Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Peace That Comes From Knowing

The first Christmas without my mother has passed, and of course she was on my mind constantly. Everything I did, everywhere I went, everything I saw or heard in some way reminded me of her. My mother loved Christmas - the decorations, presents, movies, songs, friends, family time. She didn't care about getting anything herself, she just wanted to give to others (which was how she lived her entire life). As I decorated my tree this year I looked at the many ornaments she had given me and remembered something special about each one. I missed her more and more with every ornament I hung, but while I shed a few tears I didn't have any major meltdowns. And though I felt a sense of sadness at times, I wasn't overwhelmed by it - at least not the way I was after Eddie died. I started to think about the difference in my reactions to these two losses and to wonder why I wasn't feeling or acting the same this time. As I continued to decorate my tree and listen to the words of some of my mother's favorite Christmas songs, it finally occcurred to me - while I miss my mother (and always will) I am at peace with her death. But now, nearly six years later, I still do not have any peace about Eddie's death - and THAT is the difference.

My mother had the strongest faith of anyone I have ever known. Even with everything she endured that faith never waivered. She talked about it openly and freely to others. She read her bible and prayed daily. As I cleaned out her house and went through her belongings I found evidence of her faith everywhere - bible verses written on little pieces of paper and stuck inside things, book after book of inspirational stories and quotes, even her usernames, passwords, and email address contained scripture references! She believed until the very end that she could be healed of her disease, but at the same time she was willing to accept if that healing didn't come. There was never a doubt in my mind about where my mother was going when she left this earth. I didn't need any proof - but I got it anyway.

On her last day Mama's house was filled with friends and family, some who drove several hours just to be there for the afternoon (which only confirmed how much she meant to others). We had food, two Christmas trees, Thanksgiving arrangements, Halloween decorations, a fourth of July sign and flag, and birthday flowers and many celebrations as we could have all rolled into one. People were talking, laughing, reminiscing, singing, and praying. There were of course tears flowing as we were all aware her time with us was almost over. The day eventually came to an end and most of the company left as it began to get dark. I knew this would be my last night with my mother. I wanted to pretend like it was any other night though, so I turned on the television - Saturday night football of course - and we cheered against Auburn!

Not long after the game ended, it was obvious that Mama's time here was ending as well. Those of us who were there gathered around her bed - her sisters Marie and Vangie, her niece Debbie, her friend Jean, her hospice nurse Joy (an angel on earth), the home health caregiver, her preacher John (who arrived just moments before she passed), and myself. I was holding Mama's left hand and Marie was holding her right as she and Vangie took turns reading some of Mama's favorite passages from the Bible. Joy was talking to her and telling her it was okay to let go when her right arm started to rise. At first I thought Marie was raising her arm, but Marie let go of her hand and her arm continued to rise toward the ceiling. Her eyes looked up to a point in the distance, she stretched out her fingers, and took one last quiet breath...leaving no doubt in anyone's mind that there was someone there reaching out to take her hand. I spent my mother's last moments with her, I told her goodbye and that I loved her, and most importantly I witnessed her entrance into heaven...and THAT is why I am at peace!

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  
John 14:27