The hospital cafeteria coffee was rank. We didn't eat anything because none of us could. Finally, after about 20 minutes, someone sighed and we all stood in unison. It had been an intense week; one we hadn't been expecting. As the elevator carried us up to the 3rd floor of the hospital, my brothers, their wives and I tried to shake off the sadness and weariness of the week, knowing that more was to come. When we stepped off the elevator and looked toward her room, we saw a nurse was barring the way. With tears in her eyes she shook her head. We knew mom was gone. One of my brothers muttered something like, "The little stinker. She was proud and independent right up to the end. She wouldn't even let her kids hold her hand as she died."
We all went into mom's room and could tell immediately the nurse wasn't mistaken. One by one each of us went up to mom....someone touched her now cold cheek. Another one of us kissed her forehead. I think I uselessly pulled the blanket up to cover her shoulders. We silently said our goodbyes to our mom and left the room.
As I drove through town on my way home, I was shocked to see everyone going about, business as usual. I wanted to stop my car in the middle of the road and stand in the street and yell, "HEY! Someone has just died! A person has left the planet! Can't you feel it? Didn't you feel her spirit leave this earth? Stop for just a minute and think about that. Show her some respect!" I somehow managed to keep driving-Maybe somewhere in my grief I knew I'd end up in a padded cell if I followed my heart in this instance.
That evening, as my mom's body was finding it's way to the hospital morgue or the funeral home or wherever bodies are taken when they're empty, my brothers, sisters-in-law, husband and myself gathered to grieve. We had a wonderful, bittersweet evening. We shared stories about mom's life...memories she'd given us.... and things we were going to miss about her. We laughed until we cried. Some of her skeletons came out of her closet and danced in the light, no longer needing to stay hidden. She'd had a long, eventful, rich, hard life. At her memorial service my nephew said, "Granny was weathered."
Later in the week my one sister-in-law and I went to mom's apartment to sort through her stuff and move "mom" out. She'd been living in a senior citizen apartment building and there was a waiting list for any apartments that were empty. We weren't allowed time to grieve in peace. We sorted through everything she had. Her clothes, her dishes, her books and pictures. Houseplants, food, and make-up. Everything that makes life comfortable and everything that makes even a tiny apartment feel like home. As we worked, it struck me-mom had lived 71 years. She'd had a not-so-easy childhood. A not-so-easy marriage that had ended in divorce. She'd lost a son. She was dead. All this "stuff" was meaningless. Just a pile of belongings that either ended up in other peoples' homes or Goodwill. We just pile our treasures around us and then others are left to sort through it all when we go. What's the point? What is really truly the point of piling it all up here? We won't be Here long.
In the weeks that followed I found questions that needed answers. Where was mom now? Where exactly is heaven? Is it here, around us but invisible? Is it billions of miles away tucked into a corner of the Galaxy? What did it feel like for mom as her spirit left her body? What was she doing now? How long did it take to get from here to Jesus' feet?
Something else happened to me as well. Something that's really hard to explain. As the weeks unfolded my relationship with Jesus changed. It was like I was here but in His actual presence at the same time. I became aware of everything I said and everything I did and my motives for everything in a new way. I saw how un-like Jesus I truly am. My sin was so obvious to me. It sounds so strange but I spent entire days like I was just sitting at Jesus' feet. I talked to Him all day long like He was attached to me-my Siamese twin. I know I lived in repentance. Sin was so incredibly easy to see and so impossible to ignore. Every breath was a prayer. It was an awesome and amazing tiny taste of what it must be like to finally be done with this earth and live with Jesus. I could almost audibly hear His voice loving on me throughout the days. I felt weightless. I saw that all the things I stress about are just plain stupid. There IS a much bigger picture going on if only we could see it. For the first time in my life that verse that talks about us being strangers and aliens here, visitors if you will, hit home in a very real way. This is truly just a passing through place and there's somewhere so wonderful, so indescribable, so full of love and light and joy just waiting for anyone who loves Jesus.
This incredible experience lasted a long time. I'm not sure how long-I think it was a couple months. But then one morning I remembered I was a wife, and a mom. "Lord, I don't know how to do this anymore. It is sooooo hard to live in two places at once. I don't know how to be a wife and mom and live this closely in your presence. The boys and Mike need me to be "here" for them and I haven't been....."
All of a sudden I deflated like a balloon that's been pricked. I don't know how else to describe it. I could feel myself coming back to earth. I was still with Jesus, but it was different. Not clear and beautiful like it'd been.
I now have more questions. Why did I "deflate"? Can we live in 2 places at once like that? How can we live here on earth being parents, employees, aunts, uncles etc. and live "outside" the relationships and stresses around us? Are we meant to? Was that the way He wanted me to spend the rest of my life here or was that just a sweet gift to help me get the big picture? Did I choose to "deflate" or was that supposed to be what is was? A temporary experience.
Whatever it was, I'm so thankful for it......