Children grow up and leave home, and then on occasions return home. “Going home” may involve a trip to the place we’ve known since childhood, a gathering of family for a holiday in a place where part of our family now resides, or the inevitable journey to be with a dying loved one.
I have in the past shared the story of my parents and their illnesses, as well as the struggles of my Mom, who was stricken with Alzheimer’s some years ago. In the most recent blog about visiting my dying mother I wrote of Mom’s fervent wish, stated after the death of Dad, her husband of 53 years, that she wanted to “go home.” My brother at first thought she meant she wanted to return to his house from the nursing home where we had finally determined to place her. But she corrected him and informed him that he wasn’t listening to her – she wanted to go home, to the home prepared for her by Jesus.
Mom has now gone home. We were told the weekend before last that she probably did not have much time left. My brothers and sister and I gathered with her and remained with her round the clock during her final days. This past Wednesday in the late evening we were at her bedside, and it was obvious she would not survive the night.
Though we were never sure if she could hear or understand us, we told her how much we loved her, we thanked her for her great love for us, and we prayed – commending her soul to our God and asking God to send his angels to carry her to eternal rest. At the conclusion of that prayer she lingered for a few moments, she took one final breath, and she made that final journey to the arms of her Savior. Mom is free from the struggles that attended her later years of life; she suffers no more.
We feel loss, of course, even though we have known for years this day would come. The cessation of her heartbeat is a reminder to us that, for this time, our mother is with us no more. But the death of her physical body serves as a reminder that we will be together again, we who are in Christ, and that these dying bodies will be raised in the last day by the resurrected Lord.
One of the sweet nurses, one of the many dear souls who have attended so wonderfully to our mother, reminded us that such confidence is well-founded because Christ is risen from the dead. As she said that, I realized how the truth of the cross and resurrection never gets old, it never fails to matter. It is for us today the hope of all hopes.
So I have journeyed home for the last time to see my mother. And she has journeyed home this final time to meet her Savior. And I will remember from now on that every journey “home” – whether to a place, or for a holiday, or for another death – is a reminder of that final journey.
You lived well, Mom. You loved us and cared for us in a manner that reminded us daily of Christ and the gospel. And because your life is hidden with Christ in God, you have entered your rest. Requiescat in pace.