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.
Deborah W. Wilson
Photo by: Moyan Brenn