What I saw the day Mama died

Those who die will not succumb but rise to praise You
They will come to be reborn with life You gave us
         
- from God Have You Abandoned Me (Psalm 22)
             Words and music by Randy & Jeremy Daw

To you, it may have seemed an ordinary Wednesday morning, an ordinary September day...

wheelchair_in_hallMy older sister and I had spent Tuesday night in my mom’s room, swapping turns staying awake, listening to her breathe, making sure she looked comfortable enough.

Wondering what we’d see next.

My brother and younger sister weren’t far away. None of us wanted to go far.

From the previous Saturday onward, the staff at my mom’s assisted living facility had graciously given us use of an independent-living cottage on-site. We all four moved in, often with an in-law or two or three or four staying as well.

We were in and out of Mama’s room during the days and nights, staying when we were scheduled, popping in and out anyway when we weren’t. We knew our time with her was running on empty. We couldn’t leave now.

She had stopped eating and drinking the week before. Who knows why. Ever since her sweetheart died on Valentine’s Day seven months earlier, she wanted to be with him, our dad. How much of that she understood now, we couldn’t tell. Alzheimer’s had robbed her mercilessly.

On the morning of September 8th, her appointment to leave was imminent. We knew it.

She was a woman in labor, her soul being birthed from one world to another.

We all four gathered, attendants for her new birth in the heavenly realms as she had been present for ours in physical birth. She breathed hard and heavy and quick. We were pained to watch her, but too pained to leave. 

Then finally, with one final effort, she was finished here. Her work was done.

I saw God juxtaposing life and death, death and life.

Never again would my mom feel pain. Never again would her mind be muddled. Sorting out confusion would now be our task.

As we stepped out of Mama’s room to make phone calls, a room she would never struggle to exit again, something else happened.

The opposite door across the hall opened. And out was coming Mrs. H.

Still trapped was Mrs. H.

She was in her wheelchair, moaning for help. “Can’t someone give me a shove?

Have I ever seen so great a contrast in my life?

On one side of the hall was release and freedom and restoration.
But on the other side of the hall was an imprisoned soul, still enslaved.

In case you see death as an undefeated enemy, look again.

It was as if God were saying, “Notice! I even use death for my purposes, to usher in victory and relief and joy.”

Yes, enjoy this life. Love in it. Be loved in it. But when it’s time, let it go. There is much better living ahead. There are no ordinary days there.

The contrast couldn’t be greater.

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15:55

And I heard a voice from heaven saying,
“Write this: Blessed are the dead
who die in the Lord from now on.”
Revelation 14:13

* * *

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26 comments:

Barbara H. said...

What a poignant post, Lisa. There were times I would have wished my mom back, if I could, except for not wanting to pull her away from what she's experiencing in heaven.

ed cyzewski said...

I'm speechless. What a powerful testimony of hearing God's voice. As I ponder the immanent passing of a close relative, this has been a confirmation of something that I have faintly glimpsed, but am blessed to read in such black and white letters.

Monica Sharman said...

Wow, Lisa...
I will remember this. I think I have a fear of grieving, of losing a loved one, but I will remember this.
Thank you.

Carrie said...

Beautiful post. I felt so many of these same things when my dad died. You've spoken well here. Thanks for sharing!

Lisa notes... said...

I think we inherently fear our loved ones dying not only for the pain they will have to experience, but because of the pain we will experience at their loss. No easy way through that.

Yet like those of you know who have lost loved ones already, you would surely hate to bring them back down here even if you had the choice because you know they’ve finally got the best life ever.

After our baby died, I kept wishing I could bring her back down to earth, but I *hope* that even if that had been possible, that I wouldn’t have pulled her out of the arms of Jesus. I would have made a poor substitute!

Brian Miller said...

whew. emotional one for me having watched my MIL pass slowly over 2 years...and i said much the same when i gave the funeral...

Kristine said...

You create such a vivid portrait. Thank you for sharing it.

Stephani said...

I see bodies and souls in my life being ravaged around me causing my own personal joy in this life to be challenged, but my joy runs deeper than circumstance can affect because of it's source. I have to daily choose to look at my life through the lens of God's word and character and reject looking at it through the lens of circumstance. Circumstance can sure muddle your vision. ~ Thanks for this Lisa!

Nikole Hahn said...

Beautiful. Sad. Great contrasting point. I enjoyed reading this blog. Such a comfort to know your loved ones are safe.

Rebecca said...

