“Sissy, she’s gone.” It was my sister’s voice on the cell phone. I stood in a Hampton Inn Hotel room outside Dallas, Texas. Joanie and I had just talked moments before. Our mother’s hospice nurse had called to say her breathing had just changed and it would be good to come to her side. They thought death might be short hours away. My family had been by her bedside the night before and had gone home to get some rest, believing there was more time before Mother would breathe her last.
God had other plans.
In my sister’s first call, we prayed together as she quickly dressed to drive to Hospice House where Mother lay dying. We believe she died while we were praying. That would have been like her. She loved prayer.
Dying alone without family may have been like her too. When I realized she’d died without her children around her, I couldn’t help but think of all the times when her mental illness had taken her away from us. Depression would lead to isolation and sometimes our mother would disappear — not physically, but mentally. She would just slip away from us. No words or touch would reconnect her to us.
It was in those times I had to remember that although her brain was broken, her spirit was not. She loved Jesus with a love that overflowed on her good days. On those days if you asked her how she was she would respond “It’s a super-dooper-booper Jesus Day!” A bit much perhaps, but my mother loved Jesus. And Jesus loved her.
So He made her heart His home and lived her in the body even when it became more frail as her brain became more broken. As her body shrank, so did her personality, but never her personhood — that remained fixed in Christ Jesus. She belonged to Him and He belonged to her. Inside the body where mental illness had taken its toll, her spirit was whole and Jesus lived there within her in unity and peace.
So when she was in a bad season and we couldn’t seem to break through, I reminded myself that Jesus was taking care of her on the inside where likewise, we could not go. It was a place where it was just the two of them — my mother and her Kind Savior Jesus.
On Tuesday morning at 5:45 am in Bend, Oregon, it was once again, just the two of them. Family was on the way to be by her side when Jesus reached out for her hand and said (something like), “Donie, it’s time now. You have loved me through tumult and torment and I have chosen this moment to take you to myself. Your mansion is ready. Take my hand, dear child. Walk with Me. The way is short and glory waits.” And the two of them, the old woman and her Jesus, walked into heaven hand-in-hand.
She’s gone, my mother. And when I see her again someday she will be a woman I have never met. She’ll be free and well and whole and peaceful. And my mother will be truly beautiful as the light of Christ’s presence casts its stunning rays across her lovely countenance. If one can be proud in heaven, I suspect that in that moment I will be proud she was my Mother.
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.