Last night I had a very difficult time falling asleep...I kept thinking about my parents. I thank God I can still remember what they looked like, but it is the sound of their voices I miss the most. I remember standing at my Dad's graveside on a blustery, cold day the March he died , trying to blink back the tears that seemed endless right then. For weeks after he died I could not get the sound the coffin made when it was dropped down into the vault and I worried that it would be the last thing I remembered. I thank God it wasn't I remember him cooking my favorite meals, him buying me hostess cupcakes as a treat, him taking me to art lessons every week, and so much more. I knew he loved Jesus and He lived out his faith daily. He always served others and lived a life filled with honesty and compassion.
My Mom died almost two years ago and she chose to be crenated instead. Her ashes sit here in my home and soon I will need to go to New England to bury them. The sounds...the memories...the life I shared with both of them is now gone this side of heaven. As I lay in my bed in the wee hours of the morning with a thousand thoughts running through my mind I was reminded of how important it is not to live in the memory of my parents, but to live with hope and to be love and light to others who might be struggling with their own losses.
This morning while I was having breakfast my Timehop reminder came up on my phone. One of the pictures was a picture of my Mom from 3 years ago. I had gone to visit her at the Nursing home where she lived out her last year. It was a beautiful day and I took her outside to the courtyard...a day that will forever be etched in my memory bank. She was quite talkative and wanted to revisit the past with me. She felt life had robbed her of much joy...things from her childhood that has caused her tremendous pain, her divorcing my Dad to marry someone she thought would give her a better life, missing my brother who had walked out of our lives many years ago and the pain she had inflicted on me. I was able to tell her that I forgave her that day and the past needed to stay in the past. I wanted her to feel loved, to feel God's forgiveness as well as my own, but she always seemed to struggle with being forgiven.
I sat with her daily for hours before she went to meet Jesus unsure of if she really would be in Heaven because she could had not been able to see His mercy. I tried to help her understand His forgiveness is a free gift and the Hospice chaplain did as well, but she was certain what she had done in her lifetime could not be forgiven. About a week before she died and actually on one of the last days she was coherent and semi-awake one of our grandsons came to see her. He told her that she needed to accept Jesus love and forgiveness because he wanted the assurance that he would see her again one day. She told him she had, but even then I wasn't sure if it was a heart decision or just trying to make this great grandson she loved not worry.
I prayed over her daily those last few weeks, sang hymns to her and spoke to her while she was in her semi-comatose state, but again, I did not know. The night of her death a young Hospice nurse came on duty and we knew Mom's time on earth was almost done...she said to her, "Momma, you can go home, Jesus is waiting for you." Shortly after that Mom opened her eyes, looked up and she was gone. I believed at that moment that she was with Jesus. And then, the following day as I was driving home from meeting with the funeral home I asked God for a sign...I just needed His assurance and there on the sky appeared a beautiful rainbow. So, I believe both my parents are with Jesus and I thank God for His faithfulness in their lives.
As I reflect on how their deaths have affected me personally I know if we focus on the pain and worry about the storms we will fail to appreciate what we have and who we have in our midst. Do I wish I could have had more time with them? Absolutely. There is not a day that goes by I don't think about them...this morning I told our oldest grandson how difficult it is sometimes because I still want to pick up the phone to share things with them. I struggle with knowing I didn't ask enough questions and copy down recipes and family genealogy that are forever lost. One of my favorite authors was a man named Bob Benson and he wrote this: "It is in our deaths, our defeats, our emptiness, our discouragements, our weaknesses, our surrender that He can help us. For, He can only pick up what we are willing to lay down.'
The challenge for me and I think for you as well is to remember the key moments in our lives, to grow from the painful ones and seek to live our lives in union with the God who created us. His love will show up in the mundane of our lives as well as in the crowded spaces. We are free to be who He created us to be. We can bring our pain, our sinful selves and it will be in that union with Him that we will be transformed.