Daddy didn’t know when he awoke that cold January morning that it was going to be his last day on earth. He just knew that the water pipe leading to the kitchen sink was frozen and needed to be thawed out so the sink would be usable. He made his normal hot cup of tea and ate some breakfast, got dressed, and put on his work boots. He hurried outside and opened the cellar door which led down some steep cement steps to the basement to begin working on thawing the frozen pipes.
Once Dad got things going in the basement he did what he did every day for the past twenty years, he walked the three blocks to the post office to fetch the day’s mail. He spoke a friendly “Good Morning” to each person he met and held the door open for someone as they hurried into the post office arms filled with packages. He hurried home to drink another cup of tea and back to work on thawing the water pipes. He was careful about the frozen ice in front of the cellar door and was back and forth between the basement and the kitchen several times.
Mom began to cook lunch and waited for her husband of sixty-six and a half years to come back from the basement. She had visited with him between his frequent trips to the basement and heard him banging on the pipes. This had been an ongoing problem every winter and her beloved always got the water running again. She began to worry as lunch was ready and he was not coming when she called. In fact she began to worry because she realized that she hadn’t heard him banging or yelling for her to try the water for some time now. She grabbed her sweater and hurried out to the cellar door to see if he needed any help.
He did. He had apparently fallen down the stairs and was lying in a fetal position at the foot of the basement stairs. She knew she couldn’t get down there to help him although she desperately wanted to so she ran to the phone and call 911. He died later at the hospital and never regained consciousness. I was able to say goodbye to him and I whispered into his ear, “You can go Dad, I promise that I will look after Mom, go be with George (my brother) and Elsie (my sister) and Jesus, it’s okay.” I wiped my tears off his face as they fell and I kissed him goodbye. Five minutes later he was gone. I have no doubt that my Dad is in heaven. His life was a testimony of his love for Jesus, his humility and his hard work. As Mom said, he died taking care of his family, taking care of the frozen water pipes and doing the everyday things he always did.
We sang at his funeral a song he had always loved, “This World Is Not My Home, I’m Just A Passing Through” and played a CD with the song “Daddy’s Hands” as he was known for his large hands with giant fingers. My Dad always knew that this life was just a temporary place to call home and that his citizenship was in heaven. I loved my Dad and was so lost without him, but I still had my Mom for a few years longer and I am thankful God allowed me that privilege.
My Mother was a strong Christian woman and I have shared about her in several blog postings. What many don’t know is like my Dad’s death her death impacted so many. I want to share how she died, the months that led up to her death and how beautiful it is to share in a graceful death.
My Mother’s health was declining but she never told anyone. She was having problems with her heart and she was in her mid-eighties so she didn’t want to undergo any procedures. The decision was eventually taken out of her hands and into the hospital she went. While we were preparing for a procedure to evaluate her heart condition she was given a couple of hours to make her final preparations as the procedure might result in death. My aunt was there with my Mother and me. We talked over all the business and then I asked my Mom if she felt that she had any personal unfinished business. She did, but she didn’t really want to face it. You see my ex-husband had promised her that he would come to her and explain why he was divorcing me, but he didn’t keep his promise. Mom was very hurt by his decision of divorce and I knew it was some unfinished business for her. I suggested that I call him and then if he answered she could speak to him and I would move far enough away not to hear the conversation. She agreed with some reservation.
My aunt disappeared by saying she wanted to get some coffee. Later she told me that she felt it was too personal for my Mom for her to stay. We both understood. I dialed the phone and then handed it to my Mom. She began her long-awaited conversation with my ex-husband who had been her son for thirty-four years. I didn’t want to hear what she would say to him but I also didn’t think I should leave the room in case she became too emotional to handle the moment. I watched her as she took charge of the conversation and she told him just how she felt betrayed by his decision to exit our family. She actually said later that she shared the gospel with him and told him that she hoped to see him in heaven and for him to get right with God. She told him that she forgave him and I know that she did. There were other things she shared but I won’t share them here. Her testimony of that conversation was something she shared with intimate friends and families and they were astonished at her Christian way of handling it. The procedure came and she survived and actually was able to give God the praise to everyone who cared for her in the hospital.
