Time to Say Good-Bye

by | Oct 14, 2013 | Grief | 11 comments

My sister and I dropped by the hospital to surprise our mother. The surprise was on us. Daddy had scheduled our previous visits. Now I understood why.

Before I entered Mama’s room, I heard her moaning. She was asleep and unaware others could hear her pain. My sister and I drove home in silence. The reality our mother would never come home smothered us.

Daddy wanted to postpone our sorrow. Yet as painful as it was to see her that way, knowing the ugly reality of Mama’s situation helped me release her. Until then I couldn’t let her go. That day I realized it was selfish to demand she live. It was time to say good-bye.

Last week my cousin called to say Aunt Jane was in hospice care. Jane is Mama’s younger sister and was a mother to me after Mama died. Eight years ago dementia began erasing her memories and left a sweet happy child in place of the capable woman I’d known.

Larry and I drove to DC to say good-bye. She peacefully rested most of the time. My cousin brought an old record player and played my aunt’s favorite 45s. Her foot tapped under the sheets. She still had rhythm! Her seven grandchildren encircled her. The love she’d given them now reflected back on her. Three were home from college, one from her mission stint in Guatemala.

Her middle school grandson said, “Give me the evil eye.” She scrunched her face and furrowed her brows.

A granddaughter said, “Smile, Mema.” She opened her eyes wide and smiled big.

She giggled at secrets and puckered her lips to exchange kisses. When I placed my hand on her cheek, she leaned into it as if to hug me. We reminded her of the funny jingles she’d sung to us as children. We laughed and cried with this woman who has loved, entertained, and kept us in line our whole lives.

James says life is a vapor. The older I get the truer that description becomes.

Losing a loved one is never easy. Mama died at forty-eight. Aunt Jane is eighty-four. Reversing their numbers hasn’t erased the sting of good-bye. But my temporary good-bye here is her permanent hello to heaven. In the blink of an eye we’ll join her.

Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am,” (Jn. 14:1-3, NLT).

Jane loved to explore new places. She took delight in beauty and God’s wondrous creation. Soon Jane will marvel at what Jesus has prepared just for her. I can hear now, “Virginia, would you look at that. I declare!”

What helps or has helped you when it’s the time to say good-bye? You can comment here.


Debbie Wilson

Deborah W. Wilson

Photo by: Moyan Brenn

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  1. Amy Nowak

    I write letters of how the person who has passed on affected my life: things they did or said, places we went to together, how they brought me joy. I’m going to do that again this week for my own friend who passed at 48. I anticipate sharing such fleeting moments of happiness with her parents. May God bring all who have lost a loved one peace.

    • Debbie

      That’s a beautiful idea, Amy. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  2. Ann Musico

    Beautifully expressed Deborah and I am sorry for your loss. I can so relate to what you shared about visiting your mom. My mother was only 64 and in the hospital only 3 weeks. I went to sit with her daily and this day I walked past her room thinking they’d moved her. She was in so much pain I didn’t recognize her! She gasped for breath (cancer that spread to her lungs) but told me she loved me and I got to do the same – she was gone the next morning. I don’t think I could’ve stood to watch her suffer that way any longer so as difficult as it was to lose her, I was grateful she was with the Lord and no longer in pain. It’s never easy – my grandmother was 90 – it wasn’t much easier – but knowing where they are compared to where they were is what helps me.

    • Debbie

      Ann, I agree. Once you see how much they are suffering you want them free from their pain and decaying body. I’m reading “In Light of Eternity” by Randy Alcorn. So full of hope for times like this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Gwen

    As much as we love someone, when we get to “taste” their pain, we know it is a blessing when God takes them home to rest. I felt totally frustrated when I could not get positive results from Mama’s doctor’s, the same network that had taken such good care of me! I finally realized the doctors were not in charge. I was not in charge. God had it all, and it was good.
    Stewart died suddenly at 52. We didn’t get to say goodbye, but believing that he is swinging his golf clubs in the “promised land”, gives me such peace.
    I know that Dad is still building roads and bridges in heaven. Those passages help me get where I am going everyday.
    By the grace of God, I find comfort in my journey, knowing these Angels are “alive” within me!

    • Debbie

      Gwen, a sudden death may be easier for the one dying, but there is something so sweet about saying good-bye. I’m thankful God has given you comfort in all your losses. My favorite author concerning things about heaven is Randy Alcorn. He uses Scripture to show we will be more at home in heaven than we have ever been here on earth. Jesus has prepared a place for us!

  4. Amy Carroll

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and beautiful words that reach deep into my heart. I love that you’ve given us both the permission to celebrate a life that’s transitioned as well as grieving the loss of presence.

    Big hugs to you during this season of sorrow.


    • Debbie

      Thank you, Amy. There certainly is both celebration and sorrow. Our loved one’s gain is our loss—for now.

  5. Marsha

    Debbie, I have been praying for you. I met you at Iron Sharpens Iron last Friday. As I shared there, I just went through this same thing with my mother one year ago, August 5th, she went home to be with the Lord of her life, Jesus, and with the love of her life, my father. What has eased my missing her is knowing that her fight is over and that she has now heard the words, “welcome home, my good and faithful servant.” Your aunt sounds much like my own mother and the journey we walked. My mother was 93. Thank you for sharing this, it brought even more healing to my soul.
    There will always be waves of mourning but it is through our knowledge that they are no longer suffering and that they are now whole, and through our being able to comfort others with the comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:3) I realize that God is able to work ALL things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28- my mother’s favorite verse)

    • Debbie

      Marsha, thank you for your prayers and for passing on the comfort you have received.

  6. mary gross

    Nice post. It is hard to write these things… thanks for sharing.

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