A Long Good-bye (Part Three)

1 05 2013


April 22, 2013: I walk in the front door like I always do, computer in hand, expecting Mom to be asleep and planning to get some work done while Dad goes to the gym and the store. But he isn’t sitting at the kitchen table as usual.

I hear him call my name, follow the sound of his voice, and find them both sitting on the edge of their bed. “Mom heard you come in and wanted to see you,” he says.

She swallows a mouthful of Ensure with effort, then looks into my eyes and smiles. Her face is drawn and sallow, but her smile manages to light her large green eyes. “Hi,” she barely whispers.

“Hi, Mom. How are you today?”

“Okay, I guess.” Her voice is raspy and weak.

There’s a small plastic bowl on the bed along with a half dozen used tissues, and I know they’ve spent the past few minutes trying to clear the phlegm from her throat. Her hand is shaking, so Dad holds the glass of Ensure steady and offers her another sip, but she refuses. He hands me the glass and I take it along with the bowl of spit. When I return, she’s trying to say something but can’t find the words — a new development with her. The past couple of days she’s been saying random things and asking nonsensical questions.

She’s obviously frustrated. Dad kisses her on the head and says, “You’re a sweet girl, and I love you.” His touch and voice are so tender I want to cry, but that’s the way he has always been. With her, with his children. His heart is a safe home.

She whispers, “I love you, too.” Then she tries again to find the words she couldn’t find before, but all she manages is, “I can’t (long pause) determine (long pause) what . . .” Her voice trails off, and she brushes at imaginary lint or crumbs or something on her pants. He kisses her again and helps her lie down, and I ask her if she wants me to stay or leave the room to let her rest.

“Please stay.” Her eyes have already closed and her breathing is even. I sit at the end of the bed and watch her, study her, try to take her in,  and even though I see her every day, I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around this.

My mother is dying. She’s lying on her side in a loose fetal position, and was it really that long ago that my infant form curled much the same way inside her womb? Was it really that long ago this fragile woman was young and beautiful and full of life, her strong, healthy body swollen with mine? I imagine her in labor, awaking in the night to feed me, holding me when I cried and comforting me with soft songs. She influenced my life in a thousand big and little ways, day adding to day, and year to year, and here we are.

I sit at the end of the bed and watch her, and the prayers rise of themselves — that the God of the universe who created this woman for His glory would come. That He would fill the room and her thoughts with His presence. That light would shine and darkness would tremble and that the God who welcomes sinners would take her frail body into His strong arms and carry her the rest of the way Home. Oh, Jesus, will you carry her Home?

Something startles her awake and she sees me. Surprise becomes pleasure and she says, “Jeanne?”


“Have you been sitting there all this time?”

“It hasn’t been very long. You asked me to stay and I like to be near you. I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too.” She pauses and then says, “Do you have any pah . . .”

“Do I have any what?”

“Do you have any pah . . .”

I wait.

“Do you have any positives . . . for Christmas?”

I puzzle a bit, then say, “At Christmas I like to celebrate the birth of Jesus and spend time with the people I love.”

After another pause she says, “Well, do you have any ideas? For Christmas?”

No, I tell her. I haven’t been thinking about Christmas, because it’s still a long way off.

But I’m thinking about it now. Thinking about a silent night split wide by the cries of a woman in labor — about Almighty God coming to us as a helpless baby, entering this world the same way my mother did and I did and every other human being has. Coming to us on purpose to die in our place. I’m thinking about what it cost the holy God of heaven to offer us peace, and how we see and receive so little of all we’ve been given, distracted as we are with so many silly things.

And the song we sang in church yesterday — the one that wiped me out — it echoes in my thoughts again.

When we arrive at eternity’s shore, and death is just a memory, and tears are no more.
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring, Your bride will come together and we’ll sing,
You’re beautiful.

* * *

May 1, 2013: That’s as far as I got on April 22. Then I saved the draft, and family arrived from out of town, and a busy week culminated in a weekend of celebration, and then early Sunday morning? She went. Peacefully, in her sleep. And I will write out all the mercies of those last two weeks, because they are many. I will write them here soon, for you and for me, and I will remember them, because they magnify the One whose strong hand of love is always, always hidden in the shadows.

Friends, I thank you for your prayers. May I ask that, as often as you think of us, you continue? Especially for my Daddy.

