None of us realized Ma had been ill for about three years before serious signs of the cancer were detected.
We hadn’t realized, either, that Christmas of 1991 would be our last all together on the earth. Ma used to say that my earthly father called her “everything but a child of God” during his caustic tirades; my own ears bore witness to that truth many times. So, for that holiday I remember purchasing a sweatshirt for my mother upon which, in white capital letters, was inscribed the words, “CHILD OF GOD”. It was a singular delight for me to see the bright smile roll over her face as she held up the garment on Christmas morning, read the inscription on it, and made the connection. My mother’s smile was beautiful.
The first three months of the new year, 1992, were pretty rocky and it only increased. Ma thought she had a bad chest cold because, most of the time, she was zapped of energy and couldn’t breathe. It was the cancer, and neither of us realized. I went along working and coming home until one day my cognizance of the issue’s gravity was deepened by a simple, cheerful, declaration from her. Beaming with accomplishment, she said, “I was able to mop my bedroom floor today!” And she was genuinely glad.
Now, it may seem simple, but my mother was one of the “old school” women who cleaned their floors every few days with lye and kept every window sparkling and fed their families with four-star meals from the local grocer and made confectionery miracles from scratch. No kidding. So, for her to make an announcement out of simply being able to mop her bedroom floor that day let me know her energy levels weren’t just unusually low – they were dangerously so. After that, and a few more days of struggling to breathe without taking cold pills – finally, we went to the emergency room.
She was diagnosed with acute anemia and admitted to the hospital immediately for further tests. It was then she began telling me of how she’d been losing blood in huge amounts, “like pieces of liver”, she said. Then I realized – before the doctors pulled me aside later in the week she was there – that she was very seriously ill.
My mom admitted to my nephew and I that she was “tired” and “through fighting”; I truly believe she’d decided to let the illness take its course. After all, she knew where she was going, and she’d shared with us that God had told her He’d release her from this life if at any time she truly desired it. She did.
After one week the hospital released her, and I’m glad they did. Within that week my mother conferred the blessing of God to my nephew and I, just as the patriarchs did in the Holy Bible. For the last time on earth, she walked the ground she had tilled and nourished with her own heart and hands since acquiring it in 1954… land she’d fasted and prayed over, and upon which she’d raised her family.
She gathered us around her as she sat in a lawn chair in our front yard one evening, and she said, “I love you kids; you have stuck by me. You have my blessing.” She gently took our hands and conferred the blessing… Holy Spirit let me know what was going on. The lump in my throat was so filled with tears, in answer I could only say to her, “well, we love you, too.”
I didn’t want my mother to die… but deep down I knew she would. At the same time, there was nothing in me that begrudged her even a single second of eternity in Heaven – of greeting with love and JOY the God Who had kept her through every circumstance, dilemma, and trial… the God to Whom she was “faithful, unto death.”
I wanted to do the right thing and let her go, while desperately praying that she would stay. It was one of the most emotionally traumatizing times of my young life… but our God was still there.
Lord willing, on the Oct. 7 post, her journey ends.