6 Years Ago Today my Mother Died, and I’m Okay

On this day in 2016 my mother died, and a few days later I wrote an article called, When Prayer Doesn’t Move MountainsThe comment section was filled with notes of sympathy and condolences which I greatly appreciated. I was amazed I could write an article right after my mother died. I always thought when my mother died I would just roll up into a little ball and lay there till Jesus came. But I didn’t. I did not become dysfunctional- or at least not anymore dysfunctional than I already was. I was amazed that I not only could exist and survive but I was actually productive and thriving. Sure there were a lot of tears and heartache. I remember wanting to tell my mother that my mother died. After all whenever something bad happened I would always share it with her. But I couldn’t share this with her. But I also remember driving between Bible studies soon after she died, and an almost euphoric feeling came over me when I realized my mother died and I was going to survive. I wasn’t going to roll up into a little ball and just lie there after all! Just days after returning from the funeral, I went out for pizza with some friends. I found myself laughing and enjoying myself. Then as I walked to my car a feeling came over me. Am I allowed to be having this much fun yet? 

My mother Sara, and myself.

You may or may not be able to identify with my thoughts and feelings. I have found that we all grieve differently. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, at least within reason, I feel I need to share my experience, because I do not grieve the way so many other people say that we grieve. In recent conversations I have found I am not alone. I am not aiming to be judgmental or invalidate anyone’s grieving process. I just want to share my experience and why I have so much hope. Here are some ways I and many others do not grieve the way the popular society seems to think we all grieve. 

“My mother enjoyed her life before I was born, and I can enjoy my life after she is gone.”

When I read memes on Facebook about how that person would give anything to talk to their dead loved one, I cannot relate with that. Sure right after my mother died I wanted to tell my mom that my mom died, but that emotion did not stay with me. Why? I remember talking to a friend who’s mother died several years before mine. Back then I asked my friend how she found the strength to go on. While she loved her mother she said something I had never thought of before. She said, “My mother enjoyed her life before I was born, and I can enjoy my life after she is gone.” At first it sounded kind of cold but it makes a lot of sense. My mother enjoyed her life before I was born because she had Jesus in her life. I soon realized after I lost my mother that as much as I loved my mother, I live for Jesus. My mother taught me to live for Jesus. While I loved my mother dearly and can’t wait to see her in the resurrection I can continue living a happy, fruitful and productive life because I live for Jesus. Hence, I don’t wish I could talk to my mother right now. I need to talk to Jesus, and I can! 

During a Bible study last week I was talking to a much younger friend who already lost her mother a few years ago. I shared with her that I don’t constantly think, much less talk about my mother being gone all the time, even though many Facebook memes seem to imply we all do. She agreed with me that she does not think about her mother every day either. I don’t mourn her loss on Mother’s Day. I am too busy celebrating all the wonderful mothers in the world today. After my mom died my niece became a mother and she is one the best mothers I have ever seen, and I love her kids like crazy. I am too busy celebrating what I have instead of grieving what I don’t have. 

I am enjoying my life while my mother rests, knowing that while she told me stories about people and things that happened before I was born, when Jesus wakes her up I can tell her stories about people and things that happened while she was sleeping. While we both spent a portion of our time on earth together and without each other, we will have all eternity in heaven to spend together! 

I don’t need to wish my mother a happy heavenly birthday. 

I am alarmed at how many of my friends, even Seventh-day Adventist friends  wish their late mothers a happy heavenly birthday on social media. For some reason many think it sounds nice, but there is not one single passage of Scripture that even hints that our dead loved ones are already in heaven. I find comfort in the truth about what happens when you die. In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 Paul tells us to comfort each other with “these words” about the resurrection. Nowhere in Scripture does Paul, Jesus or anyone else tell us that our dead loved ones are in heaven, much less to comfort each other with such words. Again 1 Thessalonians 4:18 tells us to comfort each other with words about the resurrection. It sends chills of joy down my spine when I think about the fact that my mother’s very next thought will be Jesus is coming! My mother is resting and does not know anything. The next thing she knows Jesus will be coming! What a glorious thought! I don’t need to draw comfort from the lies and deceptions of spiritualism when the truth of God’s Word gives me comfort I can depend on. 

