Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Comfort of Friends

"The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me..."  
2 Timothy 1:16 (KJV)

I sat by Mom's bedside in ICU, exhausted beyond measure.
It had been a grueling, long period of ups and downs.
One minute, we thought things were looking up.
The next, we were in the depths of despair.

I felt I needed a break...from watching the monitor...every few seconds.
Her heart was erratic.
Every so often, her heart would go into a very irregular pattern, and the alarm would blare a loud, annoying sound.
There isn't too many things that are worse than sitting in ICU in suspense and anxiety for days on end, with no hope of a change or relief in sight.
I was SO tired and weary and downhearted.
My nerves felt like they would give way.
But, I didn't want to leave her.
I was afraid if I did, something terrible would happen, and I would never forgive myself.
So, I stayed.

"Dear God, please help us all" was about all I could manage to eke out when I would pray.

I pulled the recliner chair close to her bed...at an angle where I could see her and the monitor at the same time.
I half-way reclined and dared to close my eyes....if I could just sneak in a few winks of sleep, I would feel so much better.

I had just relaxed when I heard someone coming...walking into the room.
I looked up.
As Paul prayed in today's passage, may the Lord give mercy to the house of the dear friends who have stood by me and my family through all of this ordeal.

My dear, loyal encourager and precious friend, Dale, walked in to the room.

I didn't even know she was coming.
It was still early morning.
She hadn't slept a wink the night before....then I had called...to tell her Mom was real bad.
She had dropped everything and driven the long distance to be there with me...so I wouldn't be alone.
Seeing her was like a breath of fresh air.

How oft she has refreshed me!

She sat with me for hours on end that day....until late that night...she stayed.
She wouldn't give up.
She wouldn't leave me...in my despair.
She relieved me by taking Zachary outside to get some fresh air.
She knew how I worried about him....being there for such long periods....many times sitting in the waiting room...alone.
She sat with Mom while I took her son, who is also Zach's best friend in the world, and Zachary out to eat and to the store....to get them...and me...out of there for a while.
She loved Mom...dearly.
She was grieving, too.

Later that evening, her husband missed work and came and joined us.
That was the night Mom was very coherent, off the BiPap, and able to talk to all of us.
Her room was crowded with family and friends, but the nurses didn't seem to mind.
We all laughed and enjoyed each other so much.
Being surrounded with the love of friends and family felt like being wrapped in a warm quilt.
Memories of that night will linger with me for a very long time.

Mom was so funny, telling us about all of her adventures.
Several things were mixed together in her mind.
She thought she had been on a huge adventure.
In reality, she had.
That was the evening after her morning of partially crossing over.

She told of things she had seen and heard and experienced.
We all listened and were amazed.
I don't know if I could ever put all of it into words.

Today, I sat and looked at the stack of beautiful cards I have received from precious, loving friends.

Friends who care...some of them have walked this road...and truly understand.

Some who are preparing themselves to walk it...as they face aging parents with failing health.

Some have not yet walked it, but they empathize and have deep concern...just the same.

I am so very, very blessed.
To have such wonderful friends and family and loved ones.
Who have taken their time and energy to reach out to me....so sincere and genuine.

I am so thankful to each one who is so faithful to email, send cards, call, and reach out to me in so many caring and loving ways.

My dear friend, Priscilla, has faithfully emailed every, single day......sometimes more than once a day, throughout this entire painful and most difficult time.
Her daily, regular words of encouragement and comfort have strengthened me more times than I could ever say.

How oft she has refreshed me!

I was so surrounded by love and kindness during the funeral process, being there with so much of my family and those who truly care.
It was difficult to come back and face reality and life...without being in the presence of so many who love so deeply.
Hence, the cards, emails, and other contacts mean ever so much more.

So many are faithful to see me through....forgive me for failing to take time to mention every one individually.  I fear that I will leave someone out or forget to mention them...and every, single act of kindness has been noticed and greatly appreciated.

It takes effort and energy and resources to faithfully reach out and show love.

The Apostle Paul was human.  He needed comfort.
He said Onesiphorus oft refreshed him.
Onesiphorus was a true and faithful friend.
He didn't just reach out to Paul when it was convenient.
Or when he could gain something from the exchange.
Or when it was on his way...to where he was already going.
Paul said that Onesiphorus was not ashamed of his chain.
He didn't mind getting involved.
He took a risk to be kind...to Paul.
It didn't deter him that Paul wasn't the best of company....that he wasn't in the most desirable condition.
He cared enough....to go beyond all of that....and be the friend Paul needed.

Paul said that when he was in Rome, Onesiphorus sought him out very diligently, and found him.
Onesiphorus was bound and determined to minister to Paul.
He knew Paul was troubled and distressed and alone...in an unfamiliar place.
Paul needed encouragement.
He needed solace.
He needed to know that someone cared...about him...and his needs.

Verse 18 says, "Th Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day:  and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well."

It wasn't just in Rome, but also in Ephesus, that Onesiphorus was determined to be a friend to Paul.

How thankful I am for those who dare to be a friend...even when I am not in the best place.
Even when I have no encouragement to offer back.
Even when I am overwhelmed and surrounded with such darkness.
They reach beyond it...they bring such comfort...to my broken heart.

I say along with the Apostle Paul,
"May each of them find mercy of the Lord in that day."






Monday, May 28, 2012

Angels Among Us

"And of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.  Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
Hebrews 1:7, 14 (KJV)

I am convinced, and I choose to wholeheartedly believe, that God doeth all things well.
I am not saying I understand His plan.
I can't comprehend His thoughts.
They are so far above mine.

But, in the midst of my deep grief, in the center of my anguish of heart, I have come to a place of acknowledgement....that He absolutely did what was best....for Mom.
I am trying my utmost to focus on that fact.
When my heart is overwhelmed within me, and I feel I cannot bear the pain of what just happened, I am doing my best to turn my face Heavenward and proclaim,
"God, I know You did what was best for Mom."

Some days that is the only thing I can cling to....to get through the day.

Somehow, that is giving me a sense of comfort and peace, in the midst of the pain.

And I am thoroughly convinced that there are angels...among us...all the time.

I believe they are God's ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to us...the heirs of salvation.
I firmly believe Psalm 34:7.  
It says, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them."

I am convinced that they surrounded my precious Mother...all the time.
I have no doubt that Tsalmaveth came for her that early morning of April 25th, only to leave her with us for three more days, returning for her on April 28th.

Something happened recently that I wanted to share.
There have been many unusual things that have transpired...I may never be able to talk about some of it.
Some, I will share as I am able and God gives strength and direction...from time to time.

It was early April.
We were enjoying a visit with my niece, Kim, two of her children, and my niece, Dawn's two children.
They had driven far...to be with us...and spend some time.
I cannot begin to say how glad I am that they came.

