My mom died.
I was with her, and I am so thankful. There are a million possible scenarios where that wouldn't have been the case, but God gave me that gift. It was one of many, many gifts God has given me over the course of the last few weeks; one of many whispers: I'm here. I love you. I'm making this all new. I Am.
I feel like I've received a whole new education in faith, life, loss and grace in the last few weeks as well. It's not a degree I wanted, but it's one I'm glad I have. There is, of course, still so much to process, so much to grieve.
I'm suddenly and painfully aware of all the life events and milestones that stretch out in front of me where she'll be missing. How does one do the next big thing? The next load of laundry, the next art project with the kids– I can do those things. She's not missing there. But what about family meals? Holidays? The birth of this little one?
I believe now more than ever that there will be grace for those moments, too. It still feels a little overwhelming, though.
I couldn't sleep last night, so I picked up my phone and found a voice mail my mom left me on my birthday. Sometimes it pays off to never erase your voicemail. :-) I lay in the dark with the phone up to my ear and listened to it over and over and cried. It was just so good to hear her voice.
As I sat with her in the moments after she died, with my dad and my brothers and my aunts, I was truly shocked to realize that literally the moment she died, she didn't even look like herself anymore. I leaned in closer and wondered if, in another circumstance like an accidental death, if I had to identify this body, would I even be able to tell if it was my mom? She actually looked that different to me. It was just so obvious that she was no longer there.
And I thought about something that I read at least 10 years ago. At that time, I read this paragraph in a book and it stopped me cold. I thought it was one of the most accurate description of my mother I had ever read. Long before she had cancer. Long before I knew she was dying. Just in the midst of her 'normal' life. I came home after she died this week and found the dusty book on my shelf and found that paragraph and read it again. This was the woman I called Mother:
"Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these. Often you will feel very, very small, because increasingly the God of the Bible will become to you wonderfully great. So go on reading it until you can read it no longer, and then you will not need the Bible any more, because when your eyes close for the last time in death, and never again read the Word of God in Scripture you will open them to the Word of God in the flesh, that same Jesus of the Bible whom you have known for so long, standing before you to take you forever to His eternal home."
- Geoffrey Thomas, Reading the Bible.