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My mother died last night at 9:22 PM ET. Because of the divine mercy of God and His kind providence, I was at her bedside as she exited this life.
My brother emailed me a week ago to let me know things were turning for the worse. We cleared our calendar, planning to spend this week with her. She lives 135 miles away in North Carolina. My hometown.
We arrived Wednesday evening and settled in, while curious about the Lord’s plans for the next few days. The day before we arrived, Hospice gave her 72 hours to live. Her breathing was calm, and she was resting. She could hear us, but could not respond to us.
She was 74 years old.
I stayed up all night to watch her so her husband, my step-father, could work his third-shift job. He has been an amazing picture of the gospel (Mark 10:45) to her since she had her stroke 16 months earlier and began the downward decline (2 Corinthians 4:16).
During our second night of waiting, her breathing turned to gurgling and discomfort. We placed some morphine under her tongue and an eye drop solution into her eyes, which was to mitigate the fluid buildup in her chest.
It was the fluid buildup that was causing the problem. There was nothing the doctors could do. It reminded me of water rising over a drowning victim, while family and friends stood by and watched.
It was surreal.
Around 8:30 PM, I called my stepfather and asked him to come home. He was at his job. It appeared to be the end.
I didn’t know at the time, but it was the end. Mother was holding on just long enough to see her husband one last time.
Once she saw him, and he expressed his love to her through many tears, she quietly exited our presence. She went home. She landed in her Savior’s arms. It was a quiet passing as we all were singing “Amazing Grace.”
Many of you have written emails and sent notes through our social media sites. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. You are amazing. It has been a joy to serve you through our work, and it has been even more joy to be served by you during this time.
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14).
Perchance you are wondering why I am writing about my mother’s death, it is because I’m a Christian. She is a Christian too. We both believe in God, and we both believe this life is not all there is to living. There is an afterlife (Hebrews 11:9-10).
Mom made it. Praise God. She is there. The sad news is that everyone will not experience her victory, which is why I am writing. It is an obituary, in a way. It is a testimony. It is an appeal for all of us to think about our lives, our deaths, and our destinies.
My mother loved Jesus in the end, and the clarity in which she communicated her affection for the Savior was encouraging and faith-filling for a son who knows “What think ye of the Christ” is the most important thought a person can have (Matthew 22:42).
And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life (Judges 16:30).
The story says Samson accomplished more in his death than in his life. By his death, the enemy had their greatest defeat. His story is a precursor of the gospel–the biggest victory known to man came through an unexpected death (Mark 8:31-33).
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In many ways, my mother lived a tragic life. She was born to an abusive father, who had uncontrolled anger. Looking for love, she married my dad as a 15-year-old teenager.
After her marriage, she and my dad went back to their respective parents and did not tell anyone of their wedding. Once the news finally broke, they reunited and set a course for their new life together–a life they hoped would be different from their angry fathers.
My mother reminds me of me. She reminds me of some of you. She reminds me of a thousand people I’ve counseled who left home and family, hoping to find a better life, but similar disappointments and dysfunctions confronted her.
My dad was 18 years old when he married Mom. Two lost souls in a cursed world, which was about to devour them both (1 Peter 5:8). He bought his first beer at twenty-one and became a full-on angry and abusive drunk shortly after that.
He died 21 years later, which did not make Mother’s life any better. All she ever wanted was to be loved and protected by someone, but the people she chose to give her what she desired abused her.
Though her beauty was her strength, it was her greatest weakness. My mother was a beautiful woman, but without the moral compass of Christ to guide her, she was left like a wave of the sea, tossed to and fro by people who cared little for her, body or soul (James 1:6).
She had five boys by the time she was 22 years old. Imagine that. Five naughty boys and a drunk and abusive husband. She jumped straight from the frying pan of her father’s anger to the fire of her marriage and family.
It was a miracle of grace that the Lord would impose Himself into her life, to rescue her from something that she could never escape. There are thousands of you reading this article who have been in or are in similar ruts.
My mother is representative of all of us. Abused by people, she made bad choices, and she lived with horrible consequences.
The Lord did not forget. He remembered mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).
Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine (1 Samuel 17:40).
Before David killed Goliath, he went down to the brook and chose five smooth stones. There were thousands of stones in that river bed from which he could have chosen. David elected five of them.
My mother was a rolling stone in a dry river bed. She was one lost soul among many, with no hope of ever being rescued.
In His time He chose her to be His own.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
In love, he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6).
Our great God who is rich in mercy wanted to do for her what she could not do for herself (Ephesians 2:1-9). He heard her cry and redeemed her from a horrible pit.
He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:1-3).
Mother seemed never to get what she wanted. How many of us have received the life we dreamed or hoped to gain? What she did receive was far better than what she ever imagined.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).
My mother is like a lot of people I counsel each week. They come to me battered and bruised because of people, life, and circumstances that are beyond their control (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). They are hurting souls. They live lives of quiet desperation.
Some of them, like Mom, find Jesus. Pain is swallowed up in the victory. Disappointment is confounded. A new life begins. They learn to laugh. That was my mom–she laughed a lot. I credit her with my dry and somewhat odd humor.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
The Lord told me a long time ago I would not get everything I wanted in life, but what I would get would far surpass all of my terrestrial longings and disappointments, which is the main lesson my mother learned, and the main thing she would want you to know now.
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).
Mom had a lot of hurts, but she was not confused. In the beginning, she sought treasure on earth (Matthew 6:19). In the end, she found treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20). She chose to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:19).
If Mom could talk to you now, here are a few things she would want you to know. The foremost is, “It’s worth it all.” No matter what you may be going through, to see and know Jesus will swallow up all sorrow, all disappointment, and all fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
You will not get everything you want in life, but if you have Jesus, what you will get will blow your mind, while making the things of earth pale in comparison to the victory you have in the Lord.
She would also appeal to you to not wait to the end of your life to mend broken relationships. Biting and devouring each other is no way to live (Galatians 5:15). Let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts (Colossians 3:15). Choose today to be regret-free in your future.
If you’re like my mom, you have received a raw deal. We all have received raw deals: by one man sin entered our world, and because of his act, death passed upon all of us, making all of us sinful (Romans 3:23, 5:12).
Getting a raw deal does not make you unique. It makes you a human. The bad things that happen to you are not the most important things in your life. What happens between you and Jesus is of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The real and most important question for you is, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42 and John 14:6)? If mom could stand on her rooftop today, she would shout this one message:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:16-18).
It was hard, wasn’t it? You received some of life’s harshest blows. But because of the divine mercy of God, you were picked by the King. My prayer is for this, your final message to go forth in the hope that many hurting people will come to know Jesus.
I write this to you.
Rest well. Hug Jesus. And let Paul know that I’ve got questions. See you soon.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).