Tag Archives: Sweet Mama

Things That Didn’t Happen

She didn’t come for lunch on Sunday.  She wasn’t in church.  I thought about the potato salad, corn, and steaks on the grill and knew that she would really enjoy that lunch.  But she wasn’t there, so I couldn’t invite her home with us.  The memories of when she was there dogged my heart all day.  She would sit in my chair while we finished making lunch and play with Charis.  Silly little games that would have Charis helpless with laughter. Often on the way home, she would confide that the games made her so tired, “But I like playing with her so much.  She really gets into it, and it makes me happy.  I probably overdid it, but it was worth it to see her enjoy herself so much.”  There were no games in the corner chair this week.  Charis rode her bike while her Daddy and Grandpa minded the grill.  She didn’t mention anything about the empty chair.  The young are so resilient, but she sometimes crawls up on my lap and says, “Grammy, do you miss Grandma Yoder?”  (Oh, Girlie!  If you only knew . . .)

Yesterday morning, I came down to the kitchen and opened a window.  The oppressive heat had given way to an unusual August coolness, and the breeze came in with the sound of the mourning doves’ quiet calls.  The hummingbird feeder was empty again, and the jays were flying in for the peanuts on the platform feeder.  It was a good time to call my Sweet Mama.  There was weather to discuss, birds to report, and the pesky jays to criticize. But it was only a passing inclination.  Then there was just the mourning dove’s familiar call and I heard the echo in my stricken heart.

The day was a hard day.  I call it “grief work,” and it is not easy.  It stills my hands, makes it hard to do the things I know I need to do.  It keeps me from even the enjoyable some days because I just cannot get past the sudden, blinding moments when who my Sweet Mama was is now so far gone.  The moments she filled by being herself.

Often on Monday evenings, she would call me.  Monday is the day when it is almost impossible to get everything done, but she was looking forward to Tuesday (when she knew I would spend the day with her) so much that she would often “break down and call” me to see what the plans were for Tuesday.  Sometimes she called just to talk about the day, but often there were things she needed from the store, or prescriptions from Rite Aid that she wanted me to pick up for her before coming.  “I need creamer again — the kind with coconut flavor,” she would say, “if you can.  I seem to be going through it terribly fast, but I’m not the only one who drinks it.  Mark comes in and gets himself a cup of coffee and others seem to like it, too.  Oh, and I need some Tasters Choice.  I’m almost out.  If you see something that looks good, get it for me. I feel hungry, but nothing sounds good to me.”

Last evening, I was finishing up the laundry, came in from picking another five gallon bucket of lima beans, and was fixing supper for Cecilia and Nettie.  Things were in good order in the kitchen, thanks to the help for Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter, and I was thinking what had to be done yet before getting my ladies to bed.  Suddenly, I thought, “Oh, I haven’t talked to Mama today.  I wonder if she called while I was out picking beans?”

She had not.   I stood in my kitchen as the reality hit me again.  “What is it with this day?”  I wondered to myself as the tears dripped down.  “Why is Mama’s absence cropping up at every turn?”

Because that is the way grief is.  I realize am revisiting these rooms where the memories are filling every crack and crevice and where the changes and losses of the last year and a half of Mama’s life have diminished to almost nothing.  It’s hard to remember how it was, and it’s easy to remember the essence of my Sweet Mama and to long for her to be here, as she was for most of my memories — active, engaging, and always, always interested in what was going on in my life.

And now those things just don’t happen.  And it is the way it is.  This Tuesday (still marked as “Mama Day” on my calendar) came in on the crest of rain and wind.  Cecilia had a fever, Nettie had a dentist appointment.  Youngest Daughter’s car is in the shop.  Middle Daughter is in Dover.  It would have been a dreadfully inconvenient day to have to go to Mama’s house.  I would have had to juggle and shift and maybe even ask her if I could please come tomorrow.  She would have said that it was okay, but I would have heard in her voice that it wasn’t.  “I don’t know why, Mary Ann,” she would say, “But whenever I know it’s Tuesday and that you are coming, I have such a good feeling!  But it’s okay.  Tomorrow will be fine.  I’ll just look forward to that.”

And she would have.  But this morning, it didn’t happen.  Not that she cares from where she is.  Not that she even knows.  If she does know, I think she would say, “Mary Ann.  It’s okay.  It always was okay.  There is so much more to life there than what we think.  It’s okay.  Just put first things first, and always remember Heaven.  You cannot begin to imagine!.”