Their visit meant the world...to Mom...and to us.

Mom loved all of her family so much.

She was so proud of each and every one.

Kim is more than just my niece.
She was more than just a granddaughter to Mom.
She was and is a dear and precious friend....to both of us.
True and faithful.
Always so willing to help.
She has been a steady source of comfort to me throughout this whole process.
Just a few years younger than me, we grew up together.
Our bond has stood the test of time...and still continues to grow and deepen.
I am forever grateful to God that she is a part of my life.
And I wouldn't trade the memories we made with Mom and her and the others in April.....
 for anything in the world.

Her daughter, Kyla, AKA "The Little Princess", went outside and picked a rose.
She wanted to give it to Mom.


It touched Mom's heart.

The next evening was the night before Easter, just three weeks to the day before Mom died.
We were all gathered around the table.
I had made cupcakes for the children to frost and decorate.

We had laughed and acted silly and had the best of times.
Some of the frosting was black and it turned the children's teeth black!

Kyla, was laughing at Zach's mouth being black.



It was so funny because hers was just as black, and she didn't realize it.  :)


Mom got the biggest kick out of that.
We all laughed and laughed.

At some point, one of us took a picture...of Mom....by herself.

I didn't notice anything unusual.
Until the day I took the picture to CVS to have prints made...for her memorial cards...to hand out at her funeral.
I stood at the counter flipping through the pictures I had just printed out.

Memories of that night flooded over me.

We had enjoyed our time together so much.
Never dreaming that would be the last time we would ever be gathered together like that.

As I skimmed through the pictures in CVS, I saw it.
As plain as day.
I stood there...dumbfounded....barely able to speak.
I called Zachary over to where I was to show him.
He was just as astonished as I was.

There....hovering over my Mother...sitting at our kitchen table....was an angel.

At least, that is sure what it looks like to me.


There is no explanation for it....in my opinion.

Other than the fact that God sent the angel, and He waited until after her death to allow us to see it...
for what it really was.


None of us noticed it....that night...as we were having so much fun....with her.

None of us noticed.....yet it was there...present...on guard.

It has given us a deep sense of peace.
Just knowing they are there.
That they were there....around her...even before she died.
All her life, I believe.
Long before she ever met Tsalmaveth.

There are angels among us....all of us.
All around us.
Definitely.
You will never convince me otherwise.
If only we could believe this and catch a glimpse of them now and then.

This time, with all my heart and soul, I believe we did.



Saturday, May 26, 2012

Everlasting Arms


 "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up."
Psalm 27:10 (KJV)

I love this verse.
It is sustaining me right now.
How wonderful to know that God will never forsake us.
In the best of times, in the worst of times.

He has a special place in His heart for those who are mourning.
When a father and a mother are gone, when their comfort is no longer available, long after their voices of encouragement are heard.....the Lord is there.
He gave me this verse the other day, with the sweet assurance that He will take me up.

What does this mean?'
To be taken up?

As He brought this verse to my mind, He accompanied the words with the most beautiful imagery.

I can see a picture...in my mind's eye, of a little girl with brown eyes and light brown pony tails, pulled high, one on each side of her head.
She is crying.
She is holding her favorite doll, named Marsha.
It's leg is broken, and she has run to her Daddy to fix it.
He stops what he is working on, sweat pouring from his brow, his hands dirty from manual labor.
He reaches down, and with one sweep, he picks up the little crying girl...along with her doll.
He sits down, placing the two of them on his lap.
He pulls the little girl close, in his strong arms, and he begins to wipe away her tears.
"It's going to be okay, honey.
Don't cry.
See, look
Marsha's all better.
I fixed her.
She can walk again."

The little girl's eyes brighten....fill with hope.
She reaches up to kiss her Daddy's face.
Never minding the grime from toils of the day.
"Thank you, Daddy.  I love you."
She runs off to resume her play...with Marsha.
She turns back to look at her Daddy.
He waves and goes back to his work.
Her little heart is comforted.
She feels safe...and loved....and cared for.

I am taken from this all-too-familiar-to-my-heart scene to another.

It's a teenage girl with brown eyes and long brown hair.
She's sitting on the floor...of her parent's bedroom.
It is dark.
She's just returned from a date....with a boy of whom they are not overly fond.
They've lain awake...waiting for her return...their hearts are heavy.

They've called her in...to their room....not to scold....but to talk.

"Cheryl, we just don't think he's the right one for you.
Will you just think about what we are telling you?"

I see her there...in the darkness....a bit rebellious, yet feeling torn, wanting to please them, so unsure of her future...knowing they had lived a lot of years, and maybe she should listen to them...their wisdom...their experience...the concern in their voices.

She does listen.  To their every word.
She's pretty quiet.
She makes no commitment..as to what her life choices will be.

When they're finished, she walks away...to her bedroom...where she quietly kneels by her bed.
Confused, but thankful, that they care so much.
That they are concerned about the choices she makes.

In the end, she decides they are right.
She's kind of known it all along...deep in her heart.
Ultimately, she trusts their better judgment, and she takes their advice and walks away....from the boy.
To wait for the one God has in mind for her.

Just one scene among many where they "took her up" and pointed her feet back to the right path.

From that scene, I am taken to yet another.

This time, it's a young woman with brown eyes and long brown hair, in her early 30's.
She's in the hospital.
In labor.
It's been hours, and the night has been long.
The pains are getting more and more intense...and closer together.
Her sweet mother is there....by her bed.
Praying hard for her...and the baby.
Feeling the pains....of her youngest daughter.

Her Daddy isn't there.
He's gone now....passed off the scene...leaving only memories behind of repaired toys, guidance given, and life moments shared.

But, there's a young another man there, along with her mother...in the room.
It's the baby's father....the man God had in mind for her.....all along.
She's so glad she listened....and waited....for the right one...for her.
He has a kind face....full of concern.
He's praying, too....along with her mother.
The three of them are alone.
But, not for long.

Soon, a tiny head appears, and the midwife says, "Just one more push".
A moment later, a sweet, screaming, red-faced baby boy is placed in her arms.
"Oh, Zachy!" is all she can manage to say.
They've all waited so long....to share this moment.
To know this happiness!
He's finally arrived.
Their joy is full.

The doctor rushes in.
There's been some complications....with the young woman.
The nurse takes the wiggling baby boy from her grasp and hands him to his waiting father.
He takes him up, holds him close, then passes him on to his grandmother, Nana.
She takes him up, holds him, and cries...tears of great joy.

She turns with concern...towards her daughter.

Soon the doctor is finished.
With time, he says....she will heal.
All will be well.

So many scenes....God brought before my eyes.
Seasons of life.
Seasons that Mom and Dad walked through with me.
Held my hand, held my heart, held my feet to the fire.
Kept me going...on the right path.
Lent their support, encouragement, and never-ending love.

