“The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her.” –Unknown
It was sometime after 3:00 am when I heard my brother call out my name waking me up from my sleep. “Bill just called…Mom went to be with the Lord at 3:20 this morning.” It was Friday, November 20, 2009. I had a restless night of sleep. I, along with many others, had prayed fervently that night that God would take Mom home. After watching her suffer over the last nine months, knowing that the doctors had done all they could do and especially watching her suffer those last few precious days…I just couldn’t bear the thought of her suffering any longer. So I prayed that God would work swiftly, that He’d take her home and that when I woke up the next morning I would be told she was with Him in heaven…completely healed. I know it seems strange to think about praying fervently for your mom to pass on, but at some point I began to look beyond the fact that I’d miss her and realized that it was best to let her go. So when I heard the news I remember feeling both a sense of relief and great sorrow. She was no longer suffering and completely healed, but at the same moment my heart ached and I missed her so very much. That morning we all gathered at my Mom’s house to see her one last time before her body was taken to the funeral home. It was somewhat comforting to see her lying there so peaceful, her face no longer drawn up in pain and she even had a little smile on her face. We all thought that it was just like Mom to give us a smile…to let us know that everything was alright and that she was in good hands…our Father’s hands…I can’t imagine a place better. A few days later we attended the visitation for her followed by her celebration service and burial the next day.
The celebration service was just that…a celebration of my Mom’s life and it was absolutely perfect. We laughed and we cried. I know I’ve shared a few of these things with some of you, but to me they are worth writing here and sharing with everyone. There were two things the pastor talked about that day that have continued to give me peace, comfort and encouragement. He shared with us about how not long after my Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer she and my step-dad, Bill, claimed this verse from Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” She was not only willing to praise Him in the good times but in the bad times too. The pastor also shared about the time when someone mentioned that Mom was losing her battle with cancer and she corrected them and said that this was not her battle to fight but that it was God’s and that he had already won the battle over death.
Earlier this year in May our pastor gave a sermon titled, “If God is Good, Why is There Suffering?” Here is a quote from our bulletin that day from Oswald Chambers, “The picture of God in the Bible is of One who suffers, and when the mask is torn off life and we see all its profound and vast misery, the suffering, sorrowing God is the only One who does not mock us. ‘He was desposed, and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.’ ” So I’ve asked God many times during this journey of suffering with mom, “Why this road, why this way?” This is the answer I keep hearing, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8) and “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) So here’s what I think…there is evil in the world because there is an evil one. I don’t think it was God’s plan to ever have it that way. I believe that He understood Mom’s suffering and cared for her very much…He never left her side. There is comfort and healing in that.
So as not to mislead I should say here that things have not been easy since her death. Sure, I absolutely believe the things that I wrote above and I do take great comfort in them, but it is false to believe that Christians don’t grieve. I’ve felt great sorrow and most recently a lot of anger. I’d like to stomp my foot, cross my arms and say, “I want my mom, NOW!” I remember my college roommate telling me once, “It’s okay to tell God exactly how you feel, He wants you to be honest with him.” And in those moments of great sorrow and anger I remember another story our pastor told us that Sunday in May. He talked about three pots of boiling water (the boiling water represented suffering) and each pot had three different things in it (we could be represented by any of the three). One pot was filled with carrots, the next an egg and the third coffee. And he said that the choice was ours, that as we suffer and come out on the other side we can choose to be wimpy, hard or have things brought out of us that we didn’t know were there. My prayer is that we would all choose to be the coffee.