Of the making many books (and blogs) there is no end (Ecclesiastes 12:12), so why another and why from me? I don’t know the answer to either of those questions. I just feel compelled by some inner urge (trusting that it is not bad pizza) to write in bits and pieces about a little of this and a little of that–mostly about the things that occupy my attention in the Church. So, here goes. Tune in if you’d like; tune out if you must. This one is very personal; they will not all be.
I watched my Mom step from life to life 25 days ago. She had never thought of herself as remarkable; I had never thought of her as anything but remarkable. She had it tough as a child and made it through the toughness without becoming hardened. I’ve heard the stories from my Dad and still am awed by the understated power and overwhelming compassion of the woman, wife, and mother she became.
We shared a common faith in Christ. I had the privilege of baptizing her (and my wallet). That sharing is what made it possible for me to watch and listen (mostly from a distance) as she surrendered her earthly body to a most relentless cancer. I was there the day she slipped away.
I had arrived two hours before; I prayed with her; read to her from her very used Bible; listened with her and my Dad to her favorite Elvis Presley hymn collection (Elvis may have worn blue suede shoes and warned off hound dogs, but the boy could sing a hymn like few others–when he sang, “How Great Thou Art” there was no doubt about the greatness of God). I slipped out of the room to make a five minute phone call and when I came back into the room, my Dad said, “I don’t think she’s breathing.” She wasn’t.
I kept wondering why I didn’t fall apart. I kept wondering if I was some hard-hearted weird boy who didn’t realize that his Mom had just died. Why didn’t I cry? I was sad. I am still sad. And I have cried since (the tears sneaking up on me like some stealth grief bomb) but I didn’t cry then.
It has since hit me: I didn’t believe she was dead. This was not the disbelief of denial. No, this was something deeper: it was, I think, the disbelief of faith. It was a disbelief that she was dead because I knew she was really not. Certainly her body had quit. Certainly the cancer had finished its ugly ravaging. But she was not dead.
There are those “Oh, that’s it!” moments in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. This was one for me. “We do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope,” said the Apostle Paul. We do grieve; we do cry; we do know sadness (I would give anything to be able to have one of my weekly chats with her…to hear her pick up the phone and say, “Hi, honey.”). But we do not grieve like those who have no hope.
In her last days, wracked with pain, she had cried out to be with Jesus. Though it sprang from her pain, it was not the cry of the desperate; it was the cry of faith. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. To be separated from my Mom because she has passed away from this life is not to lose her. She’s taken an earlier flight. I’ll catch up with her later. She’s enjoying the rest from her pain and the joy of her Lord. I can be sad that I am not with her now but I know I will be with her again.