15 years ago, on a sunny, crisp autumn day not much unlike this one, I climbed in the hospital bed and held my mother. I sang Amazing Grace as she took her last breath in this life, and opened her eyes to see Jesus in her next.
Well-meaning friends would stop by to visit at the hospital during those last days and would say things like “I just can’t believe this is happening. She’s so young. She was one of the good ones and she was doing so much; a Sunday school teacher, picked kids up, fed them, took them to church. I don’t understand why God is allowing this to happen?!?” In other words? They were questioning “Why?” and asking out loud the question most often asked… “Where is God when it hurts?!?” I would almost swell up inside in defense of God. Even not being as grounded in my faith as I am today, even in my hurt, I never once blamed him. I knew this wasn’t His fault.
And now? He’s given me the wisdom to share where God was when it hurt. He was the kindness and peace in her eyes when the nurses would come in and say “I don’t understand how you can’t be in pain?? All your vitals, all the signs point to the fact you should be in a lot of pain.” She would smile that sweet smile and they would see the peace in her eyes as she said “No honey, I’m not in any pain. Jesus has me.” God was there when my husband was not. While I had to carry and load her into the car myself, while calling my dad and brother to meet me there, because I was just sure this was likely the night we would lose her. But my husband? He had a “gig” to play at a local bar in Blanchester and he just couldn’t let the guys in the band down. As we got her into a room, they were trying to start an IV… 2 attempts turned into 6, that turned into 8, and they were still poking when I ran to the chapel and got on my knees and prayed. “God! Why am I all alone in this right now?!? My husband isn’t here, they are poking and poking my mom – make it stop! Where are you?!? PLEASE…” and as I felt a peace rush over me and heard that gentle whisper in my heart “You are not alone.” I composed myself and went back to her room. They had stopped the attempts and were starting a line in her chest. There was a calmness in the room and a peace in her eyes. That night, when my dad and brother had gone home and I laid in the darkness of the hospital room in the chair by her bed, His presence was there. It was thick and there was an almost tangible “glow” surrounding underneath her bed. I forgave my husband. After all? He had just lost his mother only 2 short months before of the same dreaded disease. He was likely still coping in his own way. When we got home from that visit I somehow had the strength to help her pick out the clothes she wished to be buried in. Just a few short months prior to her diagnosis I said to a co-worker “I can’t image losing a parent, I could NEVER get through that.” And yet, just a few short months later? I was living it with a super-natural innate ability to protect and preserve for as long as I could. As I neared the casket the night of her viewing with a sense of fear, sadness and dread it turned into such a peace and blessed assurance. As I touched her cold skin, it was closure for me. True closure because it hit me harder than anything had hit me before, or since, “That’s not my mom lying there! That’s just a body. The spirit? The thing that made her unique and loving and kind and well… my mom?!? That’s gone!! I’m not burying that tomorrow, it’s not there. She’s with Jesus!” During that year we had lost 7 souls; my mother in-law, father in-law, grandfather, sister in-law, young family friend, my mom and then my grandma. Somehow? we had the strength to get through that. A year later, as I got the call my father was suffering a massive heart attack, the Lord arranged divine appointments. People not where they normally were to see and get help. A prayer warrior was where she shouldn’t have been to pray for me when I couldn’t pray for myself. While my father was clinically dead and I was crying and screaming “NO!!! Not you too! I need you!!” He saw my mother in heaven and she said to him “You have to go back. The kids need you“. That’s where God was during the hurt my friends. He was there with me in every step of this storm. He didn’t cause it, but He never left me. Not once.
When the diagnosis of terminal, inoperable pancreatic cancer came I asked myself that same question. “Why God? Why her? Not MY mom!?!” But I didn’t dwell on the “Why?” Instead? I sprang into “I have to fix this” mode. Find the best doctors, do the right things, make her comfortable, take care of her.. One weary day I had probably uttered or heard from others yet again, “Why? She didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, was a good woman…” and then I opened the cupboard door and I saw it. The jar of “pinks” – Sweet N’ Low – with a warning on the side “Could cause cancer”. Immediately this dropped in my spirit – we have free will. God designed us for free will. And sometimes? Our free will hurts us, or hurts others. Man made so many products for “convenience” that have harmful side effects. For as long as I can remember? My mother drank diet pop. No one stops us from making them, or ingesting them. Other times? People are innocent victims of our bad choices. Someone drinks and drives, and another innocent person dies at the hands of that bad mistake. But if God stopped every bad choice that was going to be made, we would no longer be a human with free will. The real secret? Love the Lord and be ready no matter when your time is up. Those left behind will weep and mourn, but your soul will be in heaven! Walking streets of gold where the bible promises there is no more sickness, no more pain.
If I let the devil in long enough to torment me with one regret? It’s that I wasn’t as strong in my faith as I am now so I could have been more of a rock for her to lean on in those last days. But then I realize? I didn’t get the faith I have today, until I went through this storm. Until I realized that I can no longer live on the prayers of my mother, but better start saying some of my own. That I have this legacy to continue with a foundation of joy, peace and a bold walk. What the devil meant for harm? The Lord turned into good.
“He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” – Isaiah 61:3
As I stood in the receiving line that night while people were lined up around the funeral home, and down the street for hours, I had revelation of who my mother had been. She was quiet and humble. She was always just “my mom”. And while I had gotten busy with my career and raising my own children, I didn’t know that she was making an impact in the lives of others in ways I never knew about. But as I heard story after story that night my heart swelled with pride that I was blessed to have been her daughter. That she was leaving us with such a legacy of faith and love for others. Especially with the children. Now? Every time a child pulls from their parent and reaches for me and with a bewildered look the parent says “I don’t understand?!? They NEVER go to strangers. This doesn’t make sense!?!” I reach out my arms, smile, and am reminded that I’m my mother’s daughter. That same spirit that lived on the inside of her? Lives on the inside of me. I can leave a legacy like she did. I can change lives. I can pray holes in heaven for my children and grandchildren.
I felt the nudging and I bought a journal at the James Cancer Hospital Sept 18, 2002 and started to write. Started to journal this storm. It left off after her burial, pen still between those last two pages, and I have never opened it since. This morning, before church, I went down to the basement and found it readily in a box still unopened from the move. I knew as readily as I found it, it was time to open. Wouldn’t you know? This is the page I flipped to…
Journal Entry, Sept. 18, 2002 – “In the waiting area at the James there was a young girl in a wheelchair. She looked 15 but was actually 21. What a spit fire! She was cussing and complaining and saying she was “tired of this shit”. I knew mom wasn’t handling the news of her own illness very well – so this had me a little scared as to what the effect of the girls attitude was going to have on mom. When they finally wheeled that girl into another room om said she wished she would’ve talked to her – meaning about Jesus. Just like mom Even in the midst of her illness and problems – she was worried about that young girls soul.”
In the bible, Joshua makes a monument of 12 stones to remind their children how the Lord made a way for them from captivity to freedom lest they never forget the Lord is with them. Today I saw my own monument of stones as I opened that journal and was reminded that God was with us all during that storm. Reminded me not to waste one opportunity to be bold in my faith and share hope with others. Where is God when it hurts? My friends he’s right there beside you, waiting on you to call on His name. And this morning? His spirit settled on those praising him at Solid Rock South and I was blessed to be one of them!
Be blessed on your journey –