Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14
It was Monday afternoon, April 13th of this year. Her 93 year old body was succumbing to the aggregate and debilitating effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Her labored breathing was beginning to sporadically stall. Inhale, exhale, then nothing… then inhale, exhale, then nothing. Each breath took enormous effort. The Hospice nurse advised us she was just a few hours away from death. Our immediate family was there, quietly entering and exiting her room, and supporting each other; reminiscing, praying… and waiting. Joanne was with us, doing what she does so masterfully: ministering to our family, holding up our spirits, and asking each family member to provide reflections on our mother as we waited. In anticipation of what was to come, we shared our gratitude, heartache, laughter, joy, and grief. It was powerful.
Joanne then took us by surprise. She asked each us to take a few moments to say a one-on-one personal goodbye to our mother. She reminded us that hearing is the last sense to go, and although our mother may not physically react to our voice, she will hear every word, adding that our mother needed this, and we each needed this… for closure, for completeness. What ensued was one of the most glorifying, difficult, and poignant three-minute periods of my life. Painfully struggling to find the right words to say, I told my mother that so many wonderful people in her life were waiting for her: her own mother and father, her devoted husband and father of her five sons, her sister, her son, her dear friends… and of course her Creator, who was ready to greet her with joy and gratitude. Although her response was non-verbal, I know, without a shred of doubt, she heard and understood every word.
I closed by telling her that I knew with certainty and confidence that someday she will be waiting on me. As I spoke these words, I was surprised with the promise, peace and comfort this thought brought to me. Clearly, this was God at work… letting me know that in the midst of sorrow and grief, peace and comfort can be found in anticipation of what is to come.
Although this is my first holiday season without either of my parents, I have peace and understanding knowing that Advent offers each of us the wonderful gifts of preparation, anticipation… and waiting… for the promise of God’s peace, grace, and mercy that is to come with the arrival of the infant Jesus Christ on that Holy Night.
About the Contributor
Sanders Lee is a native of Charlotte and the youngest of five brothers. He and his wife Meg joined FPC in 1993 and they have three adult daughters. He is a veteran of seven Youth Mission trips to Mexico and currently serves First Presbyterian as an Elder.