Friday, November 14, 2014

Until we meet again

Last month I said farewell to my bravest hero, my most passionate fan, my fiercest champion. My first and best friend.

My sweet mother passed peacefully into her reward on October 10, 2014. But I will not say I lost my mother. No, my dear mother is not lost! I know exactly where she is!

At the Hospice Home in Burlington, NC, my mother walked through the thin, invisible veil that separates the two worlds, and into her Eternal Home. The veil did not seem invisible to the angels who work in Hospice care. Their testimonies and Mother's faith made the veil more "visible" to me.

For her last three days of life, I traveled from Maryland to be with "Honey," a name given to her by my second daughter, her third grandchild. Kellie was simply repeating what my dear step father had called her. Even though the first two grandchildren called her "Grandmommy" for their first verbal year, "Honey" stuck. It was a perfect name for this gentle Southern lady, and she adored it. Over the years we all called her "Honey" too.

The devoted nurses and staff at Hospice Home confidently visited her room to interpret the signs for us. The most common observation was, "She is 'very peaceful.'" After hearing the description repeated often, almost as a unexpected surprise, I asked if they often saw otherwise during their care for the terminally ill. Oh yes, they had seen fear and anger. I recalled my grandfather, a very private man who died when I was 17. As he lay unconscious and dying in the hospital, we heard indistinguishable groans of agony, terror, and even rage directed at some thing, invisible to us. In contrast, my mother lay there, beautifully tranquil, having left nothing unsaid or unresolved. "She has one foot in this world, and the other in the next," observed one nurse. She took that final step from this flawed, physical realm patiently. I wondered what she must be encountering on the journey to Heaven.

On our previous visit, three weeks earlier, she had gently attempted to prepare me for the inevitable, "Now Darlin', if I die in my sleep, I want you to be happy for me." I assured her that I would, since I plan on a future reunion. So, I was happy for her when she departed with a peace that calmed us all, even the nurses on her death watch, twelve days before her 86th birthday. It would have been selfish to be sad for her. This world is not our home. Death is the most inevitable and unavoidable part of life.

And hers was a beautiful death.

She had always loved the Lord—she shared once that she had felt like a special "pet" of God's. She felt his love so strongly even as a young child. I could recognize her pure God-Love, even when I was very young, as she prayed with us kids as we knelt beside our bed at night in our little apartment. They were intimate friends, my mother and God. She had learned early to trust Him, and learned that He was worthy of her trust.

Her life had not been an easy one. She had grown up during the Depression. Her parents worked in textile mills. They didn't stay married for long. Still she thought of her childhood as a blessed and happy time. Her sickly mother, older sister, Jean, my future mother, little Nell went to live with a relative. (By the way, "Nell" is pronounced "nail" in North Carolina,  but in the South we stretch it out a tad, to two syllables!)  She was smart and excelled in school, achieving the award of Salutatorian of her class at graduation, but there was no money for college, and no expectation to alter the circumstances.

Her first child died at birth. Three more babies followed, me being the middle. My father left the family when I was five. My mother worked hard to support us, and although I am sure we would have qualified for public assistance, my proud mother wouldn't consider it, choosing to model the best example she could for us, trusting God to make a way.  She eventually made a decent living with the Federal Government. Slowly she climbed the ladder to a position as a quality control inspector for military contracts. She gave God the glory for every promotion and advancement. Even though we never owned our own home and had little money for extras, I remember her sharing with a less fortunate neighbor, a single mother of twins. And she always tithed at church, where she was the forth grade Sunday school teacher for a million years. She didn't complain. She didn't gossip. She didn't envy. She had a spirit of love and gratitude. Her life was her testimony of how much God loved her in return.

I remember men calling and her curt response was always, "I don't date." She put her children first considering us an extravagant Gift from God. When I was in college, thanks to a community scholarship, she met and married my dear step father, through an intervention by God Himself. She was confident of that it was a Divine match! We couldn't argue once we got to know this dear, Godly widower, who considered himself so blessed to have been Matched with his adorable new wife. Honey said a faith-filled farewell to Nathan who died in 2008.

I spent my quiet nights at Hospice Home with my mother's life flashing before me. I often imagined Nathan on the other side of the veil with his arms held wide, eager for the reunion. During the three days and nights I spent there,  I grew close to the staff. Did they talk this boldly with others who might not share their faith? And they ALL had a considerable faith. Anyone who works so close to the veil, must see beyond it at times. Even the cleaning lady, 68-year-old Barbara, preached love to my sister and me as we counted down the hours. Leaning on her dust mop on one side, and moving it to the other when her topics of revelation changed, occasionally running it over the shiny floor, still talking about the God she knew so well, occasionally breaking into a hymn.  Barbara was a beautiful, spiritual black woman, rich in Testimony for the Glory of God. She too had known hard times. But not anymore. She had been wooed away from employment of a former family into Hospice care when her gifts of compassion and wisdom were discovered. She and my mother would have been good friends. I brought out a photo of my mother so Barbara could tell me how beautiful she was. Yes she was, on the outside of that already diminishing body and on the inside. Her soul is eternal.

In the past few weeks, I have often picked up the phone to share some news with her, only to remember that she is not there. I have many messages that will go forever unerased from my phone of her sweet, animated, ageless, Southern voice.

I have realized what a blessing and honor it was, and will always continue to be, to have a mother of faith. I had a mother who prayed for us children, for our families and friends, even for our enemies. The legacy she leaves us is a priceless treasure. My mother served the role as mother and father. She was the nurturer, the affirmer, the disciplinarian, and the confidante, the teacher and preacher, the never-tiring prayer warrior, the sweet, warm, and welcoming grandmother and great grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. I have huge shoes to fill! But I had an awesome teacher!

Until we meet again, sweet Honey.