My mom died at age 79. I was with her in the ambulance when she was struggling for breath. I was with her in the hospital when the nurses cut her pyjama top to give her CPR. I saw her waving her hand, and looking back now, it was her goodbye.
Into the night I kept vigil, as one by one all of our immediate family members started to pour in asking why, what happened, and what was happening. As the doctors transferred her to another hospital that had better heart care, we prayed and hoped she would survive. She didn’t. She passed away the next day, hooked on to machines. We watched as she drew her last breath, but only after she sensed all of us were there. We were also surrounded by community members who loved her and because it was pre-COVID, we had the privilege of having as many visitors as we could.
As we grappled with her sudden, unprepared death, I asked for a sign. Was she okay? Was this departure approved by God? Did she know we loved her? A few days before her death, she wanted me to take her to the salon to have her hair done and have a manicure/pedicure – the only luxury she enjoyed. I said I was busy but I can organise it the following week. I carry this painful grief until now.
My counselling background reminds me not to beat up myself with guilt, but it is something I need to work on harder – not to be too busy for the needs of a loved one, or for someone in want. The hard lesson is there- it could be the last request. Mom surrendered her life on 7 July 2012, about 12 noon, as we were praying the Divine Mercy. But something mystical happened. Her face transformed – looking so much younger, the wrinkles, the weariness, the dull, pigmented face replaced by a glow of youthful appearance, peaceful, serene. That gave us so much consolation. As a family, we understand the perfect workings of the Holy Spirit. Mom is in good hands.
Although this is the last imprint of my mom in my mind, there are many other beautiful memories – her kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, graciousness, self-sacrificing nature, her spontaneity and love of adventure – picnics, travels, excursions, outings, being part of a group and enjoying people’s company.
Her faithful love of family, as a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother is fully remembered by those who received it (my own granddaughter, Eva, then only two years old was the last great-grandchild she rocked to sleep despite her painful heart condition.) Of course, there was also the feisty and funny side, the stubborn streak, the worrywart, the regimented part of her (I remember her grabbing our pillow cases even while still sleeping hurrying to launder them on time, which interestingly I inherited, doing the same occasionally!)
She always bought birthday and anniversary cards and even before the occasion approached, she was ready with the card with some money slipped into it as a gesture of thoughtfulness. When she died, we found such cards with money in them. Mom’s name is Marta and she is typical Biblical Marta – always busy, active, doing things all day, but she was Mary too – she rose at dawn to say hours of prayer, had a siesta with her novena books, and went to sleep with more devotional leaflets under her pillow. Her gift of praying is a lasting legacy.
I always feel her comforting intercessions especially in the midst of my storms, sending feathers to reassure. Dad Jesus (pronounced Hesus) is 89 now and lives with my sister Tes. Surrounded by family love and care, his faith is manifested in his simple prayers for God to look after him, knowing that mom is within spiritual reach. After all, they were a Jesus and Marta team!
In my current role as Pastoral Care Practitioner in an aged care setting, much of my ministry is supporting our residents and their families at end of life. Residents in Aged Care are persons that need daily essential care and assistance. They come to us with life-threatening illnesses and disabilities, and the natural progression is the end of life. It was hard for me to accept this in the beginning, but the Lord has given me the grace to shift my praying for physical miracles into the most treasured healing – preparing them for Heaven.
Although I do not organise funerals, I watch these farewell services, and the use of webcast media has helped tremendously. I love to be part of the life of the resident I know only as an old, aged, frail, wearied and sick person. When the photo memories unfold, eulogies spoken, the life of the deceased is celebrated. There is always a beautiful person behind all those illnesses and frailties that define us in our winter years – the wrinkles and disabilities fade into the background.
As a mother myself, and a grandmother too – I know that I am not perfect in my parenting skills. When I was nursing my child as a new born babe, thirty years ago, I was not even sure of my role. There were books and advice from the experts, but there were many moments when all these brought me more uncertainty. My daughter’s growing pains were my own, and although I quietly bore them and showed only courage and strength, at night I was on my knees begging God to help me. There were many silent tears, blank stares on the wall, fears and worries, anxieties and aloneness. It brought me to the times I gave my mom “angst” for being a reckless, and carefree young adult – partying all night and doing silly things with peers.
The body, the soul and spirit of a mother seem to have been built in a special way – strong and sturdy, but very fragile and always vulnerable.
My heart is like a tender organ, easily moved by the joys and the pains of my loved ones. When my daughter needs to finish her shift work until 2:00 in the morning, I do not really sleep well. I feel anxiety rising within. Fears pound on me. And the devil uses this to overwhelm me. Prayers are my only anchor during these moments of anguish. My granddaughter has “friends’ issue” at present. She cries her heart out for these perplexing times. My heart twinges for what she feels. Although I teach her how to be strong, resilient and to bless those who persecute her, silently, I feel the personal pain of those broken friendships.
I wish I could pick just one fruit of the Spirit to highlight my sharing for this month. But I couldn’t really, as all the fruits of the Holy Spirit are embedded in this person called Mother – In Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” A good mother is all these. But for the purpose of my monthly theme for the year, I will choose goodness as reflection of who God is to us.
In big and small things, God looks after us. We may not always see or appreciate this, as we are wrapped up in our worldly concerns, instead of in the spirit of gratitude, but God always watches over us.
Recently, I needed a short-sleeved shirt that needs to open at the front for my hubby for his cataract operation. We had none at home. With a sigh of a prayer, I had to rush to Big W to hunt for one. My funds were low. I did not want to buy a very expensive shirt just for the day surgery. There was only one shirt with the tag of $30.00. I had no choice, took it to the counter. It was discounted to $3.00! Heavenly provision? I am sure my good God was instrumental for this surprise. In my relationship with God, nothing is coincidental. He knows my needs. My wants, however, are a different story and He deals with those some other way.
Mother’s Day is a celebration for all moms, on earth and in heaven. Mary, mother of Jesus is misunderstood by some, but to me she is the best example of a mother who saw it all and did all for love. When I am unsure of what to do, say or think, I ask her: “Mother, what do you think I should do?” As a gentle, loving, prayerful woman, she always has that quiet answer in my heart and I am comforted.
If for some unfortunate circumstance, you did not have the privilege of benefiting from the love and care of good mother, forgiveness is the key. Then a resolve to break this yoke and overcoming this weakness by deciding and striving to be a good mother yourself, with God’s grace, is a positive step.
Mothers are not perfect. But why did God create them? This poem sums it up – He made two loving arms, to cradle us and shelter us from worldly harm. He made a pair of hands, to care for us and guide us through our choices and our plans. He made the warmest heart, to understand and give our lives a happy, loving start.
The nurturing, enduring, protective, unconditional love of a mother is a clear picture of a God who loves us, both as a father and a mother. And what great blessing if we love them back for the good we see in them and have received from their hands.
A very blessed Mother’s Day to all…I am truly grateful for my mom, for all more senior friends who have become “mom” to me over the years, and for being a mother myself.
- Real-life mother and daughter star in iWantTFC’s Misis Piggy
- My mom, my inspiration
- Everyday grateful: Counting every blessing