I wrote this on December 2, 2012:
My mom passed away on November 21, 2012 at 1:30am. It hit me so much harder than I thought it would. I mean, I knew her time was drawing near, but I haven’t been able to hold back my tears. My mom was my first conscious experience of love. She was my dearest friend. She was the absolute best mom. Her passing and my reflection on my life with her and her last days really helped me put things in perspective. I think I was harder on her at times than I should have been. My responses were all rooted in love, but in hindsight they were also selfish.
For example, I took approximately eight weeks off from work to care for her earlier this year. My dad was still alive at the time. When I came, I would cook for her, clean for her, read to her, play cards with her, and anything else I could do to show her that I cared. I would fuss at her too. To me, she seemed somewhat depressed after her chemo and radiation. That made me angry. I wanted her to be happy. After all, she was alive! God had allowed her to remain in the land of the living. I tried to remind her of all the things she had to be thankful for—food to eat, financial security, amazing children and grandchildren, a husband who would do anything to make her happy—and yet she seemed ungrateful. She couldn’t tap into her happiness. I prayed with her and sang songs to her. I read scriptures to her. I even printed out scriptures about healing and faith and rejoicing and fear and taped them up around the house. I went to a healing service at my church and prayed for her. I wrote down every scripture they mentioned. I read them all at my house and highlighted the ones that I thought she needed to hear. I read them to her the next day. I preached mini sermons to her about how good God is and how He is able to do anything He wants to do, including heal her and restore her, if only she would believe.
She was haunted by her dreams, but when she woke up I would tell her that to have more peaceful rest she would have to keep her mind on those things that are good, and pure, and uplifting.
I rejected the concept of Alzheimer’s for my mother.
When she complained I told her that I didn’t want to hear it. I read to her about Job. He really went through it, and yet he never stopped loving or trusting God. He refused to complain even when everyone around him complained. He was restored and blessed exceeding abundantly for his faithfulness. I wanted my mom to do the same.
The fact that she couldn’t make the religious connections I wanted her to make upset me. She had been in church longer than me. Why couldn’t she rejoice in the midst of her suffering? Why weren’t my prayers being answered?
As time passed, my mind slowly began to suppress the 29 great years we had spent together. I forgot about all of my school plays and dance recitals she attended. I forgot about all the ways she had helped me to be a better mother to my oldest daughter by loving her for me when I didn’t know how to. I forgot about all the movies we had seen together, or all the trips to the thrift shop we had taken together. I forgot about taking her to see Wicked, or to the Mother’s Day Jazz Festival, or to the company picnic at my job. I forgot about grocery shopping with her. I forgot about all the many conversations we had had. I forgot about playing Trouble, Scrabble, Casino, and Gin Rummy with her. I forgot about how we baked cakes together. I forgot about how we laughed together. I forgot about the many walks we took together. I forgot about how often we talked on the phone. I forgot about how special and important she always made me feel. I forgot about how she had encouraged me to love myself and think myself beautiful no matter what.
I only focused on what I perceived as her negativity and I was disappointed in her.
I wanted her to be better. I wanted things to be the way they were. I didn’t want to accept that they had changed.
I was upset with myself for being unable to process the pain and confusion and frustration that she was must have felt, especially considering she could no longer do all the things she had once loved or taken so much pride in. How hard that must have been for her.
On November 20th, God blessed me with a gift that I will never forget. My mom had been home for a day. She coughed throughout the night. Oh it pained me to hear it. I cried and cried and cried some more. I prayed that God would take away her pain and discomfort. Each time I helped her to the bathroom on the 20th, she would give me the biggest hugs and kisses. She said, “I am so happy you’re here.” She told me over and over, “I love you so much” and “Thank you, Lou.” Oh, the tears I shed!
When she lay down she would raise her arm for me to come to her. I would lean in and she would hug and kiss me. I sat on the couch and read while she lay in the bed and she said, “Come here. I want to tell you something.” I leaned in and told her I was listening. Her words were so clear. She said, “Enjoy life!”
“Enjoy life?” I asked.
“Yes! And someone special.”
She started another sentence and nodded off.
I smiled. It was just like her to get sidetracked. We’ve always joked about how fickle she is.
But her message resounded within me.
Something else interesting that I witnessed. My mom has never been a shouter, but on November 20th, she shouted. With her arms raised to the heavens she whisper-sang “I Am on the Battlefield” and when she finished she repeated over and over, “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord.” As the day progressed, she said over and over, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord.”
These moments were so special to me. I know she was in intense pain. I know she was very uncomfortable, but it was so great for me to see her praising God through it all and it confirmed for me that I will see her again when my life here is over.
Oh how I rejoiced with her through my tears!
What did I learn during my year of tears? Life is a gift. It is truly a blessing to live it. I honor God by enjoying it. I honor Him by loving my family unconditionally. I honor Him by using my life to help others. I honor God by appreciating all that He does for me. I must not take anything for granted.
My year of tears also confirmed that time on this earth is temporary. Heaven is real. I am determined to get there, where I will be reunited with those I love and those who believed. I must do my best to help as many other people as I can to get there also. I must do everything I can to tell the world of God’s goodness and mercy and peace that surpasses all understanding. In him, there is rest. In Him, there is security. In Him, there is unconditional love and nothing compares to it.
I thank God for the 31 years I had with my mother.