This is what it means to be taken up.
They filled that role.
They did that for me.
For as long as they could.
Until the end of their journey came, and they were called away...to their eternal home.
It was not their desire or purpose to forsake me.
They had no choice.
They had to go...at their appointed time.

But, in their absence, in this place of great void, I feel forsaken.
The promise says that when my father and my mother forsake me....
the Lord will take me up.

In my mind's eye, I see one last scene.

It is a middle-aged woman now, with sprinkles of gray mingled in her long brown hair.
She's weeping....like it is coming from the depths of her soul.
I don't see her Mom or her Dad. 
They have passed off the scene....for the very last time.
They cannot comfort, pray for, or guide.
There are no comforting words from them.
No words of guidance...as to what she should do....how she should deal...with this deep grief.
They are at rest...with Jesus.
They feel no pain.

All at once, I see two nail-scarred hands, attached to two strong arms, gently reach down from above and encompass and surround the woman...there on her knees.
The hands, the ones with the scars, brush away her tears...just as quickly as they fall.
He keeps them and places each and every one of them...into a bottle....that is about to overflow.
He speaks kindly to her,
"Everything is going to be okay, child.
I am the Eternal God...the Everlasting Father.
I'll never leave you.
I'm here.
I'm caring for your dear parents.
They are with me....in my arms.
They are safe.
They are together.
You are not alone.
You are not forsaken.
They were there for you...for as long as they could be...for as long as I allowed.
Until I saw they had suffered enough.
Now, my precious child, I am going to take you up."

With these words, He picks her up, off her knees.
His arms are wrapped completely around her.
He holds her close...to His bosom....for a very long time.
As the writhing sobs shake and nearly overtake her, He presses her yet closer.
She clutches to Him...clings tight.
At last, the tension, the trembling...it all ceases.
She stops struggling.
She relaxes....in those arms.
She feels a great calm...and comfort...and peace.
When she is ready, He steadies her....on her feet, and He points her towards the man....with the kind face....the boy's father....from the previous scene.

The baby boy isn't much of a baby anymore. 
He's much bigger now.
Almost as tall she is.
But still in very much need of his Mama.
To be alive.
To be strong.
To go forward.

They are both standing there...the man and the boy....waiting for her.

She rises from the ashes...of despair....of hopeless pain.

Deuteronomy 33:27 (KJV)
"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..."

She has been taken up....drawn close....by everlasting arms.
Arms that will never die.
Arms that will never leave her.
Everlasting arms.....that will hold her and be underneath her from now on....forever.





Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Language of Tears


"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities:  for we know not what we should pray for as we ought:  but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
Romans 8:26 (KJV)

I know this is going to sound really horrible....for a Christian...to confess such a thing.

But, I have gone for several days without being able to have a decent prayer.

I know how important it is to keep a diligent prayer life.
I have proven many times throughout life that without prayer, I cannot make it.
I know this...very well...firsthand.

But, I find that I am in such a place of heaviness, grief, and anguish...that I have not been able to say words.

I hit my knees...I try to voice my feelings...but there are no words.....none.
Nothing will come.
Except the floodwaters of my tears.
Streaming down, like a never-ending river.

How can I put into words...this....this pain?
How do I start to explain the hurt...of missing her?

If I do try to speak my prayer, I end up not being able to.
I fall short.
I get frustrated.
I end up getting up off my knees feeling like I have completely failed....to pray the way I ought to.

So, I just kneel there....and I cry....and I pour out the depths of my heart....without words.

Today's passage of Scripture is one I have known for years....probably close to all my life.
I have never grasped the depths of its meaning....as I do now.

The Spirit of Almighty God...the Holy Spirit....knows and understands that I do not know how to pray
as I ought to.
Right now, the words can not....will not come.
So, He is helping my infirmities.
He is making intercession to the Father for me.
With groanings which cannot be uttered.
With groanings that I cannot put into words.

The precious Holy Spirit deciphers my rambling, wailing flow of tears,
and He understands perfectly....what needs to be said....to the Father.

The thing I need the most.....the deepest need inside of me....is healing...of this broken heart.

He gets that....somehow He knows.....though I have not ample words to express it.
He knows.

Isaiah 61:1 prophesies that one of Jesus' main reasons for coming into this world is, 
"....to bind up the brokenhearted."

How do you go about binding up a broken heart?

Are there human instruments, medical procedures, man made inventions....that can do this?

Can I walk into a doctor's office and request that they bind up my broken heart?
Can they put it in a cast?  A sling?  A protective shell?
To shield it from further hurt?
Until it heals?

Where would they begin?

A broken heart doesn't show up on an xray, CT scan, PET scan, MRI, or ultrasound.
It can't be seen.
Even by the most advanced medical technology.

It is hidden deep....in the inner recesses of the human heart...
past the muscle itself,
past the arteries and veins carrying blood to and from,
past the chambers and valves.

And the only eye it is seen by is the eye of our great Creator....the one who made our heart....even that....that inmost core of our being....in the first place.

He saw mine fall apart.
He sees the broken pieces...scattered....shattered.
He sees every part of it.
He knows about all of it.
He's already diagnosed it....as being broken.
He doesn't need my words...to explain and describe what is going on...inside of me.
He knows just what to do.
He knows how to bind up...my broken heart.....gently, tenderly, carefully....and put all of the shattered pieces back into place...without me even asking for it.

I'm so glad God understands the language of tears.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5fdv2bMbJk&feature=related

I'm so thankful this language requires no words.

I'm so grateful the precious Holy Spirit carries the yearnings of the humanly-unintelligible language of my tears....the only method I am capable of using to "pray"....to the Throne of Grace, and He explains it to Almighty God in the way I am trying so hard to....but am so incapable of right now.

It reminds me of a song called "Cast Thy Burden On The Lord" (author unknown).

It is derived from Psalm 55:22, which says,
"Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain thee:  He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."

Here are the lyrics to two of the five verses of the song....

"Christian, when thy way seems darkest,
And thine eyes with tears are dim,
Straight to God, thy Father, hast'ning,
Tell thy sorrows unto Him.
Not to human ear confiding, 
Thy sad tale of grief and care,
But before thy Father kneeling,
Pour out all thy sorrows there."

And this is my favorite verse....

"Sympathy of friends may cheer thee,
When the raging storm is past,
But, God only can console thee,
In the wild, terrific blast.
Go with words or tears or silence,
Only lay them at His feet,
Thou shalt prove how great His pity,
And His tenderness how sweet."

I am proving His pity...His tenderness....His love.
Even though I know not how to ask for what I ought....what I need.

He needs no explanation.
He doesn't have to be asked....in intelligible words.

