Though I now know Ma had suffered painfully long before dying, the time between her being admitted to the hospital and actually passing over was only two weeks – probably the longest of her life and definitely the longest of mine.
The second week she was transferred to Albany Medical Center and, during the ambulance ride there, she could only breathe freely if I kept my fingers pressed into a certain spot on her back, because her lungs were filling with fluid. So, for the 90-minute trip from the hospital to the Medical Center, I held my fingers there and recited from the Psalms to keep her calm. My nephew followed the ambulance in my car, and he told me we traveled at speeds of 90 mph at times; I’d never been in an ambulance before.
Ma’s lungs continued filling with fluid and had to be drained when we arrived. It was a horrible experience for her; she was slowly dying, and we all knew it. I remember how the fluid drained from her lungs leaked onto the floor behind us as she was wheeled from testing room to testing room that day. PET scans and CAT scans and scans I couldn’t even pronounce abounded. I felt like I was wheeling her through Hell, and neither of us could breathe or fix it.
During the last 36 hours of her life, I didn’t sleep; the desire just left me. My only thoughts were of her, and I know many of you can relate to that. I was experiencing things during that frozen timeframe I had only read about or seen depicted on TV. To say the least, it was surreal.
“Just Another Day…”
A very clear, positive memory of the day she died was when they were catheterizing her to drain her bladder because of her failing kidneys. In the middle of it all, with doctors all around us, as she lay on a rickety gurney, she began singing amid abbreviated gropes for breath…
“This is just another day the Lord has kept me. This is just another day the Lord has kept me. He has kept me on this journey with my mind stayed right on Him. This is just another day the Lord has kept me.”
The physicians were stunned. I was stunned. But, thank God, before she finished the chorus I joined her in song. I held her hand while my throat filled with tears, and we sang together for the last time on earth.
My mother’s bravery in the midst of that unthinkable situation staggered me. I’d never seen such a thing. I believe when death approaches the Godly, they have no fear; they only think of Jesus and begin seeing Him. They’re filled with gratitude far surpassing pain when they take the Lord’s hand to depart.
Before the end, I told her it was all right with us if she let go and went on to Heaven. She didn’t verbally respond to me; she only looked at me as if for one of the last times. Ma was so wise and loving. I’ve never known anyone like her.
“… to die is gain.”
About 30 minutes later, my nephew and I stayed behind as she was wheeled to an operating room where doctors hoped to better locate the path of the cancer, and the last thing I said to her was, “we’ll be right here.”
At 6:30 that evening, Ma went to Heaven and left my nephew Reuben and I indelibly benefited, blessed, saddened, and changed. The Lord honored His word to her that He would release her whenever she truly desired, regardless of the work left here for her to do. It was her decision in the end and, as I’ve said, I could not bring myself even to approach begrudging her one instant of Abba’s rest and reward.
Her departure made thoughts of Heaven all the sweeter for me, and our God was faithful through the end.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15)