We’ve been keeping vigil by the bedside of my 96-year old mother-in-law. She doesn’t have long before she passes from this world into eternity. Every breath faintly floods our ears as we stare at the coverlet rising and falling. Wondering if the next might be her last.
Questions plague us. Does it hurt to die? Where is this state between life and death? She’s neither here nor there. How can she hang on without any life support? She has a strong will to live even though life as she once knew has passed. Does she know we’re here?
Emotions are mixed at times like this. Relieved that her suffering is almost over. Mourning she’ll be gone from us forever. How we’ll miss this woman!
We knew this day was coming. We’ve been losing her for years. Dementia stole her from us way too early. Her blank stares pierced our hearts over and over again. To her we’ve been but strangers.
Loss of memory. Loss of dignity. Strangers providing what we can’t for a mom in need of constant care. How difficult is this aging process!
Feelings of helplessness often overwhelmed us. Not knowing how to demonstrate love to one captured in confusion. As if trapped behind prison walls. If we could only have torn down those barriers and have her back again. Like she once was.
The one who fixed dinner in her Sunday best. An apron tied neatly at her waist. High heel shoes clicking on the kitchen tile as she moved from stove to table. She lovingly served us spaghetti, a recipe handed down through the generations. A flavor none could match. She’d smile as she stacked strands of pasta neatly across our plates. Fulfilled in her mission to serve her family. Delighted at the oohs and ahs of rich red sauce tickling our pallets. Her homemade sauce took two days of simmering. Arlene made our family dinners warm and inviting. No one could take her place.
The one who corrected our grammar. Made sure we walked the straight and narrow and always knew the right answer.
The pastor’s wife who enriched her husband’s ministry and loved people unconditionally.
The school teacher who made a difference in hundreds of children from New Jersey to Indiana.
The Mother and Grandmother who loved us well as she showered us with her wisdom.
The friend and mentor everyone cherished.
The one who rocked my babies to sleep. Read them bedtime stories. Advised this young mom out of her rich wealth of information and experience.
She gave. And she gave. And we all benefited.
They tell us her days are numbered but she continues to hold on to life. Not struggling but gently slipping away. Moment by moment. Her breathing is labored. Eyes closed to the world around her. We tell her again how much she means to us. And how we’ll miss her.
We wait and God’s grace abounds. His presence comforts. His truth strengthens. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. That is the hope we stake our lives on.
I can only imagine how it will be as Arlene breathes her last. The lover of her soul will welcome her home with open arms saying,”Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Ed will be there, too. He’s been waiting.
And somehow heaven will become dearer than we ever imagined.