My tears amply, clearly, and adequately convey the message....sent from my broken heart.

My tears are enough.

God understands.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Purple Flowers



"The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come..."

Song of Solomon 2:1  (KJV)

Remember the old song, "Land of Beautiful Flowers"?

The first verse says,

"I know there is a land of beautiful flowers,
Where we will meet again when life is o'er;
Where we will while away the endless hours,
On heaven’s bright eternal shore."

Here's a beautiful version of it sung by Sonya Isaacs and Vince Gill.



If video doesn't load, click here.

When Mom was partially passing over....that early morning...with TSALMAVETH standing near her bed, she told me later that she saw flowers.
They were purple.
She always loved lavender and orchid....beautiful shades of purple.

Mom's request was to buried near her precious family.
We did our utmost to fulfill her every wish.
Being out of state, I wasn't able to be there to help make the arrangements.

When we arrived there for Mom's funeral, my dear brother and sister-in-law had made such beautiful, appropriate choices....for our dear Mother's burial.
They did a perfect job.
Everything was just exactly the way Mom....and I, would have chosen.

Mom's casket was the loveliest shade of light purple....with exquisite roses all along the sides and corners.



(Photo by Angela Gellenbeck)

I have never seen a prettier casket.

The flowers they chose were lavender roses with white carnations.

Such a fitting, gentle combination....for the most genteel of ladies.

(Photo by Angela Gellenbeck)

Mom would have loved those flowers.
Especially, the roses.

As some of our family and friends traveled together with us towards home, we decided to take the route that led us through West Virginia.
As we drove along, we saw the most amazing thing.
In all of my travels to and from this beautiful state, I have never seen what I saw this time.
All over, scattered here, scattered there, were the most beautiful wildflowers.

The fact that there were wildflowers is not unusual.
There are always wildflowers in WV in the spring.

The striking part this time was their color.

They were everywhere I looked.


In far, distant fields....


alongside the road....


on the sides of hills.


Growing randomly, scattered and planted strategically, by none other than our wonderful Lord.

In such a comforting color....her color....mixed in with soft white.

Where were the reds, yellows, & pinks?

I'm sure they were scattered here and there.
But, the dear, sweet Comforter wanted me to see the purple ones.
So, He brought us to them, time after time after time.

Mom always loved the springtime.
It was her favorite season.
When everything was springing to new life.
She hated the deadness of winter.

How fitting, that our dear Creator called her home in the spring.

She has sprung to new life....eternal life.
Never to suffer or die again.

The flowers He planted for us to see were so pretty.

I can only imagine how vibrant and lovely the ones are that she saw...while crossing over.
The ones she is seeing....right now....all the time....for eternity.

I wish I could get just a little glimpse of them.

Perhaps.....scattered on West Virginia hillsides, I did.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Last Parent

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me......to comfort all that mourn."
Isaiah 61:1-2 (KJV)

There is something beyond sad about losing your last parent.

Knowing you are fatherless and motherless is an overwhelming, all-consuming grief.

I remember talking to my friend, Anita after her second parent had died.
She was mourning and her grief was almost more than she could bear.
I remember she looked at me and said,
"Cheryl, I am an adult orphan.
Your children are your future,
but your parents are your past...your history."

Knowing she had lost that final link...to her past....left her with a pain so intense...a hurt so deep.
She was near inconsolable.
I never forgot her words.

Jesus suffered and experienced every, single pain of the human condition...in one form or another.
Hebrews 4:15 (KJV) says,
"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
(Emphasis mine.)

The other day it occurred to me that Jesus' mother didn't die before He did.
I recalled the fact that Mary was there...at the crucifixion.

I began to have this conversation with the Lord.

"Lord, You didn't have to go through this...this pain of losing your Mother."

Immediately, He took me to the scene...on Mt. Calvary.
Right before He died.

I could almost see Him there.  He was hanging on the cross.
As always when I am thinking of Him and His great sacrifice, I began to feel a deep sense of anguish thinking of what He went through.
The guiltless for the guilty.
The pure for the defiled.
On the scales of justice, balance just can't be found....in His case.

And though I find every, single aspect of His agonizing death deeply moving, He took me to the scene of one of the most touching parts of the process.
It was the moment He expressed His profound concern and feelings about leaving His mother, Mary.

She was His last earthly parent.

The Bible does not tell us when His earthly father, Joseph, passed away.
But, we can correctly assume that he had already passed by the time Jesus died on the cross.
Otherwise, he would have been there.
I have no doubt.

Jesus had to bear the pain of losing the man who raised Him.
The man who took on the responsibility of bringing up the Son who wasn't really his.
The man who taught Him to build things...though He was the Creator of the wood.
The man who shielded His mother from scorn and rebuke when she was found with child...before marriage.

Now, as He hung there, bleeding, dying, quickly approaching His last breath, the pain of separation from His last earthly parent....His mother.....overwhelmed Him.  
She would not die and leave Him...as is the natural course of life.
Contrariwise, it was God's will that He would die and leave her.
The pain of separation....of losing His mother and her losing Him was the same.

The very same intensity and hurt as when we lose our Mothers.

The human tie would soon be severed.
Life would never be the same.
She would mourn the loss of her firstborn Son....for the rest of her days on earth.

As He hung there, the stark realization....the deep hurt of all of this, must have swept over Him with overwhelming pain.
I saw it...in my mind's eye.

Up until now, He had been there for her.
Though she was a widow, she had Him....to take care of things.
Soon, He wouldn't be there...in the flesh...as He had always been until now.

He looked down from the cross at her.
He was watching her, seeing her tears wrenched from a place so deep that only He and His Father could identify.
His heart broke...the ties of love were so strong.

It was as profound and just as real as the shattered pieces of what used to be my heart.
He felt this.  He experienced it.  He was tempted in this point....just like me.
Just as keenly.

The bond between mother and child is so intense.

Memories must have flooded His mind.
Yearnings for things to be back to normal again.
 To go back and sit at her table and enjoy another meal.
Oh, for one more chance to work on another project with her!
There would be no more opportunities for Him to lighten her load...to fix her problems...to feel her touch...to hear her comforting voice when things went wrong....to feel the nurturing that came from her mother-heart.
No more moments of laughter in the family homeplace.
It was all over.
How He would miss it all!
How He would miss her!

For over 33 years, she had loved Him, cared about Him, enjoyed Him...her very special and firstborn Son.
The Son Who came to her in such an unusual way.
For over 33 years, He had lived, laughed, and loved....her and everything she had done for Him.
She must have been such a big part of every, single memory that was playing over and over in His mind.

There would be no more memories.
These were the final moments.
He couldn't reach her...from the cross.
To dry her tears...to console her...His hands were tied....with nails.