Our grief is personal and private. I don’t mean to shame anyone for the way they grieve. We all grieve differently. Our relationships are unique and the way we grieve the loss of those relationships is unique. The way we cope and continue to function is unique. While I don’t really mark anniversaries of my mother’s passing, I thought this year it would be a good time to share some hope with others. Regardless what social media memes say, you don’t have to feel sad each and every day. Psalm 23:6 says goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our life and that includes the days after a loved one dies. We can live happy, productive lives while looking forward to the resurrection. Regardless what social media memes say, we don’t need to wish our dead loved ones a happy heavenly birthday. We can let our dead loved ones rest, while we comfort each other with words of hope that are actually in Scripture. The words About the resurrection that Paul told us to comfort each other with in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Meanwhile Jesus gives us strength and even joy as we live for Him.  

A Very Beautiful Disastrous Evening With Mother

Mom and me at Pier

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area about my beautiful mother.

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2 is my favorite classical piece. I have a CD of Rachmaninoff performing the piece himself, that I randomly picked up at an estate sale in 2006. The pop song “All by Myself” by Eric Carmen borrows a section of the much older arrangement.

So I was very excited when I heard that the Florida Orchestra would be performing this selection in February of 2012. I made plans with a friend to get tickets. My mother told me she and dad would be coming down from Oklahoma, to visit at the same time. Mom was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, and was given two or three years to live if she had treatment. She refused chemo and was still with us 8 years later. In 2010 she fell and broke her hip, and then broke it again during a later surgery. She was frail now and had to use a walker. I told mom about the concert and she said her and dad would like to go with us.

I went to the ticket office and bought the cheap seats in the back like always. Concerts sound the same from any distance, so why pay more? I usually got tickets for Ruth Eckerd hall in Clearwater. This time I got tickets to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, right on the bay. I also prepaid for special parking that was supposed to be close to the entrance.

That night we arrived and the place was packed. The convenient parking I had arranged for was already taken. I think the parking attendants were a little overwhelmed. I got mother as close as I could, but we were still at least 100 yards from the door. Poor mother made it with us to the door. We showed the ticket taker our tickets. She looked at our tickets and looked at mom with her walker.  “To get to these seats you will have to climb about 20 steps,” she said. When I bought the tickets I did not realize I had bought tickets for the upper level, with steps to climb. Remember I usually got to Ruth Eckerd Hall, which is all one level, unlike the Mahaffey. The ticket lady told us the concert was sold out and all the handicapped seating was taken.

I felt terrible. What I thought was going to be a very special night was ruined. However, mother was not going to be denied attending the concert with me! The guide showed us to the elevator to the upper lever, but mother still had to climb at least 20 steps to get to our seats. (Maybe more. I honestly can’t remember exactly how many but it was a lot!) My mother was so thin and light that I actually wanted to pick her up and carry her up the steps. Mom, with her walker and help from dad and me started her climb up the steps. Some people already seated looked at us horrified, wondering why we were putting this poor old lady to torture. Some looked very concerned, and I am sure now, if they had known how far up were were climbing, they would have changed seats with us. Maybe I should have asked, but I was bamboozled by the chain of events and was very frustrated with myself for not being more careful selecting tickets. Of course the parking was not my fault. It did not turn out as I had arranged. I was very frustrated with the whole evening.

Mom made it to the top with her walker and our help, and enjoyed the rest of the concert. She never complained. Instead she bragged to her older sister later, about how well she climbed all those steps.

Now that mom will soon be gone for 2 years now, I look back on that disastrous night as one of the most beautiful evenings we had. What was more beautiful than the young woman on the piano that night melting our ears and hearts as she tickled the ivories, was my 76 year old cancer stricken mother, with a bad hip and walker, marching across the parking lot and up 20 or more steps to watch the concert with me! What she went through to spend the evening with me melts my heart.

