It has been a year and a half since my mother-in-law went home to the Lord. During the last ten years of her life, Thelma suffered from the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease with tremors and memory loss. When she approached the end stage of her disease, it was sometimes difficult for her to settle into her bed for the rest offered by nighttime hours.
In those times, she took great comfort in having her caretaker, or one of her family members, read to her from the well-worn Bible she kept at her bedside. She was fond of a certain devotional magazine as well. Reading from that, along with Scripture, afforded Thelma opportunity to discuss applications of God’s word in her life and, sometimes, in ours.
One Saturday a few weeks prior to her death, Keith and I visited Thelma in her Oklahoma home. The visits with her were always sweet. But this time with her was made even sweeter by the presence our great-niece, and Thelma’s great granddaughter, Abigail.
For this particular night’s devotional time, Thelma (or Mom as I called her) asked those family members present to be at her bedside and take turns reading parts of the Scripture and devotional message. My sister-in-law Deana, my husband Keith, Abigail, and I formed a circle around her bed. We held hands, and did as she requested. At the beginning of the reading, she seemed restless and agitated.
The Scripture verse said, “In the Lord’s hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being” (Job 12:10 NRSV).
After we read that verse, and the accompanying devotional reflection, Thelma seemed to release her anxiety, accept His reassurance, and rest in the promise, as she allowed herself to be anointed by God’s great comfort. It wasn’t hard to see that her gaze bestowed love on each family member as we took our turn reading. And as I looked at her sweet face, I realized Thelma knew she was gazing upon some of us for the last time on this side of the Kingdom. At the conclusion of the reading, she was so relaxed, we thought she had gone to sleep.
Then she raised her hands out in front of her. I noticed that her hands were without the tremors that had plagued her over the last decade. She opened her eyes and said, “God, bless my family near and far. Please be with each one, and keep them safe.” Only after invoking God’s favor for her loved ones, did she drift into sleep.
I was standing next to my great-niece and I whispered, “Child, be here in the moment. Do not allow your mind to wander. Be present and hold this memory forever. You have received a blessing from the matriarch of our family. There are few things as precious as what you have been part of tonight. Be in this moment, child, be bathed by it, and hold it forever.”
On January 2, 2014, Thelma stepped over the threshold of human life and into the light and love of her eternal home. At her funeral, the family requested this same Scripture verse be read. I sat between my husband and my sister-in-law, and we held hands. I reflected on that night and the beautiful presence of a woman who believed that indeed God is in charge of giving, sustaining, and taking life. My mind’s eye could once again see the look of peace on her face as she remembered who is in charge and that He can always be trusted in the affairs of our living, and our dying.
While Pastor Sharon read the words at the memorial service, I thanked God for the night, and moment, when we stood around the bed of our precious family elder to receive the blessing.
Then I whispered, “Thank you, Mom, for one of the most meaningful memories I will ever hold. Good-bye for now. Bless your journey, dearest lady.”
Copyright January, 2014
Lakewood, CO 80401
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