We sat quietly, side by side. It was unseasonably warm for this time of year and I wanted her to be able to bask in the sun just one more time. The little birds hopped playfully in the grass, their sweet songs filled with life. Ironic.
As I rearranged the blanket to better cover her frail frame, I thought back to the day that we drove to this place. The hospital could do nothing more for her and they had arranged for her to stay here, a place where they could help her to die. She said softly to me that day, “I want to go home.” I knew that was not possible. I could not give her the care that she needed by myself and there was no one else to help me. We drove in silence as she stared out the window, wearing a poignant look of acceptance on her beautiful face. I felt like an executioner.
She finally became too weak to sit outside any longer, so I wheeled her back into the building. In the main foyer someone was playing a lively tune on the piano. My mom loved music. I purposely walked a bit slower so that she could enjoy the sound. She certainly didn’t get to hear that in her room.
As the days passed she grew very weak and very tired. Each breath took full concentration. I remained at her side almost continuously.
On one of her final days she told me about a vision that she had had. She said that she had seen Jesus and that He held His arms open wide and wore a smile just for her. She fell into His arms, feeling a joy and peace that she had never known. She asked me, “What do you think that means? What do you think he represents?” You see, my mother was not a Christian. She had been abused when she was a child by a particularly cruel nun, all in the name of Christ. In fact, she had told me in times passed that she did not even want to hear the name of Jesus. She could not separate Christ from those who claimed to act in His Name.
I knew that this was it. My final opportunity to help her understand the pure love of Christ. I looked straight in her crystal blue eyes and said, “You were given a rare opportunity. You saw Him face to face. He wants you to know that He loves you. That those who abuse in His Name are not of Him. He wants to take you into His arms and show you that He loves you just as you are.”
I watched her face go from confusion to enlightenment. She looked off in the distance and said quietly, “Oh, do you really think so?” She slipped into a drug-induced coma shortly afterward, the doctor’s way of easing her into death without pain. So I never did get to hear her say that yes, she believed.
After twelve hours of holding her hand as she lie unaware, I finally went home to rest. She would not live through the night. I felt I had done all that I could and I didn’t want to watch her slip away.
But I woke suddenly at midnight. I felt an all encompassing panic. I needed to see her one more time. I barely threw on some clothing, not even knowing if the shoes matched, and drove as quickly as I could. I ran into her dark, lifeless room. It was unnaturally quiet, save for the sound of the monitors as they beeped softly, the morphine drip continuing its job of keeping her numb.
I didn’t even recognize the woman lying before me. I knew that she was only moments from death. I held her unresponsive, soft hand and sang the 23rd Psalm quietly in her ear. I had heard somewhere that the hearing was the last thing to go.
As the tears ran down my face and fell gently on her bed, I got as close as I could to her ear and whispered, “Run into His arms, mom. You know who He is now. Run to Him.”
Although the room remained dark and she remained still, her eyes moved quickly underneath her eyelids. She had heard me. I felt a sudden on-rush of peace and contentment. The Lord had successfully snatched her out of the enemy’s hands.
She was home.
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