Mother showed me that night at the concert how much she loved me, and what she was willing to endure to spend time with me. A love I will never take for granted, and a love I want to emulate. I thought the night would be about a beautiful classical music performance, but it was really about the performance of my beautiful classic mother. Mother has been gone for two mother’s days now. But until we meet again, I hope to love others the way she showed me how to love.

 

When Prayer Doesn’t Move Mountains

Tulsa By River

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma.

“For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” -C.S. Lewis

I was told a couple Fridays ago that my mother, my biggest champion and one of the biggest prayer warriors in my ministry had less than 30 days to live. She had been in poor health for a long while. Actually, in 2004 she was given 2-3 years to live, and here it was 12 years later. My mother, who lived 1,200 miles away was fading in and out of consciousness, mostly out. I had to get out there to see her! Last Sabbath (I am writing this Sabbath June 18, 2016) I was crying and pleading with God to give me at least one more time to tell her that I loved her. Of course I know we will always want one more time. A million emotions and memories were flooding through my soul, as I cried out to God, “One more time God! One more time!” 

That afternoon, after fellowship lunch at church, I took off by myself to one of my mother’s favorite beaches, where she visited me in Florida. While there, my sister called, and told me mother was awake if I wanted to call her. I called her hospital room, and we talked for a few minutes as I stood on mother’s favorite beach, watching the waves she loved so much. I told her I loved her a hundred times. She told me she loved me. I promised I was coming out as soon as I could. She said “I hope so.” The conversation seemed timeless if you know what I mean. It didn’t seem like our last conversation. It seemed like one we would have had during any period of life.

I thank God for that answered prayer, because mom then faded back into unconsciousness, never to return. I flew out to see her, and said goodbye and that I loved her, but she could not respond. I arrived at the hospital Tuesday morning at 2Am. By 6:30AM she was gone. The 30 days were more like just 4.

The Sunday after the Sabbath I talked to mom, right before flying out, I had a real Gethsemane with God. I was crying. No I was wailing! I am sure my neighbors heard. I pleaded with God to save my mother! I did not want to lose her! I told God I believed He could heal her. He can move mountains! But in my Gethsemane, no mountains were moved.

I looked to Jesus in His Gethsemane. No mountains were moved there either. Jesus simply surrendered to His Father’s will. I thought about His mother, later standing at the cross, having to submit her will too. Now remember, Jesus and God the Father were in on the plan of Him being crucified from the very start, but I don’t know that poor Mary was ever given a choice. She was a willing, submissive participant the entire time. I tried to imagine what was going on in her heart and soul during her mother/son separation. Then I realized, as ugly and painful as it was, little did Mary realize at the cross, just how close the resurrection was. Just right around the corner actually!

Life goes by so fast. Things like graduations, weddings, retirement parties, and yes the death of a loved one all come way too soon it seems. We expect these things, we just don’t expect them to come so fast, even though we have been told a thousand times how short life is and how quickly it all goes by.

Even though my mother lived over 80 years, I still can’t believe her life is already over. Yes, we have been promised the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection for years, maybe to the point where we get lulled to sleep by it. But I believe just like every other major event in life, that sneaks up on us, once the second coming and resurrection actually happen, we all, saved and unsaved, will be thinking, “Already?! Wow that was quick!” And of course, after all, didn’t Jesus say,

Surely I am coming quickly. Revelation 22:20

When Jesus comes, mountains will be moved out of their places. For now, I pray the prayer of Gethsemane, “Not my will, Your will be done.” I realize when Mary said goodbye to Jesus she did not realize how close she already was to seeing His resurrection. I am not a date and time setter. I realize I will have to miss my mother more than the three days Mary missed Jesus, but I do know this with all my heart; no matter the pain, no matter the sorrow, no matter the wait, when Jesus comes, we will all sigh with a great joyful, “Wow! Already?!” 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.