The days were long and also so precious. The hospital only allowed one visitor per 24-hour period so my sister-in-law, Sarah, pushed hard (all the way to the top) for the hospital to allow both my dad and me to be there with my mom each day. I am SO grateful for this gift because rightfully so, my dad would have had a hard time giving up time with my mom (even for just one day).
Around the world, the saints were praying. And in our hospital room, we were doing the same. None of us were ready to give up this precious person who, at the age of 74, still had so much life in her. She and my dad were still going into work four days a week and she still had goals and dreams to accomplish. At one point, as my mom was mentioning some of the things she’d still like to do, she said that God had spoken to her that she doesn’t have to do it all. “That’s why we have the body of Christ,” she added. To which I replied, “Mom, even if you were 105 you would still have a big list of things you’d like to get done!”
Some days were good and others were hard. As the doctors and surgeons raced to find the source of my mom’s courage (my replacement for the “c” word), they had to withhold food and water from her for the scans and procedures. As the days wore on, her body wore down. One morning I woke up early and was praying for her when she texted, “Please call me as soon as you can.” I called and she was in a bad place. “I had two panic attacks last night,” she said. “I’ll be right there,” I replied.
When I got to the hospital she was exhausted and dehydrated—she had two procedures in the night and was desperately wanting water and food. She had another CT scan scheduled that morning and she begged me to cancel. I told the nurse who said she would tell the doctor. Mom fell asleep so I slipped out to call my brother. I was gone about 25 minutes and when I returned, the nurse shared that I had missed rounds.
I sat down with my mom and noticed she had a small cup of juice and a container of apple sauce on her hospital tray. She looked at me with heavy eyes and in her weak and frail voice, she shared with me (and later with my dad) that she had told the doctor she was done with all the poking and prodding. She had asked how many more procedures were in front of her and the doctor said about ten. “I can’t take this,” mom told her. “I’m ready to go home with hospice care.” It was in that moment that the question was answered. Yes, we can trust God because we know my mom walks close with Him and HE spoke to her about her future. We can trust and support her decision because she puts her faith, trust and life in the hands of her Creator.
The doctor started crying and asked if she could give my mom a hug. They embraced and the tears continued to flow. “To be honest with you,” the doctor said, “We could do this for weeks and still not know what’s going on.”
Hospice came soon after to meet with us. The hospice nurse took one look at my mom and said, “You look uncomfortable.” My mom was notably agitated. They had orders to discharge her but as the nurse talked with us, she asked my mom if she would like to go to inpatient hospice to begin with. My mom answered “yes” without hesitation. “I just want to stop hurting,” she said. “They did so much to me, they just wiped out any bit of strength I had.”
We packed her up and they took her by ambulance to the building which was on the same property. I got to spend the night with her and she softly called out my name a couple times asking for water, which I didn’t realize would be the last times I would hear her say it. It was evident the next morning that without a miracle, my mom was getting closer to the thin veil that separated her current home from her permanent home.
The next day my brothers flew in and they along with extended family and close friends came to say goodbye. At hospice we were allowed two visitors at a time, so I left for a few hours and decided to go to my parents’ house to rest. I walked into their room, peeled back the comforter on their bed, and climbed in. It felt so good to occupy space that I had hoped my mom would someday come back to, but my heart knew that wouldn’t be the case.
As I laid there, I studied the signs that adorned the shelves on her bedroom walls. They sung the praises of this incredible woman, boasting her status as number one mom and grandma on the planet. She had kept every little sign and homemade gift we had ever given her, not knowing that they would one day be a gift to us to remember her legacy.
I returned to hospice around 1 a.m. and after we said our goodbyes, I told my mom that all her people had been by to see her and that she could let go whenever she was ready. I caught a bit of sleep and when I awoke, her breathing was quiet and shallow. I knew it wouldn’t be long. As her pulse got faint, I called for my dad to come. I held her hand and at some point she stopped breathing. The nurse came in and confirmed that my sweet mama was now in the arms of Jesus.
We wheeled her bed outside so the family could gather to say their final goodbyes. We spent time crying, talking and even laughing as we bid a collective farewell to this incredible wife, mom and grandma who had not only impacted our family, but along with my dad, a staggering amount of marriages and families around the world. She had finished her race in a full sprint until she crossed the finish line and collapsed. I studied her face and played with her hair, I ran my fingers over her hand and rubbed her arms and her feet. The hardest part was pulling away, knowing I would never be able to kiss her cheek or hold her hand again. It was hard to leave her even knowing she was already gone.
Her service will be online and I will share the link. In the meantime our family is spending time together, reminiscing and preparing to share about a woman who truly changed the world. Each night before I go to sleep I write something that either happened or that I thought about that day that reminded me of her…my beautiful mama. I will likely do this for years to come and it will be my “moment” with her—it’s so important to be very intentional with how we process and mourn. My heart is so at peace yet also in pieces, so I embrace the reassurance that we will be reunited one day. My dear friend Michael Elliott shared these words with me from Dwight L. Moody just before Dr. Moody died: Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me and I must go. I’ve been within the gates and I’ve seen the children’s faces. This is my coronation day. It is glorious!If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.