For a couple of weeks now, I’ve attempted to write this post, but each effort brought a waterfall of tears or a heavy weight to my heart, such that it seemed hard to breathe. On June 19, my sweet mom took her last breath on this earth and is now in heaven with Jesus. I am sad and miss her every single day. I still reach for my phone to call her.
Yet, peace and gratitude to God anchor this space in my heart that grieves. God gave our family many rich years with Mom. She was 85. In her last few years, His comfort and strength carried me as she endured the heart-breaking changes that Alzheimer’s inflicts. And in her last days God answered my final prayers—that she would know who I was as long as she lived here, that I could be with Mom in her last days, and that she would die peacefully in her sleep.
“…let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves…” (I Peter 3.4–5a)
In so many ways, this sums up my view of Mom. She wasn’t perfect—in fact, she was the first to point out her faults—but I admired her greatly. Her example, through many challenging circumstances over the years, inspires me to persevere in Christ and trust Him.
Her hope was in God. “I’ve been thanking Him all day,” was her response when anything good happened—from a bountiful day of crabbing off the dock to a grandchild scoring well on a test. When heartache, worry, or hardship challenged any of us, Mom seldom pushed advice and faithfully promised, “I’ve been talking to God all day.” She knew God as the source of all that is good, all provision and protection, and all grace.
I think the most profound way that I see the fruit of Mom’s hope in God is in her gentle and quiet spirit. We see so much when we look back, don’t we? I look way back and see my selfishness, stubbornness, and plenty of other ugly-nesses toward Mom in my teen and young adult years—and how she loved me through them. Then I look back over our years of raising children, ministry, and work—which meant less opportunity to be with Mom and Dad—and she never complained. Always, “Come see us when you can, or we can come to you.”
When I was raising teens, when I missed our kids as they moved out, and when I struggled to be quiet (and say less) or gentle (in tone), I would vent disappointment in myself to Mom and ask, How did you do it? I remember how I was toward you . . . I know how much more you wanted to see us. And she would say, I would talk to God and ask Him, because it’s all up to Him. As years passed she added, In time you forget the hard stuff and remember the good.
She depended on God. She loved Him–loves Him–MOST.
I always saw Mom as a selfless giver. Readily she gave us her presence… her time… encouragement… support… help… a listening ear… or a warm hug or smile. Some days I could hear in her voice over the phone or see in her face that she was tired or burdened with something. Yet, always she gave, from a heart brimming with gratitude. “God has given me more than I could ever deserve.” Only in these last few years of grieving the loss of who she was before Alzheimer’s, have I realized how much more she has given me through how she lived.
Whether she was delighted, discouraged, worried, or thankful, her consistent refrain was, “I don’t know what I’d do without Him.” And now she never has to think about that again.