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Finding joy while saying 'goodbye'

While the rising summer sun chased away night’s darkest hours, my somber privilege was to be holding my mother’s soft, swollen hand as she left the painful confines of a body wracked with cancer for a glorious, luminous eternity.

Our quiet final hours together were a unique blessing for me – although I knew Jesus would be with her as she walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I had desperately wanted to be there for her too. I was called to this purpose during the last few weeks – I felt it deeply in my spirit and in the depths of my gut. It became the burden of my heart, and although I took the human steps necessary to travel from Virginia to her bedside in Florida, it was the undeniable guidance of the Holy Spirit that caused me to be holding her, loving her, praying with her and encouraging her when her spirit wriggled free from the feeble body that ultimately failed in its attempts to hold her captive.

God called her in His perfect timing. I was not privy to His voice, or to her thoughts, nor their conversation. It was Mom and the Deity, and perhaps a legion or two of angels that must have danced and twirled and then flown to that place of perfect peace and abiding love.

For each one of us, those encounters are private and remain a mystery to the rest of the world. While I caressed her arms, then placed my hand over her heart and felt the weakening beat; while I sponged her forehead, kissed her cheek and leaned over the bed to cuddle against her shoulder; while I sang and prayed and read the Scriptures – all the while I knew there was another, unseen realm of activity around her that provided more hope, more joy, more warmth and fulfillment than is humanly possible.

Assuredly Mom is now in Heaven – and I think I’ve had a little taste of it, because she always did her best to make our home a bit of “Heaven on earth.”

While cleaning out her dresser yesterday, I found a letter I had written to Mom when I was a new mother. It best describes the wonderful person that was Alice Faye Redd:

Dear Mom,

To be the mother of two toddlers is a tremendous honor and offers great joy! But it also brings the sobering realization that I am responsible for two little lives and that every word I speak and every move I make can influence those precious boys for good or for bad. Although I’m quite certain I will make many mistakes as a mom, I know I have an edge because I have you for a teacher.

To many women, the word “mom” invokes great fear of the future, or perhaps emptiness and sadness of the past. To me, the word “mom” brings happy memories filled with warmth, and love, and smiles, and security – all of these thoughts are reflections of you!! Thank you, Mom, for a childhood made of frilly dresses, and Sunday School, and birthday parties, and Camp Fire Girls, and good food, and magical Christmas mornings. But most of all, thank you, Mom, for a childhood filled with you. Thank you for always making me feel secure; thank you for always making me feel important and special; and thank you for teaching me that with hard work and God’s help, I can reach for the stars and actually touch them!

As a little girl, to have you as my mommy was to have a protector and a helper; as a teenager, to have you as my mom was to have a true friend and an encourager; and as a woman, to have you as my mother is to have a living example and perfect model of a modern day Proverbs 31 woman. Thank you, Mom, for the very special and priceless gift of showing me throughout my life what it means to be a Godly woman.

My life’s ambition is to follow in your footsteps, to smile your smile, and to clone your manner. I love you, Mom, and on this Mother’s Day, 1990, as a tribute to you – the greatest mom of all time – I pledge to strive to bless my children the way you have blessed me. With all the lessons you have provided, and with your prayers and God’s guidance, I believe I can succeed. And when my boys are grown and have happy little children of their own, we will all recognize and be thankful that our lives are beautiful and rich because of your faithfulness to God, and your many personal sacrifices and generous gifts of love.

Your greatest admirer,