I have a friend whose mother recently went to be with the Lord. I thought of him first thing this morning and remember he and his family in prayer. I know that today will be a difficult day for him. He mentioned to me recently in an email that he still has his mother’s telephone number programmed on speed dial in his phone. For whatever reason, he can’t bring himself to delete the entry and he regularly finds the longing of his heart is to reach out to her in conversation.
No sooner had I read his message than I found myself both smiling and teary eyed all at the same time. In case anyone wants to know, my folks’ phone numbers (home and cell) are still listed in my outlook phone directory including their physical address. At least every two or three weeks, I drive by their former home in Henly and utter a prayer of thanksgiving that we were privileged to have them as neighbors.
Initially seeing their home on a regular basis tugged at my heartstrings. Eventually, when a permanent tenant took ownership of the property and began to invest sweat equity in dramatically improving the landscape, I felt at peace with the fact that it was now someone else’s home.
Their home in Henly was truthfully the most comfortable home in which my parents ever lived. We were privileged to take a leadership role in selection of everything associated to the home including granite counter tops. Dad wasn’t sure all of that was justified, but I convinced him it was an absolute necessity for subsequent resale. Dad was really proud of their home and grateful to live in Henly. He agreed with me that Henly is the edge of heaven. By the time it was home for them, I’m not sure Mother was cognitively in a place that she had that same sense of contentment, but she did like having us near.
It’s weird. At least a dozen-to-two-dozen times over the past several years, I’ve considered deleting their contact information from my outlook contacts, but I can’t opt to select delete. I just can’t do it. I simply tell myself that it isn’t hurting anything to leave the contact information listed.
Initially following my mother’s placement in a facility for Alzheimer’s just prior to my dad’s death, I struggled with the triggers or daily reminders that kept them vividly a part of my everyday world. For example, the Tupperware container that Mother kept her coffee filters in found its way to our pantry. Each time I made coffee, it was like sitting down to share a cup of coffee with them only they weren’t there. Their absence hurt my heart but their memory was like a spring of water that made the coffee taste better. I guess you could call that a Catch-22 kind of experience.
The grief process is neither quickly nor easily resolved. It is simply that, a process and you have to look to God on a daily basis to fill the void and move the focus from loss to gratitude for the time-shared.
Subsequently, selecting a Keurig Coffee maker eliminated our need for coffee filters. Consequently, my morning confusion of sharing coffee is no longer an issue for me. What I’ve discovered with the passing of a lot of time is that both my Mom and Dad are still very much a part of my world. I live with a sense of incredible gratitude for the memories and for the support, encouragement and love they freely provided.
I also know that while my experience is similar to many others, it is also an alien concept to many more. Broken is the only way that we come and I have friends who don’t have the same memories of familial support, encouragement and love that flood my soul on a regular basis.
I said of my Mother at her funeral that her life was a sermon. She glorified God in her approach to living. What I know of God’s love, I learned first from her. I will forever eternally be grateful.
One of the things I deeply value about my mother was the importance she placed on relationships. She loved deeply and she loved lastingly. Sometimes along the way she threw in a truckload of forgiveness to negotiate the uphill climb of continuing to love people, but she role-modeled living as God would have her live.
She also loved children. She not only was the world’s best grandmother, but she had the ability to shower that “grandmotherly-kind of love” on children whenever they were in her presence. It didn’t’ matter who they were. She intuitively always managed to connect with them and was an advocate to support their well-being. She had no reservation in gently re-directing parents (Perhaps at times, not so gently) if she thought improvement was needed in the opportunities and privileges children were permitted.
Mother always created an “environment of home” to family and friends. She was spirited, fun to be around, and always predictably dependable in providing encouragement and support.
It was ten years ago, this mother’s day weekend that mother was placed in a nursing home specializing in Alzheimer’s care to ensure her safety and provide for her care. She went to be with the Lord three and a half years later. Mother’s illness stole from her the cognitive ability to live relationally or to exercise any independence related to having her basic needs met. But that impairment was time limited. She is no longer bound by the limitations of her humanity. She is at home in the presence of God.
As long as I have the wonderful gift of memory, I can return again and again to the treasured recollection of days gone by. I can remember with gratitude the love and influence that helped me navigate my formative years and continues to provide strength and resourcefulness as I meet the needs of this day.
So what where the last three and a half years of her life about? The lessons to be learned weren’t for Mother. She had already mastered the lessons for life. They were for us.
- Was it simply for us to be content in whatever circumstances came our way? Throughout Mother’s illness she never seemed unhappy or discontent. Was it a message that we, too, needed to be content?
- Was it the need for us to learn to live with a higher dependency on Him?
- Was it a reminder that faith is a journey – the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen?
I suspect the answer has something to do with the need for me to learn more in all three of the mentioned categories. I don’t always get it right and I’m a slow learner, but what a legacy I’ve been given. I am grateful.
All My Best!