For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
Mom died just a few minutes before midnight last night. She has completed her sojourn. She now walks by sight, not by faith. It is well with her soul.
The doctor was right yesterday morning. It did turn out to be mom’s special day. About 4 p.m. Carol and I were alone with her when Carol noticed that she seemed to be awake. These moments would last only a few seconds, so Carol quickly suggested that I read Scripture and pray with her again. I read Joshua 24:15 and reminded mom about her plaque with that verse. She nodded weakly. I told mom that for her, that verse was more than a plaque, it was a proclamation. It was a promise mom kept.
Back on Saturday when we arrived at her hospice room, I told mom she had lived her life well and had two remaining tasks. The first was to meet her eighth great-grandchild, James Walter Clevenger. She performed that assignment admirably to our joy and delight. I might add that James played his role perfectly, as well. Mom’s second task was to blaze the trail of faith to the end of life and model for her family how to die well. Usually that task is given to dads. Husbands die first in a majority of marriages. But in this marriage, that responsibility was given to mom. She was doing her final task very well.
After Scripture and prayer yesterday afternoon, mom was still awake. So I took the opportunity to tell her we thought she still had some time left. Carol and I might return to Minnesota. I told her that dad, Pam and Brenda would take good care of her. Would it be OK if Carol and I returned to Minnesota?
Mom croaked, “Yes!” in a loud, clear, deep tone that sounded almost like her normal voice. She was giving me mother’s permission for the final time. Perhaps she was also giving herself permission to die.
Within a few minutes, her condition deteriorated significantly. Her breathing became much more shallow and irregular. At 4:30 p.m. we called in the rest of the family, sang hymns for mom, and watched as death crept nearer. Dad sat silently and held mom’s hand. We all had one question, “How long?” Pam and Warren were sitting attentively with mom when she quietly passed into the Lord’s presence.
Barbara Bush, one of the world’s most prominent women, recently died. She is reported to have been a great woman of faith who loved Jesus and anticipated heaven. I marvel that the transcendent God who directs with the flick of his finger the course of the universe – or multiverse, if you prefer – would stoop in his imminence to notice Barbara Bush. I marvel even more that this same God embraced an obscure, unknown, elderly woman lying unnoticed by the world in a hospice bed and carried her into his presence. More astounding yet is that this same heavenly Father offers the same invitation to anyone who will respond to him in faith. If God’s transcendent power is unspeakable, his unmatched imminent grace can only be called “amazing.” The superlatives of language have been exhausted before they plumb the depths of God’s divine attributes. No wonder the great Apostle John concluded his book of the Revelation with, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
Horatio G. Spafford, 1873