Let me start off by wishing all the Moms a Happy Mother’s Day!!
As part of the “25 Days of Thankfulness” series I shared with you about my Mom’s stroke in 2010 called ★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★, and what a walking miracle she was. On April 18, 2016 my Mom was found on the floor by the nursing staff at the assisted living facility she was at and rushed to the hospital. Within an hour of being admitted of the hospital, the CT scan determined that she had an even larger stroke the second time around. This time though it was on the other side of the brain which left no possibility of recovery, and 24 hours after being admitted to the emergency room my Mom lost her battle and passed away at 8 am on Tuesday morning. On Thursday night after the wake, my wife and I went back to my sister’s house. As I sat down at my mom’s desk in my sister’s house, (a desk that has been around longer than I have been alive,) I thought to myself, what is the one thing that I would want to share with you about this incredible woman? Would it be her work ethic? Her money management skills? Or her amazing ability to make anyone feel at home? All of which were true, but I think what I learned most from my mom is about living out a lasting legacy (click here to read more.) She taught us the value of family and about being a person of integrity; two values that I strive to embody myself and pass-on to my daughters. I would not be the man I am without her tireless efforts to model the right way to live.
I also gleamed the importance of perseverance. The stroke that happened in 2010 was a catastrophic event that had forever changed ALL our lives. But long before that fateful December 23rd, my mom endured many other hardships. She did not have an easy life to say the least. From the time I was 5 years old, she was a divorcee, raising 3 children at a time when that was such a stigma. It was like wearing a scarlet letter. In spite of it, she taught us that regardless of circumstances to always be generous, loving and self-sacrificial. One of the most tangible ways she expressed this was at Christmastime, which was always magical, and done on a single parent’s income! Thinking back on it now, as a father myself, it is amazing how she was able to rub 2 nickels together to create a quarter. Though we struggled financially, somehow she was able to give us the perfect Christmas year after year. We had great traditions from the Advent calendar to the prime rib dinner to the eggnog toast…and always with Christmas music playing in the background, from Bing Crosby to Johnny Mathis to Brenda Lee. Just thinking of it I am catapulted back in time…Music has a funny way of doing that.
As my sister and I went through our Mom’s room at the assisted living facility, many emotions were stirred up. Here is a picture that my daughter made for her Grandma years ago to encourage her along the path of recovery from the first stroke from Psalm 23:1-6:
This verse is very dear to me. I read this the day I was baptized (April 11, 1999) which I was reminded of when I sat in the very church in which I had made my profession of faith 17 years early watching others commit their lives to Jesus. Finding this picture with that verse was a tangible expression of God’s presence amidst the pain and sorrow of the moment which made our task of gathering pictures and an outfit for the wake bearable. I also saw a ton of music there including that John Mathis Christmas CD that we would listen to every year. I realized that my love of music also stems from Mom. For those who know me well, I always have music playing whether it be in the house, car or wherever I go with my iPhone. And I have a song for any occasion…Including the last weekend I spent with my Mom starting when I flew in on Friday April 15, 2016. Many people know that date because it is the filing deadline for U.S. federal income tax returns for individuals but it was also the 9 year anniversary of my family and I moving to Texas, a coincidence that was not lost on me when I realized it on the plane. I went back to NJ to try and help out because over these past few weeks Mom’s health had diminished considerably. Friday was a great day because it was a long 2 months of going from the hospital to the rehab facility my Mom was overjoyed to be moving back to familiar surroundings at the assisted living facility.
Over the next two days my sister, brother and I spent precious moments sitting in the courtyard as God blessed us with two glorious days of sunshine and the opportunity to express our love to her. As we sat there, I of course had worship music playing for her. One song that she really liked was called “Abba,” which in Aramaic is a word derived from baby-language and is translated to mean “Daddy.” I often shared things with Mom from what I was reading in the Bible or what I learned from the sermon on the previous Sunday when we had our weekly phone calls. As we sat in that courtyard and the sun warmed our faces, there was a gentle breeze as this lyric of the song played,
“Abba, I belong to you.”
I told Mom that God is her Daddy and He cares for her so deeply that He sent Jesus to die for her so that she could spend all eternity with Him. And just as the song said, she belonged to Him. Little did I know just a few days later she would be with her Daddy in heaven! Romans 8:18-21 (NLT) speaks about “The Future Glory” we have to look forward to:
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
What a beautiful promise! Something to know about our family is that if one of us is hurt we all rally together at the hospital. It was not any different on Monday night (4/18/16), after a long day of waiting for the inevitable; my Mom had 12 people in her room at 10 pm sharing stories about the impact she had on them. It was brought up how I was visiting for Christmas in 2010 when she had the first stroke and how fortunate that was. And now 5-1/2 years later I am here for the second stroke…the room was silent for a half a second then all of sudden someone said that maybe we shouldn’t invite me here anymore…hahaha! But my being in NJ both times has nothing to do with coincidence, but rather a loving father in heaven! Our Daddy cares so deeply for each and every one of us. I love what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:28: God orchestrated that in the two darkest moments in our family’s life, I was not 1,500 miles away in Texas, but just minutes away in NJ. Words cannot express how thankful I am, that if this had to happen, I was here to be a support to the family. Romans 8:38-39 (NLT),
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love!” I mentioned that I learned all about perseverance from Mom and that was because she was a fighter! Not only for her family to stay close or for her kids to grow up to be people of integrity, but also how she fought after having a massive stroke. She defied the doctors back in 2010 who said she may not live, or that she may not speak again, or that she many never use the right side of her body. Adversity after adversity she overcame and persevered! My Mom was a living testimony of the faithfulness of God, a walking miracle! I am so proud of her and was thankful that though her life was changed after the stroke, I had my Mom for another 5-1/2 years in which our relationship deepened far greater than it ever would have because we talked about matters of faith and the importance of standing on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ. During this time period I saw how God was her hope and anchor amidst the storms and how He carried her through the many hardships. My Mom had this plague hanging on the wall called “Footprints,” which we had on the memorial card given out at the wake. I shared this quote with Mom a while ago from a good friend of mine which I will close with:
“We don’t know very much about eternity, but we do know that for the Christian, whatever our emotional and physical struggles are now, they will cease then. Heaven’s delights will far outweigh earth’s distresses.” Leo Primero
As Romans 8:38 said, “Nothing can ever separate us from the love” of our Daddy in heaven. And I will add to that with Revelation 21:4 (ESV) which says,
“He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
I take great comfort that my Mom is enjoying Heaven’s delights and is now free from the pain and suffering that she endured in this life. Our loss is Heaven’s gain! In my Mom’s final moments, she had here 3 children at her bedside and we sang along with a favorite song of her’s from John Denver called “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” As the conclusion of the song, my Mom took her final breath and Jesus took her home to heaven. She is finally at rest with her Heavenly Father after having that fateful second and fatal stroke. Mom, thank for showing me how to live a lasting legacy and for making me the man who I am. I owe everything to you and you will be dearly missed. Know that your efforts were not in vain and generations to come will benefit from your love, dedication and faith in Jesus. Rest in peace Mom. I love you!
Happy Mother’s Day!!
If you would like to hear that “Take Me Home Country Roads.”