We Are All Dying

We are all dying. This may not be apparent to everyone; it may not be apparent about everyone. It is, however, very apparent that my mother is dying. Beyond the toll of some 77 years on this earth, her body lies ravaged by decades of rheumatoid arthritis and her mind has been taken from us by the cruelty we call Alzheimer’s. Mom stayed with us as long as she could. She fought to stay healthy enough to remain my father’s faithful companion. But upon his death she quickly deteriorated. Her body is wasting away, and it has been some time since she has spoken or recognized anyone, including any of her four children or dozen grandchildren.

I went to see Mom this weekend. I sat with her, and told her about my children, and about what is happening in life. I told her about things mundane and sublime. I talk for a living, yet I had a hard time keeping the one-sided conversation going at times. Mom never was a conversationalist, but I told her that this was just ridiculous (one has to keep a sense of humor about such things). At those moments when I couldn’t think of anything else to say, I would pray for her, or sing to her one of her favorite songs. Mom never once opened her eyes during my visit – they say it has been over a month since she has done so. I have no idea if she even knew I was there. And if she knew someone was there, I am quite certain that she had no idea it was her son, the youngest of her four children.

My visits to see Mom are too infrequent, I confess, so I don’t want to suggest that my journey was anything noble. That honor goes to my brother, Rick, and his wife Amy, who have looked after Mom for the last few years. They cared for Mom and my Dad, until he passed to his rest, and they struggled through the decision to place Mom in a home where she could receive the care she needs. Quite simply, they have done all that could be done, and then more. They have honored my mother in this, and pleased our Lord.

There are many things I recalled this weekend. Many memories passed through my mind. Occasions of laughter and joy, of difficulty and sadness. Sitting next to a perishing body reminds one of mortality, of the effects of the fall, and of the inevitability of death. The sounds and smells of decay are sobering. In those environs one remembers that our days are numbered.

Earlier today, I explained to my mother that I had to go, that my visit was over. I told her that I loved her, and I thanked her for caring for her baby boy. And I prayed for her that she would receive the gift she told us she longed for over two years ago, not long after Dad died – to go home. To that eternal home where her Savior awaits her. And as I left her, I was reminded – no “reminded” is too thin a word – I was compelled to ensure that I make the most of the days I have on this earth. We should all recall this from time to time. Yes, we are all dying. We are born toward dying. We are dusty, misty people, as Psalm 90 puts it, and we will do well to number our days.

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  1. Heath Thomas   •  

    Thanks for the honesty and transparency of this post. I am moved (no compelled) to make the most of my days on earth as well, and await with you and our loved ones creation’s renewal in Christ.

    With confident hope,
    Heath Thomas

  2. Pam Stephens   •  


    Wow!!!! As I sat here and read your beautiful words I wept. You reminded me to let my loved ones know that I love them and tell them that every day. It is very clear that we need to cherish every day that we have together. I want you to know that I love you and miss you and can’t wait to see you in July at the wedding.

    Love you……Pam

  3. Kim Humphrey   •  

    Dr. Nelson,
    Thank you for sharing your heart and soul in this most intimate way with your mother. It is a sobering (yet beautiful) reminder that our days are numbered and not to take then forgranted….we have much to do for the Kingdom of God!

  4. Linley   •  

    Good word.

  5. Hannah   •  

    Love you daddy.

  6. Stacy   •  

    Dr. Nelson,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and emotions towards your mother with Alzheimer’s. I work with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home and I’ve always asked myself how the family members must feel as they visit their loved ones who no longer know who they are. It is eye opening to hear your thoughts from a loved one’s perspective. Being around those with Alzheimer’s is definitely is one of the best ways to be reminded of how short and precious life really is.

  7. Pingback: All things new…one day « Long Obedience

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