Tuesday, May 18, at 11:19 pm, my mom woke up from her heavy, labored sleep. I took her hand and her eyes found mine. I said, “Mom, it’s okay. I’m here and I love you.” And a minute later, she was looking into the face of Jesus.
It is a moment I will never forget. The tragic and miraculous wrapped into one. A blessing and a curse intermingled.
I wont go into the details, but the hours that followed in the middle of the night were even more tragic and traumatic. The crushing finality of it all nearly suffocating. By 2 am, I felt as if I had aged thirty years.
At 4 am, my dad cooked he and my husband a gigantic breakfast. Their way of coping. Of breathing. Of functioning.
When my daughters woke up, I took them into my mom’s bedroom and showed them the empty bed. It had been made up nicely, and a red valentines bear (given to my mom from my dad in 2006) was propped up against the pillows. I said, “Last night, Jesus took grandma home to heaven.”
Izzy frowned. “Why didn’t you wake me up? I wanted to see Jesus.”
I answered, “Well, I didn’t see Him. He was invisible.”
Her reply? “I would have seen Him.”
She was worried about the empty bed and who would sleep in it. And about the red bear that belonged in heaven with grandma. I told her that the hospital would take the bed and that grandpa would take care of the bear. She seemed satisfied for a while.
Then my sisters came home and we told them. They cried.
Then the phone calls started. There were more people to tell. Some people cried with us. Others were angry that they were not told sooner. All I can say is that truthfully, we weren’t thinking about anyone or anything other than my mother and what had happened to her. We were in the after hours shock.
The house was flooded with my sister’s friends, food, flowers, and somehow, laughter. When it was time to sleep again, I finally cried. I cried for the same reason I had cried when it happened. Yes, I missed her… but I had been missing her for months. I cried because of the trauma of it all. I was beginning to realize that I had gone through something that God never wanted me to experience.
And in the midst of processing through it all… I remembered something from my childhood. Before I proceed, let me just say that some of you will not appreciate this memory. You might be offended. You might think I am morbid. But anyone who has lost a close loved one will get it and will understand.
When I was 8 years old, I won a county art contest. I had constructed a hamburger, yes a hamburger, from paper and the judges were so impressed with it that they crowned me first place winner. My prize? The honor of having a replica of my hamburger painted on the wall of a local grocery store. For an 8 year old, there was no higher honor than walking into that grocery store surrounded by my family and seeing a GIANT picture of mine up there.
Not long after my hamburger was put on the wall, the building was sold to a funeral home. The walls were painted over and gates were put up in front of the property in respect for the somber events that would take place there. Never again did I see my drawing, but I do recall attending a few funerals there and soberly remembering how foolishly happy I had been about such a silly thing. My hamburger was an insignificant remnant of my childhood, of when innocence was bliss.
On Tuesday night, around 1:30 in the morning, they came for my mom. Of course, her spirit was already dancing with Jesus. But the tent that I had hugged and loved all my life, and sang over in the last few hours of her life, left with a stranger, and went to that little funeral home in Palo Cedro. Where, under layers of primer, is my own painting. A huge hamburger and a little yellow sun, with my name and age underneath.
I cannot explain to you why this matters so much, but it does. And it brought great comfort to this 28 year old woman knowing that there was something of myself in that building with my mother. Yes, I know she’s not really there. Like I said, I can’t explain it. It just is what it is.
So now… one day at a time.