No, I cannot.  I think about the “City of Light, mid the stars–” and about Mama, being in the presence of Jesus.  I try to think about how she is enjoying the LIFE that she has there, and about what it must be like for her to be with Daddy and her parents and other people she loved so much here on earth.  I think about what it is like for her to “know as she is known.”  There’s no pretense, no misunderstanding, no competition, no jealousy, no inferiority.  And what it is like for her to have a new body; no more pain, struggle or failing health.  No aging.

And even though I cannot just “smile for a while to forget that I am blue,” I can plug into what God said would happen to my Sweet Mama in that very moment that she breathed her last breath here on earth and entered into the presence of God.  And this I choose to believe for all the days full of the reminders of the things that will never happen again.

This is the promise.

1 Corinthians 15:53-56 (NIV)

53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

And while I honestly don’t know what that will look like, I do believe that The Victory is hers.  Already.  Forever settled.  And all these things here are, if anything, but a dim memory.  This is smile worthy.

And so, my heart will bring a sacrifice of Grateful praise.

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S
weet Mama and Charis, just 11 days before she fell.

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Six weeks Gone

Six weeks ago today, we had a funeral.

Today was the day when I keenly felt the absence of my confidant and sharer of tidbits of information and answerer of questions from other generations and giver of family opinions and general exclaimer over adventures.

Today I missed my Sweet Mama.

I looked  at a picture of my cousin and his new wife at the wedding of his son, and felt a sudden lurch in my heart.  For there, I suddenly saw my Grandpa Yoder’s face.  At least it seemed like the likeness was so strong.  I started to go to get the phone.  I wanted Mama to check in on her computer and look at the pictures of this happy day and tell me what she thought.

“Don’t you think Jon looks an awful lot like Grandpa Yoder in that picture?”  (She would have said she didn’t know — Maybe, a little bit –.)

“Isn’t Stephen’s wife beautiful?  Did Aunt Gladys tell you how they met?  It’s too bad that Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys couldn’t go for the wedding, but were they able to watch it online?” (Then we would have discussed the current health issues and travel issues and such –.)

“I thought her dress was so pretty.” (And we would have to discuss the colors and the bridesmaid dresses and the location and — well, just all of that–.)

Do you know when Robert and Michelle’s baby is due?  Has Aunt Gladys said?”  (And then we would have talked about how many grandchildren Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys have.)

And then I would have had to detail the wedding of Laura Jones and Seth Fair if she hadn’t been able to be there.  She would have wanted to know every detail, down to what was worn by the mothers and grandmothers.  She would have enjoyed hearing what we had to eat, and how beautiful Laura was, and how Seth struggled for composure when she walked down the aisle.  She would  have wanted to know how her grandson, Josh Slaubaugh did with the ceremony and how grandson Christopher Yoder and his wife Alicia and Laura’s cousin’s husband, Lee Sverduk, did with the music.  And it would have been such a happy report all around.

But she isn’t here.  And in the words of my friend, Lynn Lee, “No one wants to hear my ‘stories’ anymore.”

I realize that there are people who would listen, and be at the ready for me to call them and talk — but no one listened to me like she did.  No one enjoys the stories like she did.  And I don’t really want to tell them to anyone else.  For years, I’ve tried to grasp details of the places I go and the people I see, thinking that she would enjoy them so much.  I would try to stock up so she would feel almost like she had been there.  I thought I was doing all that  for her.

Tonight, I know that isn’t  altogether true.

I was doing it for me, too.

Tonight, I try to keep the salt water out of the pie dough and determine, in vain, not to think.

But the evening closes in, and all that I can think is, “How dark it is without her.”

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Mama Day

Over the last few years, when I would get my new calendar for the year, I would go through the months and on every Tuesday, I would write, “Mama Day.”  I wanted it firmly in place so that whenever there were things that I needed to do, I could say, “Not Tuesday.  That is my day to go to my mother’s house.”  We often planned her appointments on that day so that I wouldn’t need to take another day out of my week, but most of the time, we spent Tuesdays together in her house beside the nursing home on Yoder Drive.

