Three years ago yesterday my mom died. It was about 12:26am. I remember my left hand clung to my dad’s, and the other to my mom’s. My cousin Jennifer Parks was on the other side of the bed. The three of us watched as her breaths became shorter and further apart. We waited in stillness about 90 seconds after the last one.
We all nodded, agreeing that she was finally gone. Daddy jumped up and laid his body atop hers. He cried sweetly over and over and over, “You did so good! So good! That was beautiful!” With his hands on her face, he kissed her between laments of, “Linda, that was beautiful! I love you!”
The room changed. I’m failing now to find proper words to convey how it changed because the furniture didn’t budge, the corner lamp didn’t brighten nor flicker -- yet most assuredly I was standing on Heaven’s edge.
Daddy said to me, “Stay here. Close her eyes....and close her mouth.” He and Jennifer left the room to call the family. I did what he said--stared. Mama was absolutely not there, so to the space around and above me I whispered, “I love you, mama. I’m tired. And I wanna go sleep now.”
And before all the family showed and the funeral home came to take her body, I was upstairs in bed. Strangely enough, peace like river attendeth my soul. I slept in Jesus’ arms, and I knew mama was there too.
And if I may, I want to admonish you with a snippet from an email I sent my dad on the ferry from Paros to Athens, Greece, en route home to kiss mom goodbye. Knowing what came of the days and years that followed, even the moment described above, I can say with gladness that what the Spirit of God was telling me then about His benevolence and care in such a place mystery can be banked on now just as much as then, and is just as true for you as it is for me.
Here's some of the email, December 2011:
“I know that is a daunting and unpleasant topic, Daddy, but hell...I'm all alone floating in the middle of the Aegean and have to tell someone, even in email. No one here would understand my English ‘ranting’ anyhow. Despite my seclusion, I don't feel alone really. I have not ceased to feel the presence of someone greater than the Aegean in every moment on this trip, especially this last month heading into the ‘dark valley.’ Everything feels timely and intentional. I am very cared for.
It is no mistake that the course of events have begun with me across the world. And it's no mistake that I have stood on a high peaks just beyond the turquoise sea, with the clouds hovering like umbrellas under the sun. It's no mistake that I have met some beautiful people in the hills, with nothing to show their unexpected love but with sweet homemade wine, goat cheese, and warm bread around their kitchen table.
And frankly, how can you look at such places and meet such people and fail to consider the One who put it all together with such obvious intentionality? How can you look at such places and meet such people and not be reminded that if God cares so highly for the beauty of those hills and the harvest of those farmers, does he not care also for me and my family? In those moments of wonder, I do believe with certainly that God put me on that plane the very day I turned 26--just months before all of this--so I could marvel at all God so beautifully crafted and remember that He is still creating. And it's not just the landscapes or the rising sun, but my life, our lives, our stories...that they would be even more beautiful than the most beautiful Parian landscape.
I think of Jesus' words, 'See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon and all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you...?'
Daddy, how good it is to be loved and cared for by the one who rules it all. It is astounding to know that 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.'
Of course, it all still hurts. But He's here.”
Anyway, God cares so deeply for us and our stories. He cares about our needs, our hurts, the things we fear, the shit we can't kick, and stuff we're waiting on, dreaming about, and giving all we've got.
How quickly I forget.
Thanks for reading,