We’re having lunch at Mother’s house today: home-grown tomato sandwiches, Silver Queen corn on the cob, and fresh tossed salad with a wrapped-up cucumber found left in her refrigerator. There is also a boiled egg she cooked recently, but Mom is not here. She is gone, left this life on July 28 just five days after her 96th birthday.
We (my sisters, brother and I) were together in June and had a high old time with Mother, eating out, making butter, playing Uno. In her boxy, blue l989 Dodge Spirit she drove herself to the July Christian Women meeting at The Gathering Place in Mt. Joy, went to the drive-through at her bank and wrote out checks to pay her bills. She attended the Metzler Reunion at Lititz Springs Park shortly before her birthday. A church bulletin in her Bible is dated July 20, 2014. Mom was even up to having lunch on July 23 with Nan Garber from church, who shares the same birthday week. But after that, she began feeling un-well, attributing her sickness to possible food poisoning. However, a pernicious bacteria was taking over her body, which no medical treatment could touch. Her death has stunned us all. We are in shock.
Yet we are grateful that after a long life of good health and sound mind, her suffering was brief though her influence eternal.
Indeed, the quality of her life was A+ up until the very end. Some snippets from her 3-day hospital stay:
Optimism: “We are having a sunny day today.”
Acceptance: “Whatever the good Lord wants for me . . . . I am ready to go.”
Wit: As she is moved from her hospital room to ICU she quips: “I want my glasses on, so I can see whether I’m going in the right direction.”
Gratitude: “It’s nice to have a loving family.” And finally . . .
Love: “I love you too!”
Among the songs sung at her funeral a cappella in 4-part harmony at Bossler Mennonite Church was “The Love of God,” a song she requested as she planned her memorial service years ago.
For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8: 38, 39
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Psychologists tell us grief involves several stages. According to the Kübler-Ross model, they include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance–eventually. These stages are not always experienced in linear fashion, and they are usually recursive, cycling through body, mind and spirit in relentless waves, unpredictable and strong.
But the death of a father or mother hits its own particular nerve in one’s psyche and heart as I observed traveling to see Mother for the very last time in this life:
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything,” notes C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed.
Jane Howard, in A Different Woman probes the pain inherent in one’s separation from a beloved friend, partner, father or mother:
The death of my mother made me feel like a deck of cards being shuffled by giant, unseen hands. Parents, however old they and we may grow to be, serve among other things to shield us from a sense of our doom. As long as they are around, we can avoid the facts of our mortality; we can still be innocent children. Something, some day will replace that innocence, maybe something more useful, but we cannot know what, or how soon, and while we wait, it hurts.
How about you?
Have you experienced loss, gradual or sudden? How have you adjusted to it?