I honestly cannot say how long I have gone to her house one day a week, but I know that I started it sometime after Daddy’s death ten years ago.  I had tried to get out there without a set schedule at first, but I found that I just didn’t make it unless we had a set day.  At first, it seemed like Wednesday worked best, but as time went on, and I found things jammed up on Wednesday from small group meetings and other mid week activities, we agreed on Tuesday as the day that would be best.

“I don’t care which day you come,” she would often tell me, “but I get such a wonderful feeling inside when I realize that you are going to be there the next day.”  She never ever acted like it was something she took for granted, but she was always so disappointed when something came up to interfere that I decided early on that there was almost nothing worth making her sad.  Tuesday mornings I would often dash into Rite Aid for a prescription, on to Wal-Mart for a few groceries and some OTC meds and other supplies, then out to Mama’s house for the business of paying bills, organizing the medication box, and conversation and companionable silence.  Usually I would be at the kitchen table, and she would be in on her recliner.  In the last year and a half, she would often be sleeping in her chair, sometimes reading, sometimes talking on the phone, but always, always trying to make conversation with me, apologetic for being so sleepy, interested in any community news that she might have missed.

“Do you know anything new?” she would ask me almost every time I talked to her.  I would scramble over the news and try to think of something that she would be interested in.  It got so that I would listen for news that would be the kind of thing she would be interested in.  Where the newlyweds of the community were going to live.  What was growing in the garden already.  How Daniel had installed an irrigation system in the pavilion for my hanging plants.  How the last flock of chickens did.  Who had bought a new car.  What the grandchildren had said lately.  Who was or wasn’t at church on Sunday.  Who in the community was sick.  What our adult children were up to.  Sometimes the pickin’s were slim, but she always wanted to know.

She loved the Daily Guideposts, and kept all of her yearly editions.  When she got the new edition in the fall, she would read the short biographies in the back and catch up on all the long-standing authors’ lives.  She felt like she knew each one, and if she learned that they were sick, or if one of them died, or got divorced or had family problems, she felt deeply for them.  I would often come in and find editions from years back stacked up on her little chairside table, and she would talk to me like they were one of her family.

She loved to read.  Recently she was working her way through the whole “Love Comes Softly” series by Janette Oke.  When she found there was a sequel series, she wanted those to read.  She was in the middle of reading A Searching Heart when she had her fall.  A strip of paper, torn from some advertisement or magazine marked her place on page 115.  Often Middle Daughter was responsible for finding and bringing reading material to her.  Some authors just didn’t hold her interest.  “I just couldn’t get into that book (or author)” she would say ruefully.  “I hope Deborah won’t care, but I just didn’t like it too much.”  And once the opinion was formed, it was seldom changed.

The last five weeks have really run together for this Delaware Grammy, and even though Mama was in the hospital, I still tried to keep Tuesdays as her day.  Last week, Youngest Sister, Alma, needed to trade with me because she had something to do later in the week and wanted to be free.  It was afternoon when I decided that whether it was my day or not, I was going to go.  And thus, I got to spend the last seven hours of her life with her. She went home to Heaven on what my calendar says was a “Mama Day.”

Last night I was thinking about this morning, and planning my day.  I suddenly remembered that I didn’t have to go to Mama’s House today.  I mentally thought about the morning and things that needed doing and decided that I could still be doing things for Mama today.  And so, I have been working on the business of closing accounts, organizing some papers, reading some of the cards, and remembering a Mama who loved Tuesdays with all her heart and wasn’t afraid to let me know that she wanted me to come.

And I’ve spent some time very teary as well.  I expect that Tuesdays will be easier for me on many accounts, but harder on others.  I won’t be dashing out for prescriptions, groceries or supplies then hurrying to get to her house before too late.  But on every single square on the remaining Tuesdays of this year there is the notation, “Mama Day,” and I think this pang will always remind me of a loss that is too big for me to comprehend at this point.

When Daddy died, I had no idea of how things were going to be in the months that followed.  “We hadn’t had time to miss him yet,” said Youngest Sister one day when I was so confused by how the grief just seemed to get deeper and deeper.  I think of those words now and think about what may be ahead for me, for us.  Mama missed the woman she had been in her youth — the vibrancy, the strength, the abilities, the talents that shone.  And while we have missed the Mama that she once was, nothing could have prepared me for the finality of these days.

She won’t be coming back.

How dark this Tuesday seems without her.

