Category Archive: Saying Goodbye

From Death to Life

Once again grief roars into our family.

I keep wanting to pick up the phone and call her. Then I remember. She left us Saturday. Transitioned from death to Life. My precious 98-year old mother has longed for the day when she would see Jesus face to face. She’s eagerly awaited that great reunion with my father, who preceded her by eighteen years. Saturday evening her prayer was answered.

Mom and Dad’s Wedding. Her beautiful sister Mary is the bridesmaid on the left; Dad’s brother Jake is his best man. Mom’s brother, Irvin, is the ring bearer.

Mom lived independently until about a year ago when she moved into an Assisted Living Center. Over the past year her hearing has declined significantly so that conversations were often difficult, both in person and more so, on the phone. I treasured those moments when I saw her personality shine through her twinkling eyes, young again because of a shared memory, a laugh, a thought.

Mom could laugh – at herself or others – but never unkindly

Mom’s mobility also decreased significantly. Her legs were weak and she first needed a walker. Then she got an electric scooter which was wonderful in helping her get around the Manor and to meals in the dining room. More recently, Mom was usually in a wheelchair when she left her room.

A month ago Mom fell and broke her ankle. She’s been in a cast since, which limited her mobility even more.

I have so many precious memories with Mom.

She was a wonderful cook and homemaker. My brothers and I thought we were so clever when we came up with our own riddle:

Q: “What does Mom always look for and never hope to find?”

A: “Dirt!”

When I was quite little I spilled a glass of milk from my high chair. I expected a scolding. Instead, Mom picked up a towel, said “Oh well, that can be fixed,” and began wiping up the spilled