You might be wondering how I am doing, what with sitting here watching my mother living out her last hours. It’s Sunday, December 9, 2012, and my mom is still fading out in her ready-to-go but still-so-resilient way. Many of my Facebook friends and extended family tell me they are praying for me through this time, and that I am in their thoughts. I am so grateful for loving friends and family.
I have to tell you, though, this is a wonderful experience. There are tears sometimes, but they are mostly born of happy memories, and gratitude for my mother’s influence in my life. Mom comes from a long line of traditional marriage and family caring. As I care for my dying mother, I recall the years of self-sacrifice and care I received at her hand, and realize I could never match it in 10 more lifetimes.
Something keeps ringing in my memory, told to me by Aunt Thelma Kramar some time after her beloved husband Willard had died:
You haven’t really lived until you’ve experienced death.
I was much younger at the time [my memory says high school or college days] and, having not experienced any close death in my family, I could not relate.
Now I can.
I’ve been at the hospital since Thursday morning, but for a night’s sleep on Thursday at home when I believed they had mom stabilized. My good friend Caroline Spangberg drove in from out of town to be with her dying friend, my mom, and to help her living friend, me. Caroline has a wonderful, generous and giving spirit, and hasn’t thought twice about stepping up and helping with so many of the intimate items of caring for a dying loved one. Caroline’s family and mine go way back to when her dad was my dad’s boss at a company in Costa Mesa, CA in the mid-1960s. Our family and hers became life-long friends. Her dad spoke at my dad’s memorial service, recalling all the years of friendship, bible studies, friend-to-friend counseling, and so on. For Caroline, she says, this is like helping family. I’m so grateful for her help and company, for otherwise I would be doing this alone. (My brother has been out of town with his fiancée Jen for her bridal shower, preparing in a whirlwind for their wedding which is this Tuesday, I think).
I don’t want to sound like this is hard. It’s not. I still laugh and joke, my mom still smiles… there’s lots of love and laughter still. I don’t mind being tired. Perhaps being a little punchy brightens things up.
Yesterday was a bit of a spiritual day. With memories of Bill Harmon stopping by her hospital room on Friday, a kind gentleman and a deacon in her church — his ministry lovingly absorbed — a pastor from her church came by yesterday, stopped in just long enough to express his love for my Mom and Dad, and to read her Psalm 31. Brian Morgan is a deeply feeling man, and an excellent teacher of the scriptures — one my mother’s favorite teachers. He’s a lover of art and poetry, an articulate speaker and deep researcher. I was delighted to have him stop in.
Later when the room was quiet, I fired up my laptop and found some soothing music to play for Mom. She smiled instantly at the opening notes of a familiar twist on a Christmas song by Chris Rice: Welcome To Our World. And after that was done, I played for her a song that was performed live at my sister’s memorial service in 2008. Officially, the song is called Untitled Hymn but has become known as Come To Jesus, also written by Chris Rice.
My mom lay smiling with her eyes closed there in her hospital bed. And when he reached the simple chorus with “Come to Jesus…” she spontaneously raised her hand to heaven.
With this kind of faith — always a part of her life, and truly instilled in me — this is most certainly not a time of sorrow, rather a time of joy. Mom is near the finish line, and the crowd waiting to greet her on the other side is much larger than that which she leaves behind — all of us cheering her on.