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On This Rainy Night

It was such a wonderful day.  The friends who came, the people who served by setting up, cooking, serving the wonderful food, those who were still cleaning up when we finally went home, all of these kind people gave us an inestimable gift.  They extended comfort in the form of memories, hugs, encouraging words and assurances of their prayers.

Tonight, at home, with some of the things (I felt) needed to be done finally finished, I sit in the comfortable circle of my family, some of the dear faces missing, some still here for awhile.  I feel bone weariness, soul weariness, and the sub-conscious grief that tugs at my heart.  I haven’t really had time to think clearly about much.

Today we buried my Mama.  I looked at her face before closing the casket for the last time, and put my cheek against her cold one, and told her once again, “Oh, Mama.  You were such a good Mama.  I will always miss you.”  And I know I will.

And then the rest of the day was a blur.  There was lots of music, and there were so many people.  Our cousins from both sides of our big family sang songs that brought back a thousand memories and gave me hope and comfort.  My brothers, nephews, a niece, a son, a daughter and a family friend all worked together and the essence of my Sweet Mama was captured in the laughter and the tears and the words of Eternal Life. Six grandsons carried her gently to the final resting place and another grandson spoke the final familiar words while we sang songs of triumph that exalted in the face of the loss that I could not think about.  And then, we covered the grave.  My mama’s body, the shell of the woman who gave birth to me, was at rest.  I shall never see that form of my Mother again.

Tonight, I sit in this comfortable circle and a sturdy thunderstorm has moved in.  It has rumbled and crashed.  The lightening has flashed, and the rain has poured down in buckets.  I think of that fresh grave and think of the rain pouring down and wonder about the dirt that our family carefully piled in and around and over the vault until it was full and even with the ground.  I think of my Sweet Mama’s body, there under the earth and wonder if the vault is waterproof.

And then I feel that searing, desperate grief as I think of the natural decay of the body that I knew as my Mama’s.  I think of the damp trickling in, and the pretty dress and carefully combed hair and even the perfume that we spritzed on her neckline when we did her hair, and I suddenly want it all undone. I sit in my chair, alone and quiet in my sorrow while I finally have time to think about how this all is, and the tears just won’t stop.  She hated to be wet and cold.  She hated to be alone.  She hated the dark.

I need to stop.  I need to find comfort and I need to think differently.

And then, clear as an angel’s chime, I hear my Sweet Mama’s voice in my head.  It is December 23, 2005, and we have just buried our Precious Daddy.  And someone asked Mama about how she felt about leaving the grave on that cold December day.

“It really was okay,” she said, even in her deep, deep grief.  “It wasn’t Daddy that we left there.  That was just his shell.  He isn’t there.  It isn’t something that he even cares about.”  And as the months and now years have passed, she has never had the need to go to his grave.  She went very occasionally at first but has long since stopped going.  She just hasn’t had the desire or the need.

I can’t say that I am like that.  I still go to my Daddy’s grave when I am troubled or sad or just missing him so much.  I know he isn’t there, but the physical remains of the Daddy I knew and loved are there, and I am comforted some how.  Mostly I talk to Jesus, but sometimes I will cry out my anguished heart and try to think how he would answer me.  And I know that I will do that some more in these next months.

One of the things that was hard over these last few weeks was that there were times when Mama seemed more reluctant to engage her children than she was (outside the family) friends or even strangers, and I found that so hard until the night that Middle Daughter, our resident Hospice nurse stopped me on my way out the door to go to Mama’s side.  I was so sad and confused and weary that night. I had just asked my husband to please pray for me, and he had held me gently and prayed for wisdom and strength and courage.  Most of all, I hated it that I was dreading the time with my Mama.  But Deborah stopped me.  She hugged me and she said something like this:

“Mama, you need to remember that Grandma’s emotions are still on ‘this side.’  She knows that she is slipping away and she is deeply grieving the separation from her beloved children. She cannot yet see Heaven and all the Glory that is waiting for her there, so she is living still with the emotions of this world.  And engaging with you all is a reminder to her of all she’s going to part with, and it is just too hard.  Don’t take it personally, and don’t think she is cutting you out.  She is just working through this business of leaving, and there is no set way that this happens. She loves all of us intensely.  She loved living so much and with the emotions from this life, all of this is probably giving her a deep, deep sense of grief.”