Jesus, I thank you for my mother’s life. That every day ordained for her was written in Your Book before there was one of them. I thank you for the cross. And I thank you for hope, and for peace, and that every breath is grace.

Jesus, You’re good. So very good.

And so very, very beautiful.

* * *

For those who are interested,
you can read my mom’s obituary here.

Much love.




15 responses

1 05 2013

I pray that I too will be able to find words to write about my mom’s last days. You have penned such tenderness here…

1 05 2013
Linda Gilmore

Jeanne, you look like your Mom — your smile is much like hers in this picture. Thanks for sharing this journey. I know God is faithful and will continue to comfort and encourage you and your dad and all of your family as time passes.

1 05 2013
Sharon O

It is so very hard to see this passing, this moving from one place to another. We wait with grief and then anxiety then with peace we let go. My own mother is dealing with this very soon. She has two caregivers. My dad sits beside her. They hold hands and she asks ‘where is he’ and he is right by her side.
She doesn’t know it. Dementia and Parkinson’s has taken her away. She is not the mother I have known.
My father in law died two weeks ago of the same thing. HE was 90 she is 81. It will be peaceful for her ‘to let go’ and leave.
It will also be sad for many reasons.

1 05 2013
kathy white

Dear Jeanne,
Your love for your mom is so beautiful and yes we will con’t to lift up your daddy. My own mother is in Bible Study with me on Tuesday nights. She is 91 and one of her comments last nite was the song that brings such tears to her eyes….Your Beautiful….I found that so touching to see God ministered to you on Sunday that very song….Someday maybe soon we all will experience the PRESENCE of The Beautiful….my heart and prayers to you dear sister. Someday we’ll meet…that’s a promise from above !
kathy white

1 05 2013

You and your Daddy will be in my heart and prayers. This is so heartbreakingly beautiful Jeanne.

1 05 2013
Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth)

Beautiful, beautiful. Your words, her life, your father’s love. Praying.

1 05 2013
Patricia Hunter

So very beautiful, Jeanne – you, your mother, your words, your family. Her life is quite a story – you must be so proud to be her daughter and I can only imagine that she was equally proud of you. Praying – for you and your family, especially your daddy. Much love, Patricia

1 05 2013

Hugs and prayers.

1 05 2013
Melissa from the Blue House

So beautiful. I love so many of the phrases above… but especially this one: “His heart is a safe home.” What a neat thing to say about your daddy. I’m so sorry for your loss, and for his, but love that in life and death God is glorified.

1 05 2013
Tatia Cook

Praising God for His “strong hand of love that is always, always hidden in the shadows”! And for the gifts He has given you to use to glorify Him – you do it SO beautifully.

1 05 2013
Barbara Thayer

You have captured the essence of your mother’s gentle passing and her wonderful life. She is safe in the presence of our Lord. May He continue to comfort you in her absence knowing that one day you will see her again. It is hard to lose a mother. I know as I said a long good-bye to my mother in 2000 after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s. However, those years were precious. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt time with us in writing. God bless you and your family.

2 05 2013
richelle @ "our wright"-ing pad

i’m so sorry for your loss, but also thankful for the beautiful grace demonstrated by your dad, you and your mom as you’ve written your collective story. i’ve prayed for you today and will continue to do so as the Lord brings you to mind.

stunning photo of your mother. may God comfort and strengthen and continue to bless as you adjust to this loss.

3 05 2013
Doug Spurling

My oh my I felt as if I were reading an echo of the words, the breaths the hours I have just been living. My ebook about our mother recently passing just went live this morning…what timing. ipray4u now and will. Thank you for this, you have done what your mother has heard– well done.

4 05 2013
Barbara H.

I’m so sorry for your loss, Jeanne. We’re in the midst of my mother-in-law’s decline, but there is no telling whether she has days left or whether she could last another year or two.We just have to take it day by day and trust Him for the future, which I guess is true in any circumstance.

I’m so touched by your father’s love. I can’t imagine losing the companion of so many years. Praying for your family.

4 05 2013

sat. 5/4/13
Jeanne, I put off reading this as long as possible because I knew I’d need some time to weep. What a precious gift, for you to be there at the end and for your children’s arrival and that you can share it all….
I so look forward to the days of your precious story sharing ahead. May they be grace and God-filled.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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