She couldn't wipe the blood flowing from His head...into His eyes.
She couldn't kiss His forehead....unfasten the nails....or pull Him off the cross.

I can just picture His face....the depths of emotion in His eyes...as they moved from Mary to John.
John!
His beloved, faithful, disciple...the man who was also His cousin, the son of His mother's sister.
Life had been good growing up together.
How happy it must have made Him when His Father allowed Him to choose him...to be one of the 12...one of the 3 in His inner circle.
It was fitting that he was there..standing nearby.
Hadn't he always remained true....steadfast.....intensely loyal.

Suddenly, He knew the remedy!
He knew what He needed to say....to ease the pain of separation....to bring the closest thing to comfort either of them could feel.
What He was getting ready to say...the words that were being wrenched from His parched throat...would effect the rest of their lives.

He looked at Mary and said, "Woman, behold thy son!"

His eyes went back to John, and He said, "Behold thy mother!"

The impact of His words was not lost to either of them.
They knew.
John would take full responsibility for Mary....as if he were her natural-born son.
Mary would assume the role of John's mother....as if she had given birth to him.
Both would love and care for the other....as if they were truly mother and son.
John would take His place...to a certain degree.
Jesus wanted it that way.
It gave Him comfort to know that the arrangement had been made...and accepted.....by both of them.

Losing Dad almost 12 years ago, was near unbearable pain.
I didn't think I could get through it.
But by God's grace and providential care, I still had Mom....she was a pillar of strength to me.
She shared the sorrow.
We held each other up.
The support was always there.

Even though Dad was gone....I still had Mom.
I still had a connection....to my past...my history.

Losing Mom....losing that last link.....knowing I am an adult orphan....is a feeling that, without God, would be completely impossible to get through.

My last parent.
The pains of separation are so intense.
The finality so inconceivable.

I cannot do another thing for Mom.
I cannot buy her another rose.
I cannot take her out for a drive.
We can't shop together.
We can't eat out together.
I can't sit with her when she is lonely.
She can't talk to me telling me everything is going to be okay.
If I drive by her little apartment, I will not find the pink and purple wreath on her door.
Someone else is probably living there now.
I will hear no more of the stories from her past....how I wish I would have listened closer!
So many details I must have missed.
I'll never be able to ask her anything....ever again.

Jesus understands this....all of this.
He did experience it.
He remembers it....completely.

He did the one thing that gave Him peace...as He was leaving her.
He placed her in safe hands.
He relinquished her care to someone who would see her through.

Today, it occurred to me that I have been abundantly blessed to do the same.
When I stood by Mom's dying bedside, and I held her little, frail, bruised hand, I begged Jesus.....
to take her hand.
I told Him that I could only hold it for a short time...that I knew He could hold it forever.
I relinquished her care to the One who would see her through.
I have placed her in the safest of hands.
Where she will stay...forever.





Friday, May 18, 2012

The Little Things

"I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.  And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God."
Ecclesiastes 3:12,13 (KJV)

It's the little things I miss...the most.

When Kevin leaves for work and evening shadows begin to fall, a feeling of profound emptiness pervades the atmosphere of our home....and my heart.

Our daily routine used to be this...

Mornings and early afternoons were spent as family time....probably similar to the evenings of other families who work first shift.
Breakfast, family worship, then time spent together...either doing yard work, other projects, or something relaxing. 
When Kevin left for work, Zachary and I would get in earnest about school and work until we got it done.

Then Mom would call me, or I would call her, and we would make our evening plans.

It wasn't that we did anything extravagant or elaborate.
To those who are used to more exciting adventures, I suppose the things I miss so severely would seem most uninteresting....and dull.
To me, they were wonderful and comforting and they brought such peace.
Thinking of them now, brings such an empty, inconsolable void.

We would either take her whatever she wanted to eat, or Zach and I would go pick her up, and the three of us would go out to eat someplace simple.
Some days, she felt like she was physically able to leave her apartment.  
Other days, she didn't.
Some days, she wanted something homemade...she dearly loved most anything I cooked.
She never wanted to be a bother or a burden.
It always took us a while...every, single day...to decide for sure, because we both kept leaving it up to the other, and neither of us wanted to decide....how we wanted to share our evening.

She loved to go to Publix.
It reminded her of happy memories of our life together...in Florida....when Dad was by her side.
We always loved that store.
Their selection of brands is wonderful, and we can always seem to find what we need.
I dearly love the fact that the upper management philosophy of Publix is of a Christian mindset.
They even place protective covers over magazines in the checkout line that have immodest pictures or contain immoral language and conversation on the covers.

I absolutely love shopping there.

Recently, they built a new one about 33 miles from our home, and Mom loved for Zachary and me to take her there.
We would go in and get the wheelchair, bring it out, then wheel her in.
She loved to go in and look around and see what they had available.
She would enjoy seeing Zachary relish the samples they hand out by the produce department.
She would laugh, because many times we would have just eaten before we got there, and she would wonder where he was putting it all.  

We would take our time and savor the moments.

I cannot begin to say how glad I am that we did.

There was a little, elderly man who works there who Zach always teased Mom about.
For some reason, Zach calls him the little, Scottish man...something about his accent.

Anyhow, he would sometimes go out to the car with Mom and Zach when we were finished shopping, while I was paying for things, and he would help Mom in to the car.  
Zach would get such a kick out of this, and he would tell me about it later.
He would say, "Mama, he got right up next to her face when he was helping her!"

All three of us would laugh and laugh.

How I miss the little things!

We loved to work on jigsaw puzzles together.
For Christmas last year, we bought her one of the boxes that contains ten of them.
She and I were working our way through the box.
We would eat together...she in her favorite chair at the table with me sitting at the other end across from her.  When she was finished eating, she would move to the chair next to me, and we would work on the puzzle for hours...sometimes talking, sometimes just enjoying being together...not saying a word.

 I remember sitting there realizing how precious our time really was.
I remember looking at her hands....a lot.
They were becoming so frail...so elderly.
They would bruise so easily..her skin was so thin.
She would say, "Cheryl, look at this bruise.  Doesn't it look awful?"

We had completed three....of the ten puzzles....in the box.

We found them...neatly completed on pieces of cardboard...under the spare bed in her room....as we were emptying her apartment.

My heart shattered when I saw them....lying there.  
She treasured them.  
She had mentioned asking my brother-in-law, LD, to build frames for them.  

I cried so hard....wishing, longing to do a puzzle with her....just once more.

I had actually started a new one....the evening we were waiting for the ambulance to come...
as we talked in her living room.
It was still lying on the floor, by her recliner chair, where I had left it.
Incomplete.  
Undone.  
The way I feel inside.
A stark reminder that if this one gets finished.....I will finish it alone.
Without her help.  Without her sitting by my side. 
Without hearing her say how pretty it is....when it is finished.

