“It won’t be long now. Nell’s breathing is becoming shallow and her heart rate has slowed considerably. We have made her as comfortable as possible. I assure you she knows you are here.” The doctor’s words coursed through Lillian’s being like a raging river. The news was expected, yet something she could not prepare for. The methodical rhythm of the machine monitoring the faint heartbeat was a strange comfort - the only evidence she had that her mother was still with her.
Lillian sat down and wrapped herself up in a soft, warm blanket of cherished childhood memories. Picking up a hairbrush from the bedside table, she began to brush the 90 year old woman’s silvery strands that cascaded over the pillow - the last time she had brushed her mother’s hair, it was fiery auburn. As a young girl, Lillian was fascinated with that long, beautiful hair. It was worn in a bun during the day, but each night before bedtime, she would let it down so Lillian could brush it. That was their special time. As the tot brushed the silky locks, Nell would sing her favorite hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.”
Lillian let reality sink in for a little while, then closed her eyes and thanked God that the rest of the family had made it in time. Mama Nell, as she was affectionately known, was a no-nonsense woman. She always looked out for her family, and they loved and respected her deeply. Lillian felt a gentle touch on her shoulder. “The chaplain escorted us down, mom.” She turned to see her daughter Melissa, two of her grandchildren and several other family members. Tears flowed freely as Mama Nell took her final breath.
Melissa pulled a sealed envelope from her pocket. “Mama Nell seemed to know her time was near. She gave me this last month and asked me to read it to you all after she was gone.”
My precious family,
You know I’ve never been much for crying and carrying on when a child of God is called home. Now don’t get me wrong - I would be a little perturbed if you didn’t shed a tear or two. What I’m saying here is I accepted my Lord Jesus when I was 12 years old. I lived 90 blessed years on this earth serving God and raising most of you all. I’ve lived without my Charles for a good, long while now too.
This old body has served me well, but I’m a weary traveler looking forward to resting in the arms of my Jesus. My house is getting real run down. I have a mansion waiting for me!
Lillian, and whoever else is hearing this, I want you to praise God right now. This is a homecoming celebration! I love you all.
‘Till we meet again,
The bittersweet words of Mama Nell caused a mixture of sniffles, giggles and tears to erupt throughout the room. Lillian walked over to the bed. One by one the others joined her. Four generations stood hand in hand around their beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
The singing began softly with one of the children - “When peace like a ri-ver” . . . A few moments later, with hands still clasped, the entire group was singing Mama Nell’s favorite hymn. With tears running onto smiling lips, the chorus - “It is well, it is well, with my soul” - swelled into an astonishing crescendo. What started out as a small sacrifice of praise from a child had become a joyous, heartfelt time of worship.
Lillian walked over to the window and looked up at the cloudless, blue sky. Thank you mama, you’re still taking care of us.
Author’s Note: “It is Well with My Soul”, Horatio G. Spafford
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