That helped me so incredibly much to believe that God would work in all or our lives to stay focused and steady and working towards the time when she could go HOME. That the less I expected or asked of her, the more she could concentrate on that other world.  It could be our gift to her in this time when it felt our hearts would break.  Truly a sacrifice of praise.  And so, we did.  We kept our heads and hearts where we knew that our Heavenly Father’s care could hold us tenderly and we found Him faithful, and our Mama did not disappoint us.

And tonight, Mama’s emotions are all on the other side.  She is home free.  She is not thinking about a deserted grave in a dark cemetery or the rain or the ones she left behind.  She’s alive and free and timeless and full of incredible joy.  The journey to Heaven was but a split second from that last peaceful breath, and she is only beginning this new adventure.

And this aching heart still offers grateful praise.

‘Weep not.  Weep not.  She is not dead!  She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus!”  (James Weldon Johnson)

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Obituary for Alene Elizabeth (Wert) Yoder

Alene Elizabeth (Wert) Yoder died June 16, 2015 in The Country Rest Home near Greenwood, Delaware, surrounded by her loved ones.  She was 86.

Mrs. Yoder was born January 1, 1929 in Bunkertown, PA, to the late Michael and Alma (Lauver) Wert. She chose early to follow Jesus, and the rest of her life was defined by that decision.  At sixteen, she moved to Delaware to work, met the love of her life, Mark Yoder, married him and lived in the Greenwood area for the rest of her years.  She worked side by side with her husband, first as a farmer’s wife and then wherever needed in her husband’s business when he became the owner and administrator of The Country Rest Home.  She also served as a pastor’s wife, and provided care for handicapped adults in her home.  Through all the years, the thing she did best was being an incredible Mama and Grandma.  She loved life and babies and birds and reading.

She is survived by her six children and their spouses: Clinton Yoder of Wagener, SC; Nelson & Rose (Beidler) Yoder of Morris, PA; Mary Ann & Daniel Yutzy of Milford, DE; Mark, Jr. & Polly (Heatwole) Yoder; Sarah & Bert Slaubaugh; and Alma & Jerrel Heatwole, all of Greenwood.  Also surviving are five sisters; Orpha (Lloyd) Gingrich of Cocolamus, PA, Gladys (Jesse) Yoder of Dover, DE, Freda Zehr and Alma Jean (Harvey) Yoder of Harrisonburg, VA, and Ruth Ann (Allan) Shirk of Lancaster, PA,  a brother, J. Lloyd (Beverly) Wert and a sister in law, Mary Wert, of Lancaster, PA. She is also survived by 27 beloved grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren, and a host of cousins, nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Mark Yoder, Sr., a daughter in law, Frieda Mishler Yoder, a great-granddaughter, Ariel Yoder, and her oldest brother, Harold Wert.

There will be calling hours at Greenwood Mennonite School on Friday evening, June 19, from 6-8:30.  There will be calling hours at the same location from 10 – 10:45 on Saturday morning, June 20, with the funeral following at 11.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Laws Mennonite Church Building Fund, 125 Schlabach Road, Greenwood, DE 19950.

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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.

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Fourth Sunday

It is Sunday afternoon.  Mama’s bird is singing in the sun room.  I collapsed on my chair, the exhaustion of the week caught up with me and I slept a restless sleep.  The music that is playing quietly is Classical Lullabies by Fisher Price, and Certain Man is kicked back in his lazy-boy, sleeping soundly.  He came down with a bad cold and sore throat and needs the sleep even more than I do.  Lena is quietly here, doing something on her computer.  Middle Daughter is sleeping, getting ready for an evening shift with Delaware Hospice.  Youngest Daughter is in Chicago, believe it or not, spending time learning to know one of her daddy’s cousin and his family, Dan and Heather Yutzy and their precocious five year old, Kiran.  Rachel actually went to Chicago for the bachelorette party for her friend, Anna, whose wedding is coming up in a few weeks, but it has been a grand week for God happenings, and this Mama gives grateful praise.

I am just ready to head out to Country Rest Home.  My brother, Nel and his wife, Rose, arrived yesterday and have been helping to fill in the gaps.  Mama’s sister, Alma Jean Yoder, from Harrisonburg, Virginia, caught a ride to Delaware last evening, and her helping hands have already filled in some gaps for us.  It is pretty much the same there for our Sweet Mama.  Sometimes it feels like these days just run together with almost no variation except decline.