Every year for Christmas, Mom would buy her girls gift cards for Bath and Body Works.
Every year, sometime in January, Debbie would meet Mom and me at the mall, and we would bring along her wheelchair so she could go in and watch us spend our gift cards.
She loved watching Debbie and me pick out our favorite things.
She would laugh because she said we had to stop and smell every, single thing in the store...before we made our final decisions.

The other day, I had to buy Zach's new clothes...to wear to Mom's funeral.
I hated the thoughts of going in that mall...the memories were way too overwhelming.
Debbie and her family went with us, and we helped each other through......always careful to avoid the part where Bath and Body Works is located.

It just hurts too much.
Everything hurts.
I can look at the smallest thing, and I can see Mom in it.

Yesterday, I was cooking a meal.
I looked at the clock.
It was 11:26 am.
She hadn't called me yet.
I felt worry rise within me....I hoped she was okay.
I turned to reach for the phone.
Reality hit
.
Dear precious Lord, what I wouldn't give to call her number one...more...time.
What I wouldn't give to hear the phone ring and see her name on the Caller ID.
What it would be worth to me to see her sitting across our kitchen table from me...
talking, laughing, playing a board game with us, being silly with Zach.....just once more.

Every evening, as the sun goes down, I cry...where do all these tears come from?
Will they ever stop?

I cling to the smallest things....to remind me of her.

The smell of her favorite lotion....the toss pillow she kept on her bed.....her purse...the little wooden chest Zachary and I painted lavender and on which we stenciled the word "Nana".

I use it now to hold all of the beautiful sympathy cards from caring friends, some dried flowers from her casket spray, and the "Mom" banner that was attached to the flowers.

Yesterday, we moved one of her beds into our spare bedroom.  
I made it up...the way she did....then I laid back on it and cried...for a very long time.

I miss her smile....the welcoming hug she always gave us as we walked in the door....
the kiss good-bye....
the "Call me when you get there, so I'll know you made it okay" as I was leaving each night....
the "I'll be praying for you"....
the "Keep encouraged, Cheryl.  Don't give up.  Heaven will surely be worth it all".

She loved that song.
She tried her utmost to sing along with me, as I sang it to her one day in ICU.

"Often I'm hindered on my way,
Burdens so heavy, I almost fall;
Then I hear Jesus sweetly say,
Heaven will surely be worth it all."

"Heaven will surely be worth it all,
Worth all the sorrows that here befall;
After this life, with all its strife,
Heaven will surely be worth it all."

"Weeping and pain, I will endure,
'Til I shall hear the death angel call;
Jesus has promised, and I'm sure,
Heaven will surely be worth it all."



My voice had trembled that day...and broken...several times...while trying to sing it.
The BiPap was so forceful, I could barely hear her voice...trying to sing it with me.
I could see her lips...mouthing the words.

I asked our dear friends to sing that song...at the graveside.
They did a wonderful job.

How I will miss singing with her!
How many songs have we sang together...through the years?

I'll miss...oh, how I'll miss...her sitting beside us in church...her arms raised in worship, her voice singing and praising God, tears of joy and glory streaming down her upturned, sweet face!

I miss our trips to Dunkin' Donuts, our times at the park sitting by the water, our trips to the thrift stores, and Walmart.....so many, many memories.

It was the little things....that meant more to me than anything else.

It is the little things....that I will continue to miss the most.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Shadow of Death

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Psalm 23:4 (KJV)

You don't have to be the one who is dying to walk through the valley of the shadow.
All you have to do is be close to the one who is dying.
Death's cold, dark shadow is cast over every one who feels the pain of having to say good-bye.
Its shadow is far-reaching and non-discriminating.

I watched as six strong pallbearers lifted the beautiful, lavender casket off the lift and into the back of the hearse.

I had stood there...by her casket...for as long as I possibly could.
It hurt SO much to know that this would be the last kiss I would ever place on her forehead.
She was so cold.
She always hated to be cold.
I didn't think I could walk away.
But, they were waiting.
Everyone was waiting.

The lid had been closed.
This was it.
Time to pull yourself together, Cheryl.
Turn around, put one foot in front of the other, and walk away....for the very....last....time.

And now we would follow that long, black hearse the few blocks necessary to bring her earthly body to its final resting place.
Freshly dug, now waiting.

Oh, dear God, how would I get through this?
How?

She dearly loved every, single one of the six men who carried her now lifeless, frail, little body.
I stood and watched them all...my heart breaking....for them, too.

My brother, David, her only son.
The strong one.
The steady one.
The son who was always there for Mom, no matter what went wrong in her life.
The one who is always there for the four of us girls when our lives fall to pieces.
He was trying to hold up...for our sakes.
His quiet strength is always there.
She loved him dearly.
I do, too.

My Uncle Donnie, her youngest brother.
So faithful to come see her as often as he could.
If he couldn't come, he called her often.
She worried about him so.
His health hasn't been the greatest lately.
She was so concerned about his upcoming surgery and his wife, Fran's health problems.
She prayed for them so hard.

Her oldest grandson, Shawn.
Shawn!  So many memories we share!
Mom was expecting me, when my oldest sister, Sharon was expecting him.
When we were little, we went to school together, and it made me so proud to say I was Shawn's aunt.
No one believed us...since he was almost six weeks older than me.
We saw each other through some rough times growing up.
And even though we seldom get to see each other, the bond is still there...it's still strong.

Her second oldest grandson, Brian, Shawn's brother.
She would always tell me when he called her.
She worried about him when she didn't hear from him for a while.
There he was, standing tall, carrying his part of the load.
He and I had cried together on the phone a few days before.
His heart was breaking.
"She's the only grandmother we've ever known, Cheryl."
"I know, Brian.  I'm so sorry."
We've always been close....shared sorrow drew our hearts even closer.

Her grand-daughter, Kim's husband, Matt.
She always loved him.
She would always tell me,
"Cheryl, Matt reminds me so much of Kevin.  He's such a nice person.  He's quiet and so easy going."
Kim and Matt drove many miles to see Mom.
They came to the hospital the very day she died.
She knew they were there.
She had talked to them and laughed with them.
When they left, they never dreamed it would be the very last time.
Now, there he walked, carrying her, one week later....

Her grand-daughter, Dawn's husband, Ron.
He was one of the first to volunteer to be a pallbearer.
Always there for all of us, willing to do whatever he's asked to do, never minding the task.
Once he made a long trip to work out details for Mom concerning a car.
She loved him dearly.
She never forgot what he did.
She was happy Dawn found such a good husband.
I am, too.