This really is a beautiful post.

Thoughts for the day said...

This is so true. My mom in law died this last May and as it was observed I saw it as a birthing process and also a dance of death. The awesome part of the whole thing was near the time she left probably about 8 hours before she said, 'The angels are here but it is not time to leave'... and off and on the dogs in the room would growl softly or make a quiet 'bark' as they looked above mom's bed. The angels were there and the dogs knew it, God bless you. Thank you for sharing this.

melissabrotherton.com said...

"She was a woman in labor, her soul being birthed from one world to another."

Oh, this. My grandma died in April, I was 7 months pregnant with Silas. The day before she died I placed her hand on my stomach, hoping she would feel the kicks of my unborn child, knowing she'd never see him in this life.

We all sat around, just as you described, waiting for her transition. I have never connected it to how my family sat waiting for me to deliver my children. This is beautiful and haunting. Thank you for sharing this.

Sheryl said...

Wow. Such poignant and piercing words. Thanks for sharing this bit of your story. This is so similar to my Grandmother's promotion to heaven. I remember her last night, helping keep her mouth hydrated, holding her hand, and asking God to let the pain and struggle end soon. It was much harder to watch her labor to keep going than it was to let her go home to be with the Lord and Grandpa. He makes all things new---even death.

Wandering On Purpose said...

This is powerful. Last year, after years of battling a painful and destructive disease, my grandfather went Home. Death is not the end, it is the entry to something far greater. Thank you for posting this part of your life.

HisFireFly said...

So beautifully written...

When my father, who has suffered with dementia for far too long finally breathed his last, I knew that he was set free, even without the assurance he would be with the Lord I was still relived that his ties to this world were unbound.

I pray that he has found his way to Jesus...

findingthemotherlode said...

Lisa,

These words are pure gift to those who read, a tribute to your mom, an honor to God.

My sympathies over your loss.
God bless you, sister.
-E

nannykim said...

So true. My MIL died of Alzheimer's in Feb. She stopped eating and drinking and we knew the end was near. It was a release for her, and yet she had her own beauty even in the disease. Pretty amazing. I was glad she had gotten past the very anxious stage and had entered a more child like stage for quite some time. I enjoyed being with her. But how wonderful it must have been for her to go on to the new life!

Sandy@Jesus and Dark Choc said...

Wow Lisa that is beautiful...so peaceful. Thanks for sharing such a poignant reflection of a life lived to honor God!

emily wierenga said...

lisa... this made me cry. God, juxtaposing life and death... this makes me long for heaven, in all of its fullness and glory. thank you--what a gift you are. xo

alittlebitograce said...

thank you. i have tears in my eyes. my husband's great uncle passed yesterday afternoon. thank you for that reminder and the impetus for tears to release.

Donna said...

Poignant and beautiful; your keen eyes and heart saw and felt your mother's life released into fullness eternally.

Bonnie Gray said...

This was such a descriptive and also beautifully reflection -- I felt I was there with you in the moment.

I have fear of death because I don't know if I can handle the process of dying. Your post encouraged me to trust when it does happen, He will be there. Just as He was for you and your family.

I esp. was struck with the concept of a new birth! ... That is incredibly CRAZY beautiful and powerfully TRUE. I will remember this one, Lisa! Thank you for adding this to the jam! So special...

Trish said...

This is what happens when I step out of blog world...reading them that is. I haven't read yours, Ann's, Deb's, or some of the others since last June...hardly keeping up with other things on my plate.

I get behind on the news. I've been poking to find out how your mother is. Been praying for you for months. Didn't know.

I am so sorry to hear, but she is FREE! And there is hope!

Lisa notes... said...

Trish,
I understand; it's hard to keep up with everybody I want to. And your life has been so busy.

But yes, my mom is now FREE. And I am grateful for that!

Floyd said...

How true... We don't grieve as those who don't know our Father.

It is a bittersweet moment and endurance for us left. My dad waited for me to get there for his last breath. Three hours he waited for me to walk in the room... I've never written about it. It's something that's with me and has changed me for my remaining days here on earth.

A beautiful tribute to an amazing person...

Lisa notes... said...

Would love to read that post someday, Floyd, if you ever decide to put it into words. Sometimes moments are too sacred to tie down in an alphabet though. The more important factor is that we're changed by the experience. What a blessing to have had that time with your dad.

And as tough a time as it was for us watching my mom die, I'm very, very thankful I was there for it.

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