Early in this journey, one Sunday morning, while I sat by her bed in the hospital, she reached for my hand and spoke life giving words of love to me that I’ve needed for some time.  I always have known that my Mama loved me, but this last year has been hard for her and us all, and there were many times when it felt like the filters were gone and things were said that would set me back on my heels.  Sometimes when it was time to travel the miles to her house, I would ask the Father for the garment of praise and for wisdom to understand what it was that was best for my Mama, for I knew that she always could tell when something was bothering me and she hated it terribly when she thought I was sad.

“Mary Ann,” she would sometimes say with her eyes all pleading, “Have I been a good girl?”  Often this was after one of her more strident declarations, or actions that were out of character for her. How I hated that question that put me fully in the place of being the parent, while my heart still begged to be her child.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that she needed to stop driving.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that she needed a wheelchair or a walker.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that her days of self medicating were over.

“Everytime you come,” she said earlier this year, “you take something else away from me!!!” And she burst into tears.  Mama almost never cried, and it wrenched my heart as I struggled to know the difference between what was okay, what was negligence and what risks were acceptable.  I almost never laid down the law (we don’t do that with our Mama) but tried to negotiate what she was willing to live with and what she wasn’t.

And now she is suffering so much.  She moves so restlessly on the bed that has been her “home” in these last ten days, no longer asking to go home, not asking me to take her home with me.  She hasn’t spoken my name since Wednesday, and that is okay.  I don’t ask her because I don’t want her to have to think that hard.  I remember her words of love and I am comforted.  How I wish I could fix this for her.  I wish I could transform her into the healthy, young vibrant Mama of my youth, bring back the good, good times, the dancing eyes, the music, the love of beauty and the strong body.  These are the memories that we have of this brave, indomitable woman who is our mama.

But even if I couldn’t bring back the body the way it once was, today I’d give almost anything just to have her be the Mama.

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My Brother Writes . . . “Ready or Not”

From my brother, Mark, Jr.

Tonight I am staying with my Mom, and the night brings a mixture of emotions as I stand by this woman who has been such a good Mama to me and my siblings.  I’ve often said that our life and our family was far from perfect, and we deal with baggage we are not even aware of, I’m sure.  But we were and we are so blessed, and Mom deserves so much credit for the blessings we’ve had.  It feels sad to me tonight that I cannot do more for her in this hour that she would (and does) hate so much.  Death is coming way too slowly for Mom.  She never wanted this, to labor for each breath, to fight the pain, to spend the hours moaning lightly, and knowing that the end is inevitable, coming relentlessly to take her away, like it or not.  Like the children’s game of Hide and Seek, the count down is soon, and I can hear the words, “here I come, ready or not.”  I’ve tried to smile, to be cheerful, to speak words of hope, to tell her that she has been such a good Mama.  When she was still able, she asked me why I was grinning at her.  She told me I was speaking so loud, but she gave me sweet smiles and told me she loved me, too, when I reminded her how I felt toward her.  Mom and I shared those words often these past years when I was leaving her house, or going away, etc.  Her words came easier along those lines the past few years, and brought me comfort and blessing.  It is still good to be loved by your Mama, and to hear words of affirmation and pleasure from her lips.  I’m going to miss that…

So this night brings a bucketful of emotions.  I do feel excitement for her, delight to know that she will soon be free of this suffering, and that so much joy awaits her on the other side.  This is the hope we’ve built our lives on, and I’m grateful this hope brings us deep-down rest and comfort when there is nothing more we can do for our Mama.  With certainty and conviction, a knowing that surpasses the intellect and logic of the mind, and comes from deep within our spirit, we believe and we trust that His promises are true.  It’s our anchor for the soul,  The best is yet to come, and so much good awaits Mom, and she will be there soon, and we rejoice with her.

But there is sadness, too.  Life goes too quickly, and part of me wants to go back in time, to enjoy and appreciate again life the way it was.  I chose and try hard to live life without regrets and lots of “if only”, because I believe in amazing grace, and God’s ability to redeem messes and mistakes.  That is not the longing I feel tonight, to wish I could change things, and do better and be kinder, although there is that part, too, sometimes.  But there is a part that doesn’t want to let go of this person who has always been there, always been on my side, always wanted me and loved me, and made me feel I was doing good.  There is a part of me that doesn’t want to face my own frailty, to know that I’m now the next generation, that I’m running out of time, too.  Reading back over this just now, it is obvious that there are no words to really express the heart in a time like this.   Some things are just beyond words.

