My dad always showed up with something from home, a smile, and an optimistic greeting. “Hello, Love!” he would exclaim as he’d make a grand entrance through the door to her room. Mom would smile, sometimes barely and other times big, depending on how she was feeling. The hospital only allowed one guest per room but my sister-in-law had made a lot of phone calls and finally got to the top of the ladder when she connected with the staff member who was over all the nurses. Before the call was over, we had been granted permission to have two visitors in Marilyn’s room each day. Dad and I felt like we had won the lottery.
We had twelve days with her, and during that time they would run a gamut of tests and scans, take blood, start radiation and initiate physical therapy sessions. When staff would leave and we had the room to ourselves, we would laugh, create daily video updates for families and friends, and make plans for her in-home care. She never did get to come home, at least not to the house she shared with my dad. She made a decision one day in the hospital that she was ready for heaven and less than 48 hours later, she took her last breath.
Today (the one-year anniversary of her death) is a day of sweet reflection and intense heartache. I love that there is a place in my heart where both of those emotions can exist together. The combination creates a sacred and beautiful space where tenderness and tears are welcome, for they are a reminder of the fifty years I had with this amazing person I got to call mom. On her final night in hospice care, my sister-in-law visited and told the staff that they were in the presence of a really special person as she shared the story of my mom’s life. Mom was in a category all her own. She had truly surrendered her gifts, passions and convictions to God and was all in with His plan and purpose for her and my dad. They lived out their calling together as a couple in a powerful and far-reaching way.
I understand the process of growth and healing from an earlier, painful season in my life. I decided to embrace that process last year and wanted to reflect and share here because I’ll be honest, I have a lot of friends who lost parents or other loved ones over the last twelve months. My generation is at the age where we are having to say goodbye to these amazing people who loved us and raised us and took care of us. Now it’s our turn.
I wanted to share a text that my mom had sent one of her dearest friends three weeks before she passed away. One of their mutual friends was at the end of her battle with stage 4 cancer and my mom wasn’t aware yet that she would soon receive the same diagnosis. This is what she said: “I have been asking the Lord how to pray. Is her mission complete? Has she fulfilled the purpose for which He sent her to earth or does she have more to do?” These are the same questions she and I would process in the final days of her life.
During her time in the hospital, my mom had a dream where she was in a wonderful place of healing and wholeness, and then she would be back “here.” She went back and forth many times and always knew when she was in the place of peace because this sweet music would be playing in the background in her dream. When she was in that place, she asked, “Lord, why am I so at peace?” He told her that when everything was finished, she would be in that wonderful place. She understood that she needed to be with us here until it was time for her to go. We had the gift of a few more days with her.
Today I lit a candle in her honor, I stopped to get some flowers that reminded me of her, I ate a piece of my and her favorite chocolate pie for breakfast, I peeked in at the office space I decorated in her memory, I sat in her car and cried (my dad lets me drive her car…I’m getting it washed later because it snowed recently and she would want it cleaned, lol), and I asked God to tell her I love her. I will spend time with my dad this afternoon and we will remember how much we loved her and how well she loved us…today, and for the rest of the days. Until we join her in the wonderful place.
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.