Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We made it

We made it. Ticked off every single one of the “firsts” in this maiden year of grief after my mom died. We miss her terribly but it does feel good to have cleared this hurdle. It was such an honor for us to have been at her side at the end of her life. It is something I had always hoped I’d get to be there for, I just never wanted to experience it so soon. Ours was a long goodbye since we lost parts of her for several years before she passed. But in the end it really was a beautiful final farewell. I have never been more aware of the presence of God and His profound, touchable, eternal love than I was at the end of her life. It was nothing short of sacred.

We were so glad that her fight was over. The disease that gnarled up her neuro-transmitters and all of our pathways to her for so many years was gone for good. For a second there death had no sting. We reveled in the unmistakable presence of God Himself. We nearly felt her spirit brush past us as she was led into the place she had sung about the whole of her life. Every inch of the room felt full with the company of angels guiding her home. I didn’t see anything, I didn’t hear anything, but I absolutely, most assuredly, felt something in the very marrow of my bones. The presence of holiness. Without plan or fabrication, I let out a little yelp and lifted my hands to the ceiling and said, “Praise God! She is home. Your servant is home!” I went on to speak directly to her while looking up at the chandelier in the dining room of my childhood home, “Mom, if you can see us, we’re all here. We love you and we’re so proud of you. You fought so hard. You lived so well. Go and rest. We’ll be there soon.” If I live to be one hundred and ten (and I hope I don’t because, mercy) I pray I won’t ever forget what that felt like—when heaven came to earth. But then there we were left behind without her. My dad, alone for the first time in 56 years. My sister, brother, and I like tiny kids in the department store lost without a mother.

I helped to plan for her funeral and delivered a eulogy and flew back to my home and family. Suddenly the daily routines, appointments and obligations seemed pointless and sort of mean. Life moving on as before seemed irreverent somehow when what I really wanted was for everything to just stop so I could numb out and stare off into the sky. Sometimes I did. I stared up into the glinty sun through the leafy trees and just had my mind blown. I mean how in the world was it possible that the woman who gave me life no longer had hers. Just how was this supposed to work? I truly could not grasp how the most constant presence – the most constant life I had known every single day of my life had been snuffed out. Though well-meaning friends told me “You’ll always have your mother,” the fact remained that she was unreachable and gone, as she had been in many ways for such a long time. I knew that, though she loved us all, even if given the choice, she wouldn’t come back to her life here if she could.

I was glad to know she wasn’t hurting anymore and had not a single ailment. I knew that her mind and clarity was restored, her body glorified. Oh, and her memory, it was hers again — no need for Memory Care when you’re dancing on gold streets with Jesus. Why would you ever look back then anyway? Living in the moment must come pretty easily in paradise. All of those pictures of her fully restored made me so thankful. But that wasn’t always enough to motivate me to keep moving along the path of life on this broken earth.

I let myself ache. Sometimes the hurt came from nowhere and seemed disconnected to her in a way. In truth I was grieving not only her life as it was but what her life could have been. Honestly, I grieved a good plenty for what my life could have been had I been given a mother (and my daughters a grandmother) fully alive and present through all of the seasons. Though the pain was sometimes raw and hard, I knew that feeling all of it meant that I was breathing in the riches parts of life. Experiencing depth of sentiment is the very best of it and where the authentic livelihood happens – where I always want to be.

In time I came to see that even when it hurt I could still reach out and reclaim the glory I had experienced at the end of her life. That undeniable presence of holy that I had felt — I learned that it’s mine for the taking every.single.day. I had only first noticed it when I was on vigil, quiet, waiting for the end of a life. But it was there all the time in the land of the living. I just had to quiet myself and seek out His company to experience it again and doing so breathed new life into me.

Now I take time to be with God and it’s profoundly different from the “Quiet Times” I used to check off my to-do list while my mind was often somewhere else. I seek Him out and talk to Him and I stop and listen without saying a word. I see now that He’s not like a father, He is the Father. His love is parent gold standard. He nurtures me in a profoundly intimate way that I never knew was possible before the loss of one of my earthly parents. I wish I’d have gone to Him for this kind of love sooner. He could have filled in a lot of gaps along the way. He’s so quick to give love and such a steady faithful gem of a Father God. I just never knew how to hang out with Him like this before. Maybe I never thought I needed to. But if this is the silver lining I was looking for beyond the trees into the shimmering sun, I’ll take it all day long.

Grief steals. We know this. It only shows up when something is lost or taken from us but the sweet surprise is that it can also give some awfully precious gifts. This loss gave me a newfound appreciation for God’s presence in the brevity of my life. I drink deeply of the best of life now. I sense the holy not only in my time hanging out with God but also in the smell of Ainsley’s tousled and sun-drenched hair, her sticky kisses, Emerson’s hilarious wit and laughter, Dirk “getting me” — these I sip and appreciate as precious gifts from my very good Father. I always knew He was there and loved me and sent His son so I could have abundant life (this side of heaven too) but I never really lived in the luxury of it. Now I can’t do anything other than treasure the divine moments masquerading as everyday events. My eyes have been opened and I am, at long last, fully alive.

This is perhaps the best and last gift my mom ever gave to me — the pathway to abundant living. As long as I have breath in these lungs I’m going to do enough living for the two of us. While she’s hanging out with Jesus face-to-face, I’ll be hanging out with Him right here. One day I’ll join the big party with her but I’m not going to wait until then to celebrate.

“The glory of God is best seen in a woman fully alive.” Lynn Hybels If: Austin 2015

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