So thanks for your prayers and for your love and for your caring.  Thanks for being family.  It does feel good to have people who care in times like this.  We appreciate it.  And right now would be a good time to say a prayer for Mom.  Things are not easy for her.  Every move is labor.  She woke up just now and said “Hey!”  I reminded her of when she would tell us to save our hay, we might marry a mule someday…  She no longer can talk back and forth, and her words are hard to understand most of the time…

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Keeping us guessing!

Well, she’s done it again!

Yesterday she was much improved over the day before.  She was awake — watchful, hungry some of the time, wanting water, wanting to get off her back, wanting to know how she got there, wanting to know if she was going home with me, wanting to go to her home, wondering how she was ever going to get up on the bus– interspersed with some very interesting proclamations (“God loves a cheerful giver!!!”).  So yes, she didn’t sleep nearly as much yesterday — but still not remembering a lot of stuff, very confused at times, and others quite with it.  Her family doctor came in yesterday and took out the stitches that should have come out ten days ago — (we haven’t seen her orthopedic guy since she had the heart attack in the hospital,  which was 17 days ago) — and she rallied to his presence like someone turned on a light, causing him to proclaim that she needed to work hard to get better so she could go back to her house and her bird!  This morning she doesn’t remember that he was there . . .

Frankly, we are so confused as a family.  Our Deborah, who is our household’s resident hospice nurse, tells us that this is not unusual — that there often are good days spaced between the bad.  So we don’t know if this is just a temporary spike or if it is a trend.  Whew!  It’s a roller coaster!

My youngest sister, Alma spent the night and she said that she had a good night.   Middle Sister, Sarah’s family is coming in for the weekend, and we want her to be able to enjoy them.  All my brothers and sisters gave me such an incredible gift last weekend to be able to be with my family even while keeping up with what happened with Mama, and I would like for her to be able to have the same privilege.  Nel and his wife, Rose were to go to Canada next week on a yearly vacation, but they have decided to stay home and come to Delaware instead.  This is a great comfort to us local siblings.  It will be nice to have them here.  Please continue to pray for us — for wisdom and courage and patience.

And that is the news from a sunny corner room at Country Rest Home, where our Merciful, Loving Heavenly Father keeps watch with us and only He knows what this day holds.  We choose to trust Him.

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Mama Sees What We Cannot

We were sitting there around her bed, Uncle Jesse, Aunt Gladys, Alma, Mark,Jr. and I.  Mama had been pretty much comatose for a couple of hours, barely responding to anything.  And never fully comprehensible in anything she said.  In earlier days, she would hear things in the bedside conversations that would shake her from her withdrawn state and she would ask, “What?” or “Who?” but today there was none of that.  Just watching the ceiling sometimes, following an unseen object that seemed to be moving from one area of the room to a far corner.  Sometimes she would have a small smile, sometimes a puzzled look. We were letting her rest and the conversation between the five of us was gentle.  Sweet.  Memories and concern and the sorrow of what we were seeing wrapped us in an easy camaraderie where time seemed to stand still..

Suddenly, without warning, Mama opened her eyes, her face awash with glorious joy.  She lifted both arms towards Heaven and made beckoning motions with her hands. And as clear as a bell, no mumbling, no stumbling, no trailing off, she said, “Oh!  Here’s my Sweetie!  When did you get back?  Come here!  I love you!” And then, just as quickly, she returned to her comatose state, but a look of puzzlement would sometimes fleet across her face like, “What was that about?” It was an incredibly Holy moment and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

This evening, she is still in that state, where it feels like one foot is on earth and one in Heaven.  She is seemingly less and less aware of this old world,  and is sleeping more and more. One of us local siblings is usually with her.  Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren come in and out.  We give drinks of ice water, and spoon a little bit of food in — if she allows us to.  These hard days are times of Grace and Glory–as well as the sadness that is part of every waking moment.

Surrounded by love, held tight in the prayers, secure in the eyes of The Father, we rest.

And my heart gives grateful praise

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