February 2nd is a hard day for me. She didn’t pass away for 12 more days, but the 2nd is the day I found out she wasn’t doing well, and didn’t have long.
For me, this day is actually harder than the day she passed away. I relive exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out… the confusion and shock followed by gut-wrenching sobs. Then the frantic gathering of my things- hair still wet, no make-up, no shoes, as I calmed myself just enough to press a quick kiss onto my then-three year old’s forehead before running out the door. I flew down Falls of Neuse Road, driving like a bat out of hell- weaving and passing in turn lanes and running lights. I was only six miles from Duke Raleigh Hospital, but it felt like an eternity getting there in the middle of lunch time traffic in Raleigh. My mom was dying.
I ran into the waiting room, and the front desk could tell by my face exactly who I was there to see. My sister appeared, her red nose and splotchy face giving away what her older sister brave face was trying to protect me from. I followed her to the back, and saw my mom curled in a ball on a gurney, her frail frame looking more like a 12 year old than a 61 year old. I curled up right next to her, getting as close as I could, tears soaking her pillow. Weak and barely able to speak, she quietly said, “Oh honey…”
Once my brother arrived, I excused myself. I couldn’t watch him fall apart, and I couldn’t watch her trying to comfort him. He was always the favorite… the bond between him and my mom was unmistakable. Just seeing her looking up at him was enough to drive a stake through your heart.
They moved her to a private room at the hospital, and the pain meds began to work. She was able to sit up, cuddle with her two grandbabies, and entertain an endless stream of visitors. She received a call from her nephew that his son had been born, named after her beloved grandfather. She faded in and out of sleep for two days, but managed to keep us laughing. My favorite story was when she went to the bathroom to “take a shower”, turned the water on, and suddenly we smelled cigarette smoke. I went and found the nurse, because what else do you do when your dying-but-stubborn mother lights up in the hospital?? The nurse looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said “Honey, she doesn’t have much longer. I ain’t about to tell her to stop now.” And I watched in amazement as the nurse knocked on the door and called out, “Ms. Marcia? You may want to put a few towels at the crack under the door so your shower steam doesn’t get out.” Followed by a surprised, “Thank you” from my mother. I swear she got away with everything.
Those two days were filled with friends and family, and visits from mom’s lawyer, signing the power of attorney papers, and making decisions about hospice care. We began the 12 days of saying goodbye and letting our sweet and stubborn mother go.
I was 26. I was too young to lose my mom. We had only just begun to heal from many painful years of estrangement. All of my teen years and the beginning of my twenties, I held on so tightly to the ways I felt she was wrong, and the things she did that I didn’t agree with. I wasn’t able to process them maturely and allow her to just be herself, agree to disagree, and not let it affect our relationship. Finally, after having my first baby, I realized how much I needed her. By the time I had my second, she had become my on-call doctor, my seasoned counselor, and my comedy relief. My love for my children showed me my mother’s fierce love for me and my siblings… and broke down my guarded walls as I realized that a mom can mess up, but still be a good mom.
I can’t get those lost years back. I wish I had known then, what I know now. That messing up and making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you human. I have wept in sorrow over my judgemental years and how the plank in my own eye caused me to miss out on so much. But like the good mom she was, she loved me when I loved her least. Once I let her back into my life, she never held how I handled things against me. She acted as though it had ever happened. Her ever-present love was the forgiveness I never knew I needed.
How about you? Are there lost years? Maybe not with your mom, but perhaps someone else? Dear one, you never know when you will get that call. I never expected my mom to die at 61- and she had had cancer for 17 months. I am forever grateful to the Lord for softening my heart so I could have those three short, but precious years before she died.
But we don’t always get those chances. Don’t wait for that person to apologize, or apologize the exact way you want. Often times when we dig our heels in and want God to move someone else, He is waiting on you to move. To first, get that plank out of your eye, and then move toward forgiveness and healing. You may never get an apology… but you don’t need one to offer forgiveness. Don’t let your bitterness and stubbornness eat you alive and steal your joy, and rob you of precious years.
Make the move. Today. The enemy doesn’t want you to. He wants you to stay comfortable in your misery and indignation, and remind you of all the ways you have been wronged that the other person needs to right. Don’t wait. If you do, it could be too late. I know it’s hard. Forgiveness is costly. It’s costs you your right to be the judge. When you have a hard time forgiving, look to the cross. It was costly for Christ. But He willingly was beaten and nailed to a cross, to die a sinner’s death that He didn’t deserve… all to bring you to God. You were worth it to Him.
If you believe that, and you have been forgiven of much… then you have the power to forgive much. The more you see what all you have been given grace for instead of punishment, the more you are able to extend grace to those who sin against you. If you are struggling, know that you can ask God to soften your heart. Forgiving doesn’t make what that person did okay. Forgiveness simply takes the burden of being the judgment-bearer off of you, and rightly places it on God.
Don’t lose one more minute. Whenever your February 2nd happens, you will be eternally grateful that God softened your heart.