Archive | July 2014

Reflections on my mother’s death

Mom with Ella on July 4, 2013 On Sunday afternoon, July 13, 2014, while my mother was lying in a hospital bed in her home under Hospice care, I read to her Langston Hughes’ poem, Heaven:

Heaven is
The place where
Happiness is
And birds sing—
As does
To each stone,
Stone answers back,
“Well! And you?”

Within minutes after reading that poem, while my wife and I were on opposite sides of her bed, holding her hands, she breathed her last breath and was taken home by Christ to that “place where happiness is everywhere.”

She had been looking forward to going home to heaven, and I am happy for her. But I am deeply saddened to lose for the rest of my earthly life the person who continually told me how much she loved me, who was always complimenting me and affirming me, and whom I knew would love me no matter what I did or didn’t do.

I am extremely grateful for her constant encouragement and her abundant affirmations of love. It is a wonderful thing to grow up knowing you are loved. (She told me many, many times that I was “the light of her life and the joy of her heart.”) It is a source of comfort and hope and strength and joy to know that there is a person who will always love you—no matter what!

I am grateful for the visible model of love that was alive in her. I have compassion toward others, and I extend mercy and sensitivity toward others, and I bear with others and forgive others, and I give people a second chance, and I hope for the best in others because I received these things from her and saw them exhibited in her toward others.

I am and always will be deeply grateful for the love I received from her throughout my life!

Yet I am aware of a couple of problems that have developed in my life. It is not that there was a problem with my mother’s love. It is that the devil and the brokenness of fallen, sinful human nature have a tendency to twist and distort and mangle all that is good.

Here are a couple of problems in me that I am aware of that are connected to my mother’s wonderful love:
1: I so greatly admired my mom’s good qualities that I idolized her. What I mean by that is that I took some of her beautiful qualities too far, without recognizing the need for healthy balance. My mom would make accommodations and would give in to others to make peace. Such a quality is good…in moderation, but I do it to a fault. I so fear disappointing others that I give in or accommodate when I shouldn’t. Along with that, I don’t express my needs. In fact, I have become so used to ignoring my needs for the sake of caring for others that I’m often not even aware of my needs. (Wow! What is this going to do to me as I go through the grieving process?)

2: My mom loved me unconditionally, but the qualities she affirmed in me left me feeling like I must keep them going, that others will not like me like my mother does if I cannot show those qualities to others. If someone is not as happy with me as my mother was, then I end up feeling like I am letting them down, and I must try harder to impress them with the desired qualities. Earlier in this blog I quoted Dr. Larry Crabb’s words from his book, The PAPA Prayer. When I read these words I saw myself in them:
“Loved kids figure out what keeps their parents loving them and then parade their virtues…. As adults…they become pastors, missionaries, good people who display their goodness for all to see. We all do it, in a thousand different ways. We all find a way to calm our fears, to pass ourselves off as someone whom others will want or someone whom others might find no reason to reject.” (p. 128-129)

I will deeply miss my mom’s constant affirmations of her love for me. I so easily end up feeling the burden of trying to please or satisfy others. I will miss the assurance that there is one person in my life who will always love me—no matter what!

But I guess that my mom’s promotion to heaven provides me with the opportunity to face more fully the difference between accepting love from God and from people rather than trying to earn approval. I hope that I can love people more freely—not with a need to earn their approval but as the outflowing of love that has been poured into my life. And if it is now a love that does not become hung up on pleasing others then I might be able to attend to my own needs too and thus actually be better equipped and prepared to care for others. (I kind of think that’s what my mom would want for me.)