My Mother went home and she began to plan her exit from this earth. She had already done the hard task of clearing out her home when she moved into a small apartment for the elderly. She made certain that she had spoken to each of her grandchildren and other family members and told them she was going to be going to heaven soon. She told all of us that her hope was to see all of us there one day. She gently reminded some of the family that they needed to get closer to God. She was so gracious and loving to all of us.
She was not to live but a few months. There was another heart procedure and this time it was successful however she knew enough about medical situations to know her heart was not functioning properly and could not in the future without strong medicine. She didn’t want to live as an invalid and so she started saying goodbye to all of her family for a week which gave them time to come see her. She had a wonderful day and we laughed and cried and talked of times past. My daughter had shared the old hymn, “Safe In The Arms Of Jesus” and she had asked it to be sung at her funeral. It had been a wonderful day with my Mom.
Then she waited until we had all gone home for a much-needed night of rest and she refused her nightly medications and told the nurse she was going home that night. Her nurse thought she was confused but Mom made it clear that the home she was going to was Jesus. The nurse called me and I was two hours away from the hospital I told the nurse to tell my Mom that it was okay and that she could go home to be with Jesus but if she could wait a little longer I would love to say goodbye to her. She told the nurse to tell me she loved me but that she was tired and she didn’t want to wait. The nurse cried over the phone as she gave me this message. I cried too and began that long two-hour drive back to the hospital.
I called my aunt and she woke up my daughter and son-in-law who were staying with her and they were at the hospital within minutes. My Mother was unconscious when they arrived and I was talking to my aunt on the phone as I drove. I asked her to ask someone to say a prayer and one of them did, asking God to let Grandma go quietly, gracefully and easily into Jesus’s arms. Then my aunt bent down and spoke softly into my Mom’s ear that I told her it was alright to go be with God. She took a breath and then a long sigh and the monitors started buzzing as her heart stopped beating and she died.
The nurse who took care of my Mom during the last hours of her life had been an Intensive-Care Unit nurse for several years. She said that she had taken care of many seriously ill people but never had she taken care of someone as kind and gracious as my Mother. She told how Mom never failed to say “thank you” for the smallest thing done for her. I thought of how my Mom valued manners and made certain that her children had good manners. The nurse told me that my Mother was a gracious woman who died a graceful death. I was not surprised and told the nurse that my Mom was a gracious woman who died a graceful death because she was a grace-filled Christian. Her strength came from the Lord. Her greatest wish was to see all the people she knew on earth in heaven one day.
Let me ask you today, where do you stand with God? Are you at war with Him or are you at peace? Jesus came to save sinners and we are all sinners. My Mother wasn’t perfect and neither was my Dad. They both had something perfect inside of them though because they were Christians and the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Holy Trinity resided within them. They strove for a higher calling, taking the high road, the narrow way, and lived a humble life. Can you say that about yourself? When your time to die comes, will you be graceful to your family, to your doctors and nurses, to the cleaning person? Will you leave a legacy of grace behind you or will people be glad you have gone?
My parents were awesome Christians but they were never rich or lived in a nice home or drove a new car. They opened their hearts and their home to little children and helped struggling families be able to have a safe place for their children while the parents worked. They befriended college students and helped them with a home-away-from-home. They gave money to the church, they supported missionaries, and they fed anyone who came to their door. They bought hundreds of dollars of groceries and took them to families who were starving. They paid for tires on cars and filled gas tanks for those who needed a little help. They walked out in everyday life what a Christian is to do. They forgave the unforgivable over and over again. Will anyone say that about you or me after we’re gone?
I hope when my time on earth is finished that I will have been half as good at demonstrating the humble love of our Lord as my parents were. They are examples for me and for our family. They were not perfect people but they were Godly people. Their legacy is full of grace because they were grace-filled Christian people. What will your legacy be?