I will go to her, but she will not return to me.
Those words, taken from II Samuel 12:23, were King David’s response to the death of his firstborn son by Bathsheba. What grief he must have felt! Not only had his infant son died, but David carried the weight of his sins: adultery and murder, as well as the rebuke of Nathan the Prophet. According to scripture, after the rebuke the child became ill and died. David responded by fasting and praying – grieving. He knew in his heart that he had done wrong and, more out of wishful thinking than faith, he grieved before God – hoping that what he knew was about to happen could be averted, but the child died. Afterward, though, David”…washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.” (verse 20).
In the New Testament book of I Thessalonians, the apostle Paul wrote that, as Christians, our grief over death is not a hopeless one. Tonight, I am filled with hopeful grief over the loss of my precious, beautiful, gentle mother.
I remember her smile, her touch, and the feel of her kiss upon my cheek. I recall when Sis and I were just kids in church and Mom would open her purse to find something to keep us occupied. I can still smell the Evening in Paris perfume and the Doublemint gum that rose from that bag of treasures. How she loved to sit at the table after dinner with her sippin’ cup of coffee, and tell stories or catch up on the day! When she was at ease she would sit with her elbows resting on her knees or on the table top, and loosely clasp her fingers together. I remember her smell, her sound and the playful gleam in her eye. God, I miss her!
Throughout the past few months, my father tirelessly served Mom while illness wore away at her body and mind. I helped in every way that I could imagine, but felt like I was not helpful most of the time.
A few weeks ago, after assisting my dad one evening, I came home, closed the bedroom door and cried for an hour. My wife heard me and quietly cradled me in her arms and let me sob. A few nights later, I dreamed that I was in a town called Heartland, where I was beating up teams of doctors. The next day, as I laughed about the obvious meaning of the dream, I realized that I was just furious that this crazy disease had robbed Mom of much of her laughter, spontaneity and sense of presence, and that no one could do anything about it.
Then, Tuesday, it became apparent that Mom was in the active stage of death. At about 4:30 a.m Wednesday, Dad woke up, looked over at Mom and rose to check on her. As he took her hand and spoke gently to her, she breathed her final breath and went to be with Jesus. Dad grieved silently by Mom’s bedside, then he showered, changed and woke up Kitty, the family member who had spent the night with them. Our family rushed to Dad’s as quickly as we could, where we gathered around Mom and worshiped.
In a bit, Dawn, the hospice nurse arrived. She was not our usual nurse and so we all introduced ourselves. She spoke to each one with a knowing gentleness. Then she stepped over to me, placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re the son and the pastor – right?” I answered professionally. Then she looked me square in the eye and said, “Can I ask something of you?” I nodded as she drew me to her in a hug and whispered in my ear, “…be the son, not the pastor – ok?” I was undone. I wilted onto the ottoman and wept until I could weep no more.
Thank you, Dawn. I will remember.
In hopeful grief,