(Today is the first anniversary of my Mother’s death. I have officially been an earth orphan for one year. I thought I would share with you what I shared with our church last year as part of our Thanksgiving service.)
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5)
Good morning…I’m Blake Rymer. As some of you know I just buried my Mom last Thursday. We had a beautiful memorial service…all the grandkids had something to contribute and it was a beautiful day as well. Of course we only buried her body.
As she struggled this past week, it seemed as though her body knew that its end was near and it was desperately clinging to her soul, refusing to release her from that fallen, imperfect state in which you and I still live. The passing of the physical body is the last tenuous hold that death has on the sons and daughters of God. Death has been defeated by Jesus Christ, but it doesn’t always let go so easily. I am thankful that Mom has crossed that final threshold into God’s presence.
But today, still so close to that reality, I must confess I have some ambivalent thoughts and feelings about it all. I rejoice that she is no longer suffering in the dying experience… I hope and pray that she is totally overwhelmed with the glory of life in the hereafter… I grieve that I cannot enjoy her loving smile now when I walk into her home… And I wonder how long it will take for life to settle in to the new normal that awaits us without Mom’s physical presence to bless our lives…
Ross and Steven asked me to share some of what I have learned through this experience, but I really think it’s a kind of soon to know much of that just yet. However a couple of things came to mind….some things I wrote about as I spent time with Mom last week.
The first one has to do with control or really lack of it. My brother, Mike, and I spent some good time together as we sought to plan a way through all this for Mom – the insurance, the finances, the hospitals, the rehab – but in the end it just didn’t go the way we planned. Oh it was good planning, it just wasn’t informed by everything that God knew, if you know what I mean. It was linked to doctors and hospitals and antibiotics and such, and ultimately, to Mom’s will to keep a survival attitude and work at it. And Sandra and I had planned to be in Poland till Nov. 15th. But because of Mom’s illness we had to return early on Nov. 3rd.
I posted this on FB just three days before Mom passed on… “This journey I am on with my ailing Mother is driving home to me an important truth – we are not in control. At times we do not realize that and make presumptuous choices that grow out of a deceptive sense of comfort. Reality then has a way of bringing us back to our senses. I’m learning that the locus of control over my life must be positioned in the living God. I can then rest in Him and know a peace that isn’t always comfortable but is certainly calming and liberating.”
Perhaps I got caught up in trying to help Mom live and wanting her to get better, which certainly aren’t bad things to want. But it is ultimately about what God wants…it’s about his plan. We really don’t have much control over the way things go and when we realize that, it can take our stress level up sky high. So I had to surrender, I had to let go.
As is evident from the Romans 5 passage above, God has his plan. Often suffering and even death are his plan for us and for our parents as he grows us and releases his character in us. Understandably, we don’t like either one of those suffering and death options much. In Christ we see how suffering can be redemptive and build character. And in Mom’s case we also see how death can be a glorious deliverance from that suffering. And for now those are actually things I have peace about and for which I am thankful.
The other thing I want to share concerns hope. Again the Romans 5 passage offers insight. It tells us that Hope is the fruit of God’s character building process in our lives. I shared this as part of Mother’s eulogy on Thursday: “She was a woman of hope. I think that hope is one of those words that truly benefits from a vital relationship with Christ. As we grow in Him, hope is transformed from a shallow misty desire into what the writer of Hebrews calls an anchor for the soul. Our confidence in Christ becomes stronger and stronger as we walk faithfully with Him. It becomes more and more substantial so as to hold us firmly in Christ.
This was the hope I saw in Mom as she went through all that she faced these past four months. Those last few days of desperately trying to get a satisfying breathe of air in her lungs challenged her greatly. It challenged me! She faced some strong winds and powerful waves but that hope in life eternal, that anchor held her soul firm. Through it all she presented her needs toward Christ. Her hope had been made firm by her life of dependence on Him.”
Honestly, there were moments when my heart told me to intervene somehow, as though I was in control. Or to question God’s grace and the wisdom of his timing. Time after time I saw Mom put her hope in Christ. I pray that I will not forget this experience with Mom and the way she demonstrated to me that her walk with Christ had transformed her hope from an “I want” to an “it will come.”
Finally I’m thankful for the ministry of Hospice of North Alabama. They were there only near the very end of Mom’s journey. But the encouragement they offered me and the comfort they provided for Mom was truly a Godsend. And I want to thank you, our (Rivertree) church family. We were so blessed by all the prayers that you sent up for us and by all the encouraging words you sent our way. You truly helped lighten this burden for us all.
So while we won’t have Mom to add her love and cornbread dressing this year we do have a great deal to be thankful for!