The shadow of death.
It is sad, dark, lonely, and foreboding.
It has cast its darkness over all of our lives.
Tsalmaveth crept quietly into her room, and as quickly as he came, he went.
When he left, he did not leave alone this time.
Along with him, he took our dear, loving mother, grandmother, sister, friend, precious dear one to so many who loved her.

Today, I thought I would not....could not....make it.
One more step.
The floodwaters of grief nearly drowned the very life inside of me.
Literally.

My dear sister, Debbie, what would I do without her right now?
She told me a verse God gave her the other day....to see her through.
It is found in Isaiah 43:1-3.
"Fear not:  for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:  when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour..."

We are clinging...to each other...to every, single memory...that we can recall about Mom.
Her heart is breaking, just as much as mine...along with our other three siblings, David, Sharon, and Sandi.
We are all staying close...in touch...to help each other through.
They all mean the world to me.

Mom was the glue that held all of us together.
Some of us talked to each other more often than others.
But, Mom kept in close touch with all five of us.

Mom would call me after she had heard any news about any of her other four children.
Or any of her ten grandchildren....or her 26 great-grandchildren...or her 10 great, great-grandchildren.
She would tell me the latest news and what was going on with different ones she heard from.
And she would share my little family's news with the others.
We all kept together that way.....through our dear, loving Mother...whose heart was overflowing with love, compassion, and concern for each and every one of us.

I get up in the morning now, and I think, maybe, just maybe, today will be a better day.
I pray and begin to call out to my dear, precious Heavenly Father, Whose love has no end.
Who will forsake me never.

Soon, my thoughts turn to making my every morning phone call.

Either she would call me, or if I hadn't heard from her by a certain time, I was on the phone calling her.

"Did you have a good night last night, Mom?"

"Not too good, honey.  I hurt through the night.  I got up and sat on the side of the bed for a while.
Then I never could go back to sleep.
Did you have a good night?
How's Little Man?
How's Kevin?  Is he feeling better?
What time did he get home from work last night?
Did he make it okay?
Are you feeling okay?"

She cared.
She cared so much.

I have never known a more caring, loving, self-sacrificing, selfless person....never.
Nor do I think I ever will.
I don't think a person like that exists...in this, mortal life.

I thought I knew how valuable she was.
I really, truly thought I knew how much it would hurt to lose her.
I have dreaded this for as far back as I can remember.

I knew she was 84.
I knew she couldn't live forever.
I knew she was precious.
 I knew there was no other love like hers.
I knew every phone call could be our last.
I knew every visit might be the final one.

But, dear Lord, I underestimated every, single detail and aspect....of this dreaded pain.
I just never knew....that the shadow of death, this horrible, black shadow that has been cast over our lives, could be this hard to walk through.

Dear precious Shepherd, my dear Jesus, send your rod and your staff....to comfort....each one of our hurting, grieving hearts.

There is no other Who can reach....the deepest recesses of our pain.

Every bit of our hope....is in You....alone.
We need you now, Lord, more than ever.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Final Paper

"All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again."
Ecclesiastes 3:20 (KJV)

There's nothing in the world like walking into the Vital Records department of the local health department and being handed the awful, dreaded document.

Certificate of Death.
So final.
So cold.
How could it be her name that was printed on Line 1 where it reads,
"Decedent's Legal Name"?

The woman helping me had been extremely rude on the phone earlier, and I had reached the point of tears.
It doesn't take much....for me to arrive at that point.
How can people be so cold?  And unfeeling?
How can the world go on?

How will I go on?
Living...existing...day to day?

How can people speak in an unkind tone?
In the midst of such pain and anguish of heart?

Shouldn't people who deal with death on a daily basis be trained to empathize, sympathize, and care?

I know I have MUCH to be thankful for...and I am.
With all my heart.
I have found moments of true praise and deep worship during all of this...this darkness.
I have made conscious choices to do as the song says,
"I Will Praise You In This Storm".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHdcyue0bSw

I love the words to that song.
This isn't the first season of grief that its powerfully written words have sustained me.

Praising God...right in the midst of the pain....is a wonderful path to peace...at least, for the moment.

When I arrived later...at the Vital Records Department, wouldn't you know that it was her....the one who was rude....who ended up helping me...again?

I walked, dejectedly, subdued, towards her desk, and took the seat across from her....expecting more of the same.  
More unkindness.  
More rudeness.  
More lack of compassion.
She seemed to know who I was before she even asked.
The first words out of her mouth surprised me....caught me off-guard.

"I'm sorry if I seemed rude to you earlier on the phone."

"You did", I answered.
My tone was flat....with no feeling.  
Maybe I shouldn't have, but, truly, it was about all I could muster to say...at the moment.

"I'm sorry.  It is just that we have to get all of this information...."

She went on and on trying to justify her rude tone and attitude.
I tuned out most of what she was trying to say.
It seemed so trivial...so petty...so unimportant....compared to the pain of my reason for being there.
When she finally finished explaining her behavior, she apologized again.
"Thank you", I said quietly, "It's okay."
Tears were starting to reach the point of spilling over....again.

She handed me a clipboard with an application that I needed to fill out.

My mind went back to all of the other paperwork and documents I have helped Mom and Dad fill out and file through the years.....all of the medical records, medical consent forms, applications to rent apartments, Social Security, disability, Medicaid papers, on and on the memories flooded my mind.
How many have I filled out through the years??
Each time, at the end, I would hand it to them....to verify and sign...before I turned the papers in.

This time it was just me.
No one to hand the clipboard to.
No one to turn and ask a question.
No one to care if I got it right.

I handed her my debit card....to pay for the copies of the death certificate.
She continued typing and printing and processing my transaction.
At last, she handed them to me...fresh off the printer.

There it was, in my trembling hands, the paper....the final one....mournfully closing the final chapter of my precious Mom's life.
Such finality, in black and white.
Mom's name.
It was official.
The doctor had signed off on it, with all three causes of my precious Mother's death, date and time of her death, and all of the other pertinent information.

I stood to leave.
"Again, I'm sorry", she seemed very sincere.
Obviously, she felt really bad.

"It's okay", I assured her, as I walked away.
Just as the torrent of tears started.

I walked around the corner, and I lost it...completely....on my way out the door.

I stood, stunned, reading the causes of my dear Mother's death.
It hit me how severely she really suffered.
Some of this was not new.
Some of it she had dealt with and suffered with....for years.
I had watched it, day after day, but to see the actual medical terms for it, was about more than I could take.

I got in the car, out of the sight of curious onlookers and scornful looks, and the restraints were loosed
I cried for all I was worth.
The pent-up dam of my emotions broke free.

"Oh, dear God, this is SO hard." 

I drove in tears across town to where Kevin and Zach waited for me ....copies of the death certificate riding alongside me in the front seat....where she sat beside me so many times....so many years....so many trips.
Where she should still be....in my way of thinking.

