It was six years ago. I spent the late afternoon/early evening hours of December 15 next to Mom’s ICU hospital bed talking with her. She was concerned about “where we were going to have Christmas.” I remember suggesting to her we’d “have it right here,” gesturing with my hand as if I was showcasing her room. I talked about bringing in a small Christmas tree and we’d have our family celebrate Christmas all together in that small room. I remember picturing what that sight might look like, and what joy it would bring her to have all of her children and grandchildren with her on such a special day.
We always celebrated Christmas Day together–Mom, Dad, Marty, Steve, Pat and I–and as our families grew with spouses and children, we continued that tradition. Mom would make her annual amazing Christmas meal, we’d open presents–one at a time–and we’d enjoy time together as a family. I loved it each year!
The hospital ICU floor was a very familiar place to our family, as Mom had spent a good part of that fall in it after her cardiac arrest in June. This time she was back in the hospital after her cardiologist updated her pacemaker and she aspirated during the procedure the Monday after Thanksgiving. She was so ill as this “septic” poison filled her body.
I could tell Mom was getting more and more tired as we talked that afternoon/evening. Toward the end of our conversation, I remember her clearly saying, “I just want to close my eyes and let what’s supposed to happen, happen.” I twinge of pain flew through my body with her words. I wasn’t exactly sure what those words meant, but I saw for the first time that she was tired of fighting for her life, and I thought that maybe God was preparing her to take her home. She had never said anything like this before to me. God gave me the next words as tears filled my eyes. “I know. Just close your eyes and rest. Everything is going to be okay.” I prayed with her before I left. And told her how much I loved her.
Ever since I was a child, I would tell Mom and Dad I loved them before leaving their presence, as I always wanted that to be the last thing I said to them in case something happened to either one of us while we were apart. I realize most people don’t think of such things, but I did. And still do that today with my family.
That’s the last time I ever had a conversation with Mom, and the last time I saw her alive. I’m glad I told her I loved her.
She passed away the next morning, as I was on my way to the hospital.
I have carried that last conversation with Mom in my heart these last six years. It has been so precious to me. God has encouraged me with it since I wasn’t there the morning she died. I’ve experience a lot of guilt about that, but with His help, I’ve been able to accept the fact that I wasn’t supposed to be there. That conversation was to be the last one I was to have with her. It was God-ordained and God-appointed. And I’m thankful.
We buried Mom’s body four days later on December 20. Those days were a blur. I was numb. Tears were plenty. Even though I knew how sick Mom was, nothing could have prepared me for the void left in my life with her gone. I rejoiced in the fact that I knew she was with Jesus, but the pain in losing her seemed almost unbearable.
I don’t remember much of those days, but the thing that stands out in my mind now is how the funeral procession took an indirect route from the church to the cemetery to drive by Mom and Dad’s home. That touching act almost seemed to take my breath away as I held Bill’s hand in the car we were riding in. I remember thinking how different it would be to walk back in my childhood home for the first time without Mom being there.
I clung to Jesus in my emptiness. My encouragement and hope came from God’s Word. Especially John 14:1-4… “Do not let your hearts be troubled.B)’> in God;D)’> to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come backF)’> You know the way to the place where I am going.”
My heart was broken that Christmas. I cried through most of it that year…Christmas Eve driving through nearby towns looking at Christmas lights and stopping to get hot chocolate at a local gas station, opening presents Christmas morning with Bill, Ali and Zach, and sporadically throughout the day as this was the first Christmas Day ever that wasn’t spent with Mom. Christmas took on new meaning for me that year through my grief. I thanked God all the more for the gift of His precious Son, who was part God and part man. Because of Jesus’ birth, and through His death and resurrection, I had then, and have today, eternal hope to see Mom and Dad again some day soon. I can’t tell you enough how I long for that day.
I know my story pales in comparison to how the families are experiencing broken hearts this Christmas after Friday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Undoubtedly, everyone has been affected in that community, and even throughout our country. I can’t even begin to imagine what the families who have lost their precious loved ones are going through. And I can’t imagine what the families whose loved ones were spared are experiencing either.
My broken heart at Christmas 2006 slowly found healing through Jesus. My heart has really never been the same since losing both Mom and Dad, and neither will the hearts of the affected Connecticut families. In God’s perfect plan for mankind, we were never supposed to experience death. But mankind messed up God’s perfect plan. Ever since the death that took place in Adam and Eve in the Garden, a void has remained.
I don’t want to come across as saying flippantly, “Just accept Jesus and all will be fine,” because that’s not my intent. The only way we can get through such heartbreaking times and hold on to any hope is through the promise of Jesus. He’s our only hope in this life, especially as we are taken through tragic circumstances in it. He says He will never leave us, nor forsake us. And He won’t. I’m can testify to that.
I am joining you in prayer today for our fellow men, women and children affected by this act of evil. I pray for God to bring good somehow from all of this. I pray those who don’t know Jesus will begin a relationship with Him through this. And I pray for us who aren’t directly affected. May we have a renewed and rekindled love for each other, for our families, and for what Christmas is really all about this year.
If you’re dealing with a broken heart this Christmas, I don’t think you’re not alone. Please know I’m praying for you as well.
Your fellow earthly sojourner,
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