Last year on this day my mother celebrated her last birthday with most of her family around her. Unfortunately, there were many forced smiles contrasted by the tremendous amount of love present. At about 2:20 a.m. during the night, she drew her last breath on earth.
One of my older brothers, Harold, was sitting next to her, afraid to leave her side because he knew her time was very close. His fears became reality. Something inside of him collapsed as the realization that she was gone for good came over him. Turning to Dad, whom he had tried to get to bed, he attempted to explain that Mother had gone to her heavenly home. Although I can only relate this story as Harold told it, I am certain that tears streamed down his cheeks – not many because he is disciplined enough to control himself – but his heart had developed a large hole in it that only his Mother filled.
My mother’s point-of-view was very different from the morose which filled the room. She had just left her now worn out body to enter the presence of the One who strengthened her, who sustained her in her own dark hours, and whom she had committed her life to as a little girl. When she found out about how her sin separated her from God, she turned to him asking his forgiveness and for him to be Lord of her heart and life. From that point on, she genuinely served the Lord. She was not perfect, just forgiven. I understand that as a child, she still needed the correcting hand of her parents from time to time. However she would not ever turn her back on God. And this is the One who opened his arms to receive her. She had told her doctor that she knew she was on her death bed, but was resting in God’s arms. Indeed, this was the happiest day of her life as she entered into eternal life. Her joy was extreme as she finally got to see the face of the One who bore her sin so she would not have to suffer its final consequence – eternal separation from God.
Mother’s funeral was an unusual funeral. In a time of mourning, there was still a celebration of the life of a woman whom God used since childhood. Her family was large, and to be honest the church was packed with people who were related to her. Most had a connection through being family, but the others were those whom she had taught Sunday School lessons, had welcomed in her home for counsel and prayer, the many with whom she had shared her table, and some who genuinely knew life because of her intervention. As a counselor and friend, Mother took many secrets to her grave, because if it was shared in confidence, no one but God ever heard about it.
When I received the news that Mother left for her heavenly reward, I was relived that she had finished with the struggle to fill her lungs with air which were so limited by the fluid backed up into them due to an inefficient, tired, scarred heart. Yes, my grief was real and still is with me. But, I cannot refuse to let go of one who attains such a marvelous change of scenery in a heaven never tainted with the results of sin. I know it is rare when it is not said of a passed loved one that they are in a better place. We often say that to simply comfort ourselves. For Mom, it would be an understatement almost because her joy is now complete as her voice unites with the heavenly host – the one made of human voices of those redeemed by Christ to sing “Glory to God in the highest.” I am certain performance is never a compulsion for Mother. More likely, they cannot keep her quiet from singing praise to her Savior.