She’s HOME

It was soon after lunch that I texted my sister, Alma, who was keeping watch with her daughter, Carmen, and said that I was going to come out to Mama’s room where our family has kept constant watch for the last two weeks.  Each of Mama’s children has spent time by the bed in the corner, speaking love to our Sweet Mama, spooning food into her reluctant mouth, giving drinks of ice water, adjusting the fan, and, along with the amazing staff at Country Rest home, doing all we could to keep her as comfortable as possible.  There was music, there was sunlight, there were clean sheets and fresh nighties, there were gentle hands and kind words, there were prayers and prayers and more prayers.

I left my house around 3:15 and got into the room soon after 3:30.  The noise of my mother’s labored breathing was the first thing that I heard.  There was the swish of the oxygen in the background as I leaned over her bed and spoke to her.  She couldn’t talk, her eyes were seeing things I couldn’t.  When they would catch and hold mine, the suffering there wrung my heart.  “Oh, Lord Jesus!  How long?”

Mama’s sister, Alma Jean, was there with our sister, Alma, and Carmen.  It wasn’t too long until our sister, Sarah came and our brother, Mark, Jr., and we, along with Aunt Alma Jean, stood around her bed.  She just looked so bad.  I looked at that lined face, so sunken and tired and thought about how much the Mama of better days would hate this.  She always hoped that she wouldn’t have to suffer, especially gasping for breath.  My heart ached for her in the hard, hard work that she was doing.  And on this day, it seemed that none of the usual remedies worked.  And I suddenly realized that this was probably home going time.  That this labor, so like the labor of birth, was the inevitable labor of death.  It was hard.  It was real.  It was wrenching.  But Jesus was with us and His presence and the Hope of what was to come, kept us steady, even while we often wept.

Throughout the afternoon, family came and went.  There was a time, after supper when it was Sarah, Alma and I, Nel and Rose and Mark and Polly, were alone in the room and we sang for her, songs of faith, songs of Heaven, songs of our childhood.  I listened to the full, rich harmony of our family, singing our Mama Home, and felt the comfort and the peace of the unity we’ve been so blessed to enjoy, and my heart swelled with so much emotion it felt like it would explode.  We started with the song she first taught us, “Jesus Loves Me” and worked our way through “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and many other old favorites.  Then, again, family started coming in.  She had three nurse granddaughters in the room at one time last night, and their tears told me more about the gravity of the situation than anything else.

Through it all, the labored breathing went on and on and on.  When it seemed like she just couldn’t breathe another breath, it still went on. Occasionally she would be with us, it seemed, but as the evening wore on, she was clearly leaving.  We prayed for God to just take her home, to set her free and to give her the ultimate healing.

And then, soon after ten, with granddaughter Holly on one side, and granddaughter, Carmen, on the other, and the rest of us sitting around and waiting, some in quiet conversation, some in contemplation, her breathing changed.  Instead of the ragged, labored breathing, there was this peaceful, no struggle, easy breaths.  Her face was peaceful.

“I think she’s going,” said Hospice trained nurse, Holly.

“Really?”  Said Carmen.  “You think so?”

“Yes,” breathed Holly.  “She’s is definitely going.”

We gathered around and we held her hands, touched her where we could reach her, and watched in awe as a Saint of God made her final journey.  Peaceful.  Quiet.  Eternal Rest.

How very much we will miss our Sweet Mama!  She has been where we go for comfort and understanding and reassurance and unconditional love.  But how we rejoice in her triumph!  What a joy to think of her in Heaven with Daddy and the rest of the family that has gone on before.  She loved living here.  Heaven is so much more.

I can only imagine.

And this grieving heart still swells with grateful praise.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “She’s HOME

  1. I knew she had gone, but haven’t been able to write until now. I know the mixed feelings – the joy of her home-going, yet the grief of her leaving; the relief of the physical/mental/emotional burden (for lack of a better word) of caring, worrying, understanding all the ins and outs of aging, pain, etc., yet how much you all will miss the burden that wasn’t truly a burden because of your love.
    I am praying for you all. I love that you sang your Sweet Mama to glory. That’s how our Mama went – with the harmonies of her family ushering her into the presence of Jesus! (It Is Well With My Soul seemed to be our anchor during that time.)
    God bless you all.

  2. Powerful, sad, beautiful, heart breaking. And oh so right for a saint of the Lord. Curious if Aunt Alma Jean is married to Harvey Yoder here in Harrisonburg. If so, I did not know that connection. I do not know you except through your writings and one phone conversation, I think! Blessings and prayers for your family.

    • Yes, Aunt Alma Jean is married to Harvey Yoder from Harrisonburg. Alma Jean was the fifth of the daughters in my mother’s family of six girls and two boys. It gets really confusing because Uncle Harvey is a Yoder — and three of the Wert girls married Yoders. Mama and her sister, Gladys married brothers, but Uncle Harvey, though I think we’d be glad to claim him, is not related — at least not closely.

  3. Kathy Nussbaum

    This is so beautiful Mary Ann…such a powerful and rich accounting of your family’s experience. I am so sad and happy at the same time. Such a relief for Aunt Aileen and for all of us who love her. No more suffering! I am praying for all of you MaryAnn and sending you love.

  4. John Mishler

    Mary Ann, my love for you, your family, and especially your oldest brother is expressed in this note to you. I feel with you of the joy and grief you are experiencing at this crucial time. I still remember, even today, the hard and difficult breathing of my mother for a day and into the night, at her passing even though it was almost seventy years ago. Life seemed to stop at fifteen for me, but it goes on and God can and will be glorified. Yes, mothers are one of the best things in the world and hardest to give up, but heaven is a great uniter, in person, some sweet day. Grace and blessings to you all in and through this time! Dema and I love you all sincerely
    J & Dee

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