By Contributing Writer, Marci Ferrell
As I was pondering where to begin in sharing about our time this past year in caring for my husband’s sweet Mama in her final days, I realized my first post at Visionary Womanhood was Biblically Caring for Our Aging Parents. We had just brought Mom home and were adjusting to caring for her medical needs round the clock. We knew it was not going to be an easy road, and that our days would be more difficult as time went on since Mom’s condition was deteriorating day by day.
I’ve appreciated the time in preparing for this post to ponder the lessons we learned through this process and how death as a believer is a divine appointment. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, Hebrews 9:27)
Preparing to Die
Mom suffered several major strokes that left her unresponsive and bedridden. We didn’t know if she could hear or see us. In time her body began to slow down, and we realized that death was near. It had been over a year since she suffered the first stroke, and we as a family had come to a peace knowing that she was going to be going home soon. There was so much comfort knowing Mom was a believer. We knew she was going home to be with Jesus.
Our hospice nurses and aides were a blessing during this time. There were so many times the Lord allowed us to share the gospel and minister to the needs of these nurses and aides who ironically can offer us no everlasting hope because they are lost themselves. This time was especially difficult for Dad, but his eyes would light up, and you would see the joy of the Lord when he was able to share about the work of Christ in his and mom’s lives to these nurses who had truly become part of our family during this time.
It is amazing what happens in our lives as believers when the focus is taken off ourselves and our troubles and all we see is Christ.
As the Time Drew Near
I have never watched someone I loved so dearly – die. This was one of the most difficult times of my life, and as a family, we hurt so much for my husband’s dad. The woman he had been married to for 50 years was leaving this earthly body. She had left us over a year ago in being able to respond and communicate with us, but we still had her there physically to touch, care for, love on and talk to and pray over. Dad had purpose in taking care of her needs, and I don’t think we realized the impact that had on keeping his mind busy until she was gone.
My husband was an only child and had such a close relationship with his mom. He had taken on the role of being strong for his dad and our family. There was much put upon Doug, but I watched his reliance on the Lord during this time and how he directed each one of us during trying times to God’s Word for strength and hope. I have so much love and respect and thankfulness for the gift of my husband. Our marriage was strengthened during this time.
As the time drew closer, we were provided with nurses around the clock. They were there to help us keep mom comfortable and to administer medication to aid her in breathing. On the evening of her death, the nurse that was with us let us know it was getting close. We were able to gather as a family around mom and sing to her, pray over her, and just share with her all the things we loved so much about her.
In the difficulty of the moment there was still a celebration of remembering the life of faith mom lived out. God was glorified in her death as we thanked and praised Him for the gift she was to us and for Him saving her as His daughter.
“The best moment of a Christian’s life is his last one, because it is the one that is nearest heaven. And then it is that he begins to strike the keynote of the song which he shall sing to all eternity.”
~C. H. Spurgeon
Preparing a Funeral
God is sovereign over all of life, and He calls us to die. In Surprised by Suffering, R.C. Sproul shares that we are all called to various vocations in our lives as believers. Some are called to preach, to teach, to build buildings, make cars, and be parents. He reminds us that though we are all called to different vocations as believers - we all share in the vocation of death. This calling comes to each of us and it is a calling from God just as we are called to the ministry of Christ.
“We usually limit the idea of vocation to our careers or our jobs. The word vocation, however, comes from the Latin word vocare, meaning ”to call.” Used in the Christian sense, vocation refers to a divine calling, a summons that comes from God Himself.
We knew Mom would want the gospel boldly proclaimed at her funeral, for there would be believers and unbelievers in attendance. Mom may not have had the vision to view death as a vocation, but she had a heart for the lost and knew that the purpose of our lives is to glorify the Lord in all we do – dying included. Doug, my husband, gave the message and our children shared their testimony of the impact their grandmother had in their lives. It was beautiful, simple, and the focus was on Christ.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15)
Ministry of the Saints
The days, weeks, and months after a funeral are sometimes the hardest. Our presence in the lives of those suffering loss may be one of the most important things we can do. We are so thankful for the body of Christ to give a listening heart and truly just be there for our family during this time. Hugs, cards, phone calls and meals provided were such a blessing. One of the most important things we can do for those who are grieving is to point them to the faithfulness of God.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:26)
Comforting those who Grieve
Dealing with the grief dad was experiencing was new territory for us. We have learned the best thing we can do is just be there. My husband lost his mom, and this has been a difficult transition for him. We have had our share of mistakes, but I wanted to share some practical helps we have learned through this process that have been an encouragement through the process of grieving:
- We are thankful dad is living with us so he is not alone but part of the family everyday.
- My husband has been good at taking the time to have one on one time with his dad whether it is just going out to lunch or taking a ride to Cabela’s together.
- Sharing memories of Mom’s life and just taking the time to sit and listen. For Christmas we made dad a photo album with favorite memories of Mom’s life.
- Being especially mindful to talk about Mom during the holiday season when her presence is missed even more.
- The pain of the loss is always there, and we sometimes just need to weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)
- Some helpful and encouraging reads for those suffering loss are Sunsets: Reflection’s for Life’s Final Journey by Deborah Howard or Grief: Finding Hope Again by Paul David Tripp.
The Hope to Come
We know that Mom would never exchange her place in Glory to be back in this fallen world, nor would we want her to. I miss Mama, her smile, laugh, hugs, cooking, and the way she loved and cared for each one of us. She was such an example in my life of a heart to serve others.
I have learned to focus on all the blessings of having her in my life. There are moments of tears, but in Christ we always have hope. God’s comfort truly gives us strength to continue on the path He has called us too. Our true comfort is only found in the Gospel. It is knowing that God is going to finish this work that He started in us, and we will all, as believers, one day share in the glory that truly outweighs the present sufferings of this world.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)