Sunday, January 20, 2013

When Time Stands Still

There are moments in your life when time seems to stand still: holding your child for the first time... or for what could be the last time; finding yourself surrounded by nature's most amazingly indescribable wonders; watching a child play when they're left with nothing but their own creativity.  I've been thinking about these moments in my life... having experienced all of them myself; snippets of time when I hold my breathe and pray for a moment of thanks (or plead for an infinite amount of mercy).  And as I've had time to reflect on the past week, I've come to realize what they have in common: In those specific moments, God made Himself known to me.  His presence was there... even if I didn't know it was Him at the time.  His peace covered me... or His joy nestled in my heart... or His strength lifted me up in ways that I will never comprehend... and now I can add the death of my mother to this amazing list of moments that will forever change me.

I won't get into all the specifics, but I will tell you this:  It wasn't always pretty... and I'm not just talking about the passing of my mom or the deterioration of her health.  If nothing else, I need to be very honest about the state of my heart.... the times where my faith faltered...those moments are real... and in the beauty of Christ's redemption, they underscore His amazing truth.  Early on, Jamie and I had times of prayer with my mom.  We laid hands an her and prayed for God's will to be done and for comfort and mercy to be poured unto her.  And in those moments, I said the "right" things... I did the "right" things... but my heart was empty.  If I'm honest... I must confess that I just thought God would choose to be silent.  But, I didn't want Him to be silent... I wanted to feel His presence.  So this is what we started to pray for.  

I remember talking to Rachel on night... right in the thick of it... and she asked how they could be praying for us... and through consuming tears, I simply asked for them to pray that Jesus would make His presence know.  The following day, we took my mom to the hospital.  As I stood in the halls of Duke, making phone calls to friends and family, I saw a man that I haven't seen in over 15 years... it was my youth pastor from many years ago. In fact, the last time I saw him was when my dad died.  As we shared a brief hug and began talking, the minutes melted away.  We talked about Jesus.  The books we've been reading. The lives we've been living.  He shared the story of his wife's death.  How she had been unconscious for days... after fighting a 5 year battle with brain cancer and enduring 52 chemotherapy treatments.  How in her final moments she miraculously sat up, opened her eyes and looked at Tim... and then at her two friends and the hospice nurse... then she looked straight ahead as the most beautiful smile consumed her face.  At that moment, Tim asked Denise if she was with Jesus and she simply turned her head and nodded.  Then she rested her body back on the bed and took her last breath.  

As Tim told the story, you could see the hairs sticking up on his arm.  He told how the hospice nurse was beside herself... how she kept saying," That's not possible... that's just not possible."  Even as I type now, my heart is stirred.  I went home that night like a ball of fire.  I couldn't even get through the door before I just started retelling the story to Jamie.  And after everything was said and done, Jamie said one simple thing: I guess Jesus showed up.  And here's the truly amazing thing... there were very specific moments in this journey where we prayed for Jesus to "show up;"  to make His presence known; to pour out His strength on us... and every single time, without exception, He answered our prayer through Tim... a man I hadn't seen in over 15 years,  a man who just "happens" to show up at the PRECISELY right time... answering our prayers with precisely the right words.  That's not a coincidence... as many times as it happened, IT'S NOT A COINCIDENCE.

I wish I could say that my mother's passing was like Tim's wife... but it wasn't...well, not quite.  But it was just as beautiful.  After drifting in and out of consciousness for 24 hours, my mom began to stir.  She tried to talk, but it was almost impossible to understand her. Finally, I was able to make out that she wanted to know that Jamie was going to take care of me.  Then she just kept saying his name over and over, so I ran and got him out of bed.  As he rushed to her side and grabbed her hand, my mom then repeated her request to Jamie... and he didn't miss a beat.  He assured her that he would take care of me and the kids... that everything would be fine... that it was okay for her to leave.  We sat there huddled with my mom... her friends sitting at the foot of the bed and we just prayed that God would take her home... but she wasn't ready.  She wanted to see the kids.  So, once again I rushed through the house, waking the eldest three... which isn't easy at 5:00 in the morning.  Finally, they pulled themselves together and gathered around mom's bed. 

Upon seeing Sydney, my mom moved her hand to grab hers. We sat there with mom, in tears... and we prayed.  Brayden started off asking God to take care of grandma, Sydney followed up asking God to end her suffering and to take her home to be with Him... Jamie was suppose to go next, but witnessing our children's strength and selflessness at that moment was too much for him and he deferred to me... and as I spoke... time stood still.  God was there.  I don't remember what I said... I only remember the peace that I felt.  The kids spent the next 30 minutes playing the piano and then Jamie sent them to watch cartoons. They weren't out the door 60 seconds before my mom passed away.  Jamie and I sat at the foot of her bed and watched her take her last breath.  Looking back on it now, I realize how fortunate we were; how that time was a gift... an ending you read about or watch on television... but most of all, I remember the presence of God... a moment I will never forget. 

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