If you leave your phone at home, and, upon return, notice that there were 19 missed calls, you know something has happened. Such was the case for me on March 24th. I went to the grocery with my kids and left my phone on the kitchen counter. I’ve certainly done that before, but not often.
Dread filled me as soon as I picked it up and saw the volume of missed calls. They were all from my sister and cousin in Kentucky. Immediately, I knew something was wrong with my mom. My cousin was the first to answer her phone.
“Your mom’s been in a car accident,” she said. “It’s bad.” “They’re air lifting her to the hospital. We’re on our way now.”
“Oh, no!” I felt the sudden punch of a nail piercing my heart. “No! No!” I hung up, and stood there, in disbelief, not knowing what to do. Tears, sudden. Breathing I couldn’t control. “Girls, quickly, come here, we have to pray for Grandma.”
Then, call my sister, again. Voice mail. My husband. Voice mail. My friend. I got her. “Please pray,” I asked her. Suitcase, things thrown in. What airline to call? More prayers. More tears. The phone, silent. Another call to my husband. This time, contact…at a fire scene, praying from there, making arrangements to get away….I had to call Kentucky again. My cousin and his wife had gotten to the hospital first, on their way in. No news yet. “We’ll call you,” she said.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I decided I couldn’t wait for a call. My cousin’s wife answered the phone. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “She didn’t make it.” “She died in the helicopter on the way here.”
My mama, gone.
“No!” A cry came, somewhere from the nightmare that this had to be. Not happening. But, it was. Piercingly, suddenly real. Images flashed in my head that were far too vivid. Did she suffer? Had she been afraid? How long before help came? In that storm, God’s words coming into my mind, washing over me like waves.
“…He who hears my word and believes Him who sent me will not die but have everlasting life……God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him has eternal life…this day you will be with me in Paradise…I will never leave you or forsake you…all things work to the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose…..”
I kept repeating verses in my head as the tears came. Words memorized in times of quietness, brought to my heart by the Holy Spirit when peace lay shattered like broken glass and twisted metal at my feet.
I knew Jesus had been with her every second, every breath, and after her last one, He had taken her hand in eternity. Her life, from beginning to end, had been ordained by Him. Untimely death is a phrase coined by man, not God.
Now, almost two months have passed. You can see why this blog has lain, silent. So much to process. So many people to talk to. So much to do. Miles to travel.
If you’ve kept up with past posts, you know my husband’s mom died of brain cancer in October of last year. One storm, after another.
Life is hard, death is harder, but God is good. He is in control, and He is loving. He is the only anchor to hold onto when the wind and waves that rage threaten to pull you out to sea and drown you in the undertow of a fallen world.
After a bit of time and space, I could see God’s hand in my mom’s last breath. She had recently been diagnosed with a substantial, malignant melanoma. She would have been 94 in May, but was otherwise vibrantly healthy and active. I was scheduled to leave for Kentucky the very next week, to care for her after the malignancy was removed on April 1st. She died 7 days before that surgery. Clearly, God did not intend for her to go through it.
It took weeks for me to get past the regret of not getting to go and care for her, as I did my husband’s mom. Finally, I have accepted that caring for her was my plan, not God’s. The regret has slipped away. She knew I was willing to take care of her. That’s what matters. Our last conversation, the day before she died, ended with, “I love you, Mama.” “I love you, too, ” she said. She knew the love in my heart lined up with the willingness of my hands to care for her.
I felt certain, from the size of the melanoma, that it had spread. The doctors agreed that was likely. Yet, Mom wanted no tests or treatment to follow up after the surgery. She trusted God with her life. He had blessed her with longevity and health, and then spared her from enduring the recovery of a surgery that would likely have debilitated her and stolen her independence. He spared her from the suffering, frustration and decline the cancer would have brought her as it spread. Having seen that very thing, first hand, in my mother-in-law; I had already prayed God would not let my mama suffer in the same way.
I was told the accident happened so quickly, it was likely she didn’t know what happened. Her eyes closed in this world and opened in Paradise.
Thank you, Father, for the gift of my mama, and the gift of eternal life, which she is enjoying now. Your words are more than print on paper. They are hope and strength and peace, because they come from the Giver of Life, who is able to breathe them in to the hearts of those who want and need to listen.
When the nails pierce in your life, trust Jesus and lean on Him. Remember His love for you. Know that He felt the nails in your place, long before you were born.