In Loving Memory of Mom:The Good Shepherd And The Cardinal Escort

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“What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete, as complete as God’s knowledge of me. Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Cor 13:12-13)

In memory of my mom and because October is National Breast Cancer Awarenss, please allow me to encourage you to get your annual mammogram or to remind the women in your life to do so… you are loved!

As my best friend, I’d typically talk to my mom several times a day. No matter what kind of day I was having, I could always count on her positive outlook. “Over here, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I just planted 25 new flowers in my garden” was her daily declaration. At the time, I didn’t have much appreciation for the dawning of a new day nor the interest in listening to the sweet melody of the birds singing. I suppose it takes a realization of how very short our lives are to make us appreciate the simple gifts God gives us on a daily basis

The first time my mom, not a Christ follower, asked me to pray for her it was because she had found a lump in her breast. (After 3 years of skipped mammograms) She had retired one month earlier in perfect health and was looking forward to spending more time with her kids and grandchildren. With visions of new adventures on her mind, she purchased a small camper. We made lots of plans together, but God had other plans. I’ve lost count of the many surgeries and treatments she endured in less than 2 years from the time of her diagnosis before God called her home. But, I can never forget the faithfulness of our Good Shepherd in drawing near to her, comforting her, and delivering her from her fears as she walked in the “shadow of the valley of death.” In the midst of a most difficult season, she cried out to God and He answered-with the assurance of life eternal in Jesus Christ. (Leaving me to wonder… which is of greater concern to God- the temporal or the eternal?…)

I remember when the doctors told my mom she didn’t have much longer to live and there was nothing else they could do, she responded with one request: “O.K., but can you get me ready to go camping with my grandchildren one last time?” While my dad and I sat in stunned silence, the doctor couldn’t hide the look on his face. The poor dear didn’t quite know how to respond. She didn’t make it. I consider myself blessed to have spent a most memorable last day with her. When later that same day I got the call from my dad with the news of her passing, I returned to my parent’s home where, alone, I went to my mom’s room to say my final farewell. Humbly, I knelt down to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for being her “Good Shepherd” and keeping every promise in accordance to Psalms 23-her favorite scripture. My dad was waiting in the hallway with a question when I came out of her room. “You know she’s not in there right? Who were you talking to?” When I told him I wasn’t talking to her but to Jesus, he asked “you don’t really believe in that “Jesus crap,” do you?” Of course I do. 

Thanks in large part to my beloved church family; the celebration of  life service we had for my mom couldn’t have been more divinely perfect. When one of our friends approached me to express her sympathy, she added how beautiful and thoughtful of me it was to add Psalms 23 to my mom’s obituary. I was stunned. I had written the obituary myself and had NOT added Psalms 23 to it. Though I called the newspaper so we could properly thank our benefactor, to this day no one knows how that Psalms came to be there.

I inherited the camper… and the adventure. If you’ve ever been camping with your family (and a 100 lb. dog who thinks he’s a baby), you know there is not much quiet time alone in which to seek God in prayer.  Because prayer is exactly what prepares me for loving the very people I’m crammed into a tiny camper with, I asked God to help me find a new pathway to worship and experience him. God answered that prayer by opening my eyes to his beauty and glory as proclaimed by creation.

Not long ago, we planned a special family camping trip in which to honor my mom’s memory and final request. As if a wink from heaven, this Northern Cardinal stayed by our side the entire time. It was the strangest, most wonderful thing. As if noticing for the first time, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the Bluebonnets were in full bloom. 

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