I have lost a hero, but not forever.
A few weeks ago, my 95-year-old mother, Agnes, suffered a heart attack and stroke. I travelled to BC to join my family at her bedside. We spent four days together.
Mom had long determined to eke from life every moment possible in order to enjoy the years God had given. But in her last three days, she made a decision.
“When is Christmas?” she asked me.
“One month, almost exactly,” I said. Then something prompted me to ask what felt a silly question. “Mom, what do you want for Christmas?”
“I want to go home,” she said, without hesitation.
“Do you mean home with Daddy?” I asked, referring to the nursing home room she shared with my father, her husband of sixty-two years.
“No. Home with Jesus,” she responded.
So many loved ones have reached Heaven first. I listed some. Three daughters. Her parents…
“Will you be there?” she asked.
“Absolutely. I’ll come later.”
“That will be wonderful,” she whispered. “We’ll all be together.”
Three nights before her death, as many family members as possible gathered in her hospital room. We stood on holy ground. I think we all sensed that. Mom rested quietly, acknowledging each person. At the end of the evening, watching as we prepared to leave, she asked something entirely uncharacteristic.
“Can we take a picture?”
We hauled a nurse in to snap a photo. I have it on my phone. There we stand, circling her bed. Together, at Mom’s request.
One day before she departed for Heaven, back at the nursing home with Daddy, I wiped my mother’s face with a barely warm facecloth. “Too hot!” she protested. I rinsed it in cold water and tried again. She sucked in a breath. “A bit of….a ….shock!” she chuckled. I reminded her of frequent pranks she played in her younger years, many involving squirtguns. She chuckled again, and with great difficulty, said, “You can pay me back!”
Mother left us prepared to meet Jesus Christ, no longer the Babe in the manger, but her Saviour and friend since early childhood. She left from her bed, wearing a hospital gown, her face badly bruised from a prior fall, her cheeks sunken. Stripped of everything our society considers beautiful. Emptied of herself, to make room for her resurrected body and the rewards that wait in her heavenly home.
Mom never enjoyed fancy clothes. Brooches served as her finest adornment. I’ve inherited some of those. But her best heritage to me is the memory of how she clothed herself most beautifully with a gentle and quiet spirit, so precious in God’s sight.
Sometimes I watch a butterfly and think about their old cacoons. I wonder what they feel when they bust out of that shriveled old tunnel, and find glory and flight. Mom never complained about the decades that wrinkled her skin or the long illnesses and injuries that hampered her body, but I know that in the moment she died, something beautiful happened.
I won’t see that butterfly until Resurrection Day. I’ll know her though, by the twinkle in her eye and her outstretched arms. And, just as in life, by the reflection of Jesus on her face.
We all miss her, but I’m so glad she got her Christmas wish.