As some of you know, the Lord escorted my mother out of this world last week, and introduced her to that place He had gone to prepare for her so long ago. Reflecting on that event, and what that whole process means unleashed a stampede of random memories and thoughts, but there were one or two that seemed worth sharing.
I remember standing at her bedside one evening, just looking down at Mom’s little frame. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was kind of shallow. Others had stepped out for some reason, and for a few minutes there were just the two of us in the small hospital room. It was one of those ‘frozen in time’ moments, silent except for the muffled sound of the air blowing through the heater vent. She was so small and frail now, so weak, so isolated, and in the world’s value system, altogether irrelevant. Seeing her like this was such a contrast, and more than that, such a blatant contradiction of the vibrant, capable, strong, creative, and energetic woman who brought me into the world so many years ago, and who had fought her way past more obstacles and endured more crises than I could ever recount. I thought about where her journey had come to in these recent months, and how long and dark it had become. I stood there groping for some profound thing to say, some deeply moving insight to grab onto that would be worthy of the implications of this scene. All the most basic and vital realities of life and faith were unfolding before me, and at that moment, I had nothing. The only thought that stuck its head through the rubble right then was an irritating, out of place, clichéd adage. ‘It’s always darkest just before the dawn.’ “Well,” I thought, “It’s certainly dark enough, and has been for a long time, but I don’t see much of a dawn right now.”
In my younger days, we weren’t ‘church people’, at least not in the usual, evangelical, ‘Bible Belt’ connotation of the term. We went to church on special occasions a few times a year, but weren’t members, and I wasn’t a Sunday School kid by any stretch of the imagination. That wasn’t noticeably bothersome to any of us, though, because not fitting the cultural patterns around us was not an uncommon characteristic for our family. After all, we were considered to be ‘Yankees’, maybe even ‘Carpetbaggers’. We had immigrated to southern Virginia from Ohio, so we weren’t expected to blend in but so well in the tight-knit little country town. The fact that I did happen to be born there didn’t seem to help much, because what they called my ‘northern’ accent couldn’t be hidden, but in spite of our outsider status regarding church participation, the grace of God found Mom anyway.
At some point before I reached that age where girls somehow cease to be quite so disgusting, Mom began to listen to a radio preacher named Oliver B. Greene. His broadcast came on at some early hour, and it was Mom’s ‘wake-up’ system. She’d begin her day by lying there in the bed listening to him declare the love of God, and how she could have eternal life through faith in Christ. One morning, after hearing another of his daily appeals, she knelt beside her bed and gave her heart and life to the One who had given His for her. Mom was different after that. She didn’t suddenly become perfect, as all of us who had intimate contact with her can attest, and she didn’t become ‘weirdly religious’, but the faith she extended to Jesus Christ that day remained an indelible part of who she was from that time onward.
That single event in her life took precedence over everything now. Seeing her like she was that evening so close to the end was an object lesson in values that I wish I had seen more clearly earlier in my life, and one that I wish I had applied more consistently throughout my life. Normal values had lost their appeal now. After a lifetime of struggling to acquire enough of it to get by, money offered no help for Mom anymore. She never had a lot of it, and in her early years, had been through financial hardships with her family that were commonplace during the aftermath of the ‘great depression’. But it wouldn’t matter to her right now if she could swap bank accounts with Bill Gates—not that I wouldn’t have approved of the transaction. Public accolades offered her nothing, either.
If she had the power to draw a crowd that would make Donald Trump jealous, it would mean nothing. The frail little person lying before me had lost personal control over almost everything. Dementia had taken away her capacity to make any significant decision. Age and disease had ravaged her physically and made her totally dependent for even the most basic care. The only thing left that Mom had absolute, unchallenged, and unassailable ownership of was the promise she received from the lips of her risen Savior while kneeling beside another bed so many decades earlier. Age and disease might have taken control of her mind and body, but it couldn’t take away her promise. Legal documents might have stripped her of the right to make important decisions, but they couldn’t strip her of that promise. Every value system that the world had to offer was failing her right now, but her promise couldn’t be touched by their collapse. As I looked down through the tears and frustration of having nothing to offer her, I realized again that I wasn’t the only one in the room looking down on her. The One who met with her in that other bedroom years ago was here, too. At that meeting, Mom wasn’t destitute, but she relinquished everything to have Him. Now, when everything else was really gone, she was still His. The One who gave that promise to Mom back then, said quietly, but with absolute authority, “I’ve got this. It’s only dark a little longer. Then the dawn that’s coming is like none she’s ever seen. Your mom’s going to wake to the brightest morning ever.”
© 2016 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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