On the subject of death and dying…

Over these past few weeks, I’ve kept silent about what my mother is going through, using only this blog and a few close family members as outlets for the thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind that I can’t even put words to. This is so difficult, watching someone I love dearly dealing with everything that comes with the end of life and there’s literally nothing I can do. I have said everything that can be said, and hopefully put a bit of closure on old arguments and such. But when I called Mom this past Friday, we talked for over two hours. I recorded the call because something told me that this might be the last ‘coherent’ conversation we might have.

We talked about funeral arrangements and other difficult subjects. Mom seemed to take it with her usual aplomb and matter-of-fact attitude. We didn’t cry this time, like we did a few weeks before, when she told me she was dying. An odd sense of calm has overtaken me, and when the conversation turned to God and Jesus Christ, she told me a Lutheran hymn she always liked was “Beautiful Saviour.” She told me that God has always been there for us and for her, even when she didn’t think He was really there. Mom is a die-hard Democrat (read: Socialist) and a self-professed agnostic. I was a skeptic, too, until a few years ago when cancer came along and flipped my world upside down.

Facing one’s own death tends to make you consider things you’d left unthought-of for years. Unfortunately, too many people wait until they’re looking at death before they even consider Jesus Christ. I wish I hadn’t been so stupid and turned to Him years ago. My life would have been drastically different. But, better late than never, I suppose.

I don’t know about any conversations Mom might have had with God in Jesus Christ over the last several days, but that’s between her and the Lord. I did feel the calmness settle over me when she told me this, though. My biggest concern over the last year or so has been talking to my family about finding Jesus and calling out for Him. I’ve discussed it for hours with my daughter, but she is still caught in the World right now and not listening. Mom is at least listening now. When I’d brought up the subject before, she’d shut me down instantly, telling me she didn’t want to hear any “holy roller crap.” I’m glad that she is now at least thinking about it. I never had a chance to ask my father where he stood on belief in Jesus, but a pastor who spent a few moments with him a couple of days before he died assured me that Dad was going to heaven and that he professed belief in Jesus Christ.

Dad died suddenly, about 25 years ago. Even though he had cancer, he had undergone some surgery to repair his larynx after some radiation treatments burned a hole through it, Mom was sitting with him when the shunt they’d put in suddenly came loose when he coughed. Blood filled his lungs immediately and he died within seconds. Mom always said she couldn’t forget the sight of that, telling me that she’d been crying and petting Dad’s hair when the medical staff came in. Death is hard, especially when it shows up unexpectedly.

I don’t know how I might have dealt with Mom and her bout with cancer, as well as all the stuff she’s going through right now without Jesus in my life. I would be freaking out right now, constantly crying and probably losing it. Granted, she’s still here right now and that might change when she’s gone, but for now, I am calm. I keep the tears away and a feeling of peace comes over me because I know this life isn’t the end. Dad’s death wrecked me – bad. I stayed drunk for 6 months solid after his death. I won’t let that happen this time. I feel the peace because Mom talked to me about her belief in God the Father and in Jesus, which set me at ease. She’s not dumb, and even though I didn’t come straight out and say, “Do you believe in Jesus,” she knew I was headed there. We’ve had conversations and she knows I’m a Christian.

A Christian is supposed to repent as well as call out for Jesus, and I’m not privy to that information with Mom, either. I pray that she has. She has talked to me about our past arguments and we’ve put a lot of old grudges to rest. I apologized for being a bratty kid and a rotten teenager, and apologized for everything else I’d done. I worded it just like that. On one hand, I’m glad that God in the Holy Spirit has given me the chance to talk about these things with Mom.

Death and dying is difficult, but if you believe in Jesus Christ, repent for your sins, atone (apologize) when possible and get to know the Word, there is a much greater existence beyond this world awaiting you.

I wish I could communicate this to people, but it never comes out right. When you try to think of everything you want to say to someone you love who is soon going to be gone forever and nothing comes to mind is the strangest feeling. It’s like being punched in the gut with an overwhelming amount of love and sadness. When I don’t know what to do with it all, I give it to God.

God the Father is Love, defined. Jesus is Life. The Holy Spirit is wisdom and comfort. All you have to do is ask, out loud, call for Jesus to come to you. Set aside everything you know or ever thought you knew, and believe in Him. Jesus will be there for you.

– Jillian


Featured image: artwork by Phil Koch



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