One of the greatest gifts I’ve received in my life thus far was the privilege of spending nearly every moment of the last days of my mom’s life at her side. She left this earth around 10 p.m. on the eve of Valentine’s Day one year ago.
Mom slipped into unconsciousness after developing sepsis as the result of a kidney infection. She had suffered immensely in the previous years from various complications mostly related to diabetes and two strokes. She was partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for mobility.
When the decision was made to stop mom’s dialysis and infection treatments, doctors expected she would pass away within around 24 hours; she held on for about 10 days. That was my mom, tough and resilient to the end.
I was probably a little stubborn in my insistence that I remain by her side during those last days in the hospital, thankfully I had a wife and employer who each supported me. Few people are provided this chance, and my mom deserved the undivided attention, presence, care, and love of her child at the end of her life.
Choosing to set aside these days and forsake everything else that was going on in my life was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It became a time of healing for both of us. I talked to her throughout the days and nights, prayed with her, held her hand, read scripture, listened to some of her favorite music, and reminded her how much she was loved and adored – not just by me, but also the countless number of people she had positively impacted and influenced through her compassionate and unselfish spirit.
Nighttime during these days were particularly meaningful. Visitors would pour in and out of mom’s room throughout the daytime hours and, though I fully appreciated their friendship and concern, it could get exhausting after several hours. Nighttime was just me and mom, and it was when I felt closest to her.
This was also a time of confession and repentance for me, and I believe this was God’s work – allowing me to have this time with her to make all things right. Though we were very close in her final years, it hadn’t always been that way – mostly due to my own selfishness. I carried a lot of guilt for some of my poor decisions and actions over the years, which I knew hurt her deeply, and I knew this was God’s way of helping to clear that guilt. I knew mom had forgiven me a long time ago, but now it was time to forgive myself.
Even though mom was unconscious during the days and nights of our time together, I like to believe that she heard every word that was spoken and felt the presence of God and the people that surrounded her with love.
I was honored and privileged to be by her bedside when my mom drew her last breath. I experienced a mixture of sorrow, relief, and joy as I watched her leave this world and her poor, beaten up body to be with Jesus.
I have never known another human being who exemplified and embodied the life and teachings of Jesus like my mom. She was the most perfect example of love, grace, mercy, kindness, and unselfishness I have witnessed in my 40-plus years. She was a person of simple faith who was able to live out Jesus’ greatest commandments to love God and love others with ease and genuineness. I rarely saw her get angry, and concepts like greed, bitterness, hostility, pride, and envy were foreign to her.
If anyone ever had a right to slighted about their condition in life, it was my mom. No person should ever have to experience the things she endured. Throughout the entirety of her sickness, however, I never heard my mom complain – not once. She was always more concerned about how her sickness might be impacting her family and friends. That was who she was – completely selfless.
Mom’s favorite scripture during the last months of her life was Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” She relied on it heavily and took it to heart, often quoting it to other family members and friends who were struggling with their own issues.
I also had the honor of delivering a short message at mom’s funeral, where I used a portion of the Gospel of Mark to encapsulate my mother’s faith, life, and spirit.
“(W)hoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45
You see, by the world’s standards, my mom was nothing great. She wasn’t excessively wealthy, she wasn’t “showy” or part of the “in-crowd”, she wasn’t highly educated, and she wasn’t driven to attain any material or personal desires. My mom was a servant – and she loved it. She lived for it. Her greatest fulfillment in life revolved around worshipping God and seeing and making others happy.
This is how Jesus works, using those the world may perceive as lowly, unassuming, and frail to accomplish His purpose and glorify His Kingdom.
Mom’s funeral was attended by dozens of people, dozens of lives she had touched over the decades through her compassion, love, faith, servanthood, and selfless approach to life.
Today is the first anniversary of her death, and I have missed her immensely every day since. I cannot thank God enough for allowing me over 40 years to know and learn from this true servant of His, and I continue to pray I can become more like her.