Monday, January 2, 2017

Mother's Memorial Service

     Today was New Years Day, 2017. There's something exciting about the start of a new year - sort of like a big, huge, fresh start to life - a chance to do things over, to start again and do it better.

     Two years ago, my sisters, my daughter and I had a front row seat to the ultimate New Years Day.
In the early morning hours of January 1, 2015, we were with my Mother as she quietly took her last breath here on earth.  It was such a peaceful transition for her, and as we stood around her bed, I often wondered what our eyes could not see and our ears could not hear as she was welcomed to her eternal home.  Our vigil was over. We had been nestled in this warm little cacoon of sorts, never leaving our Mother's side, and now it was time to step out into the world. Plans had to be made. People had to be called. Whether we were ready for it or not, life went on.

     One of the things we discussed during our days of waiting was the memorial service.  My sister Karen had asked Mom months earlier if she had anything in place should something like this happen.  Mom refused to go into much detail or answer any specific questions, but she assured my sister that when we needed that information, we would find it.  Well, we went back to her apartment and guess what we never found?  So, we planned a service for her the best we could.  Over the years she had told us her favorite Bible verse and what song she wanted sung. The pastor came over and we all sat down and gave him the best instructions we could, but it sure would have been nice to find and know her specific desires for this important occasion. He left, we were sorting through some of her things, and you guessed it...we found a little planning guide where she put down all of her preferences.  And you know what?  We weren't too far off!  I did see a space for the Eulogy and she wrote "Joyce - Karen - Nancy if possible."  I told my sisters that I would be willing to speak. I had two days to prepare, but nothing came to me. It was the night before the funeral, and I still didn't have anything prepared. Unable to sleep, I went out to Mom's kitchen table and took another look at her planning guide.  I turned to the page that listed her favorite verses and saw one that I had not noticed before. Psalm 34:5 "Those who look to Him are radiant..."   That was it! I knew what I was going to say.
                                                                                  
     
     The whole time Mom was in the hospital and in hospice, she was on her back and my sisters and I noticed something that started to happen. It was as if lying in that on position was taking all her wrinkles from her face and just ironing them away. No kidding!  She looked so beautiful and serene and her skin was....radiant, just like the verse from Psalm 34. And as if to confirm this, so many people at the funeral home said the same thing.  There was no doubt about it. She looked simply radiant!  So all I had to write about was the many ways I had witnessed first hand my Mom having to look to the Lord and rely on Him, especially in the years since my Dad had passed away. Through the struggles of aging hands and legs, she remained tenacious and strong-willed. So often when I wanted to help, she said, "No, I must do this myself!" I shared with her friends how the Holland Home was more than willing to send a wheelchair over and give her a ride to the beauty shop. She enjoyed that little luxury a few times, but once she felt she could walk on her own, she did it on her own. and believe me when I tell you, it was quite a hike to that beauty shop! But she knew it was the only way she would build and maintain her strength. 

     And she was classy. She told me, "Before breakfast, I like to have on my lipstick and earrings."
And she did. Every morning.  One day I asked her if she thought I looked ok just to quickly run out to pick up something from Family Fare. I didn't have any makeup on. She looked at me and said, "Well, I always try to look my best!" She set high standards for herself and for others. And as a result, she kept a clean home...a home where the floors, the closets, the refrigerator, and the stove could all pass a cleaning inspection any day of the week. Also, she was an exceptional cook.  Her leftovers tasted better than most regular meals. Whatever she did, she did her best. Even in her golden years, she rarely sat down. She could always find work to do!

     I then told her friends about her last day. About how much her birthday party meant to her. How much she loved seeing and hearing from each of them on that day, and how she went to bed that evening with a heart so full of love and contentment and peace.

     And finally, I shared the words to a hymn that she loved and that she had hoped we would sing at her service.  She even had made a copy of it and placed it in her planning guide. But since we didn't find the guide in time, this song was not sung. I concluded my little talk with words from that hymn:

                         Be still, my soul, the hour is hastening on
                         When we shall be forever with the Lord.
                         When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
                         Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
                         Be still my soul, when change and tears are past,
                         All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

     That was the most important legacy my Mother left to each of us - the understanding that yes, life is difficult, full of disappointment and pain. But we are promised that those who look to Him for help will be radiant. Joy will be restored. Loved ones will meet again, all because of Christ!

    
    

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