with Him and although the pain is intense, it really is going to be all right. Forever.
Romans 8: 28, 37-39 (ESV – italics added by me)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Until Next Time,