My mom met her Savior face-to-face early in the morning of January 11, 2011. In many ways, this was a difficult day for my family and for me; in other ways, it was a day of rejoicing.
My mom had been sick for quite a while: a couple of years to be exact. I first realized this about three years ago when we met each other in Gatlinburg, TN. It was one of her (and my) favorite places to go and when we met that time, she just couldn’t keep up her regular pace; she got winded very easily from simple walking and I knew that Mom usually could have out-walked any of us there. I actually had to pull the car around to pick her up at one point because she was having so much difficulty.
A short while later, we all rented a large cabin in Pigeon Forge, TN for all of our family to gather in for a week. Cheri’s mom, sister, and brother, we, our three kids, and their mates and children, as well as my mom were to spend the week together. As it turned out, mom couldn’t make it and I spent some of my time as she underwent by-pass surgery. Mom never really recovered from that surgery. From that point forward, she had circulation difficulties.
I always said that mom would die helping other people and that I was OK with that; that was who she was and what she did. From that point on, mom’s ability to get out and help others dwindled. So she would help them from her home with phone calls.
Mom had felt a missionary calling early in her life. She specifically saw her calling as that of a medical missionary … serving Christ through helping others. She prepared for that calling by becoming an RN. In her mind, however, she was unable to fulfill that calling. The greater truth is that she fulfilled that calling every day of her life as a home health nurse, as a county health nurse, as a short-term missionary, and as a disaster relief nurse. She did medical missions in Ecuador, Haiti, and Antigua. She also worked in hurricane disaster relief and flood disaster relief in various state-side opportunities. She just loved helping other people and doing so in the Name of the Lord.
Mom actually went to Antigua in the West Indies with us several years ago as the team nurse for our short-term missions group. Unfortunately, mom was the one who had an illness on that trip: spending three days in (sub-par conditions) hospital with kidney stones. (That hospital was literally a look back to the 1920s.) But she was a trooper and bounced right back.
Mom gave me over to serve God early in my life. My brother stated at Mom’s memorial that she raised two sons: one to keep people out of Hell and the other one to raise Hell. While that’s not entirely accurate (my brother loves God too) it does give the picture of a mom who recognized God’s call on my life and who encouraged me to leave my home area and pursue His will for my life. I had to remind myself of that a few times because it became really easy to want to have regrets for not being with mom more … but she continually reminded that she gave me over to do God’s work.
And she was so proud of me and my family. She was proud when we got our first church in SC. She was proud when we had our first child, then our second, and finally our third. She was proud when I earned my BS, then my MDiv. She was proud of me when I was invited to speak at Oxford University in England. She was proud of me when Cheri and I had our first grandchild, then our second. She was proud when I earned my Doctorate. She was proud when Cheri and I had grandchildren numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. She was even proud one-and-one-half month before her graduation of our announcement of grandchild number 9 being on the way. The truth is, that my Mom loved me and she made sure I always knew that. I loved her too.
About six months ago, I had a very painful conversation with my mom wherein I verbally released her from this earthly existence. I didn’t want to do that but I knew it was necessary because she was in so much pain. It was clear that she appreciated that fact … even though she held on for several more months.
I called my mom almost every night to share with her the things of the day and the week. She loved for me to tell her stories of her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She would often repeat them to Aunt Margaret who was seated near her. I probably called mom 9 out 10 days on average.
On her graduation day, I knew this was the end … but we had snow on the ground as did SC and every state between here and there. I wasn’t able to be with her in her passing. But I can still hear mom speak her last words to me on the phone the night before she passed into glory. She said, as she said every time we spoke: “I love you very much.” I really can’t think of any better words to say to someone when it’s your last time to speak to them.
My continued hard time comes everyday when it is the time I would normally have called her. I grab my cell phone and think, “I need to check in on Mom.” And then I remember she’s not there to check on any more. And while I may shed a tear or two, I am gently reminded that she is truly in a better place … in the presence of Jesus.
So I end this note with this thought: Mom, thank you for loving me without condition. Thank you for imparting yourself into me. Thank you for not only teaching me about Jesus, but for showing me how to live for Him too. I’ll see you again later. … and I love you very much.