But, who am I?
What do I know?

God's thoughts are so far above mine.
I only see...well, what I can see.
I only feel....the overwhelming pain and grief.

Ultimately, I know He did what was absolutely best....for Mom.

The other day in the hospital, we had laughed...she and I...when I said to her, 
"We've traveled a lot of miles together, haven't we, Mom?"

"Oh, my!  Haven't we, though?" she replied.

How to travel on....without her?

I pulled in to the parking lot, parked the car, picked up the cold, lifeless certificate off the seat beside me, and I put one foot in front of the other....step by step, until I reached the four arms that comfort me most in these long, dark, empty days.

Two little ones that still have to reach up to me,
and two strong ones....attached to shoulders broader and taller than mine.

Pillars of strength they are.
Always there.
So quick to open when I need a hug.
Still alive.
Still needing me to share life with them....in these moments....even though I feel a part of me is now dead.

I reached them and felt a measure of peace.
I took comfort...in their warmth and safety and embrace.

I stopped crying....for the moment.

It's what she would want me to do.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Butterflies

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
John 14:1-3 (KJV)

The realization of what happened that early morning of April 25th washed over me like a tidal wave.

Mom had partially crossed over...to the other side.
Tsalmaveth had come.  
He had been there....in her room...by her bedside.
He was ready to take her home.

But....he had listened to our request, he had considered it, and he had gone to tell the Master.

Obviously, the Master had granted our wish....at least, for the moment.

How kind and gracious of our Father!

During the next three days, some remarkable things happened.
I don't know that I will ever be able to express some of them.
Maybe it is too fresh...too new.
Perhaps the pain is too acute...for me to even voice it right now.

But, there are some things I find myself wanting to share....even now.
Because they are too wonderful to remain untold.

I walked into Mom's room, and she was trying her best to tell me things.
I had to strain and listen hard....and get down close enough to her face to try to hear.
The force of the oxygen made it so hard for her to speak.
I pulled the mask away from her face....just long enough to try to grasp at least a word...of what she was trying to say.
I would catch bits and pieces...here and there....and as I repeated them, Mom would nod or shake her head in reply....to confirm.

All at once, she began to wave her frail, little hands, making her fingers flutter, as she said, 
"I saw butterflies!"

"Butterflies?  You saw butterflies, Mom?"


"Yes, I saw butterflies."  
She looked so peaceful...so content...so unafraid to think or speak of what just happened.  
To contemplate the fact that her soul had just caught a glimpse...of the other side.

What was there to fear?

She had a deep, settled peace with God....in her inmost soul.
Her body was tired.
She had suffered long.
There was a better place awaiting her...a place with no pain, and no tears.

"What else did you see, Mom?  Anything else?"
I was so eager to hear...anything...everything.
I had to know.

She nodded her head...a feeble "yes".

So, there was more!

"I saw flowers."

"Really, Mom?  You saw flowers?"

Another nod.

"What color were they, Mom?"

"Purple."
Naturally....her favorite color has always been orchid/lavender.
Of course, God would allow the flowers to be purple...just for her.

"What else, Mom?"

"It was quiet."  
Her voice was weak, but you could hear the drop when she said "quiet"....like it was something for which she longed and yearned.
She hated the noise and commotion and confusion of the hospital.  
The constant chaos so unnerved her.

"It was quiet....and peaceful."

"Was it bright, Mom?  Was it bright?"

"When I got to the top, it was."

Wow!  

"Why didn't you just let me die?"
She looked at me so pitifully...it tore at my heart.

So, she had wanted to go....to go on?
Could it be that she didn't want me to keep begging....for more time...for her?

"Because we don't want you to die, Mom.  We want to keep you as long as we can."
My voice was breaking...the tears were spilling over.
She noticed.

"But, to go through all this?"

"I know, Mom.  I'm so sorry."

Her mother-heart reached out to my distress....she could see that I felt bad for trying to keep her here....for clinging so tightly to the fragile thread of life...still fighting so hard inside of her.  

Quick to always allay my fears, she said,
"No, you did the right thing."

"I'm glad, Mom.  I just don't want to lose you."
There were pauses in between my words....my halting words....spoken slowly through tears.
She knew I was still begging God for more time.  
She realized He had answered my heart cry...one more time.
Somehow, I knew it was only a temporary answer...this time was going to be different.
He was trying His best to prepare me...to take a bit of the pain away by easing me into the idea of the possibility of my life going on....without Mom.

How could it?  Ever?

Saturday, three days after her journey there and back....she was gone.  
This time, there was no coming back.
Tsalmaveth had returned.
This time, with specific orders from the Master.
There would be no negotiation...for more time.
Ready or not, we would have to cope.
She had suffered enough.
The Master....the Master Builder of her mansion....could wait no longer....to show her the splendor of her new home.  

So anxious was He!  To take her hand and lead her there!

Almost every time we would ask Mom where she wanted us to read from the Bible, she would say, 
"The 14th chapter of John."
She loved hearing Jesus say, "Let not your heart be troubled.  In My Father's house are many mansions.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself...that where I am, there ye may be also."

Her mansion...the one He had gone away to prepare for her....it was finished.
He was ready to receive her....unto Himself.
It was time for her to go home...with Him.
We would have to accept His will as being perfect....for her.
We would have to adjust.

Amazingly, when the dreaded moment arrived, the scenario was eerily just like LD's vision.

He was at the foot of her bed, holding on to her foot, feeling the pulse weaken...and become less and less frequent.
I was on one side.
Debbie was on the other.
Kevin came as soon as he could.
She quietly, and very peacefully, made her final crossing....with Tsalmaveth.

Somehow, knowing he was the one who came for her.....made it so much easier to bear.

LD caught a glimpse....just a slight one, as the curtain moved....for no apparent, physical reason.

My cousin and dear friend, Jennifer called to comfort me.
She tried so hard to find the right words.
I told her about the vision.
I shared what Mom had seen...that morning....on the other side....when she had crossed over, then came back.

"Cheryl!  You know what butterflies symbolize, ."

"No, what?"

"Butterflies symbolize transformation.  Getting your wings.  Coming out of your cocoon.  Being set free!"

"Oh, Jennifer, you're right!"

I had wondered why Mom saw butterflies.  
I had never heard of butterflies being in Heaven.
God was trying to tell her....and us....that the time of her transformation was at hand.
She would soon be set free!
Free from suffering, tears, hurt, fear.
The cocoon of her frail, little body would soon give way to a triumphant liberation.
She would fly away...with Tsalmaveth.
She would win this war.
She had earned her wings!

There was nothing to fear.
Except the breaking of my heart.
And the terrible dread of the future....without her here.


(Beautiful picture captured by Angela Gellenbeck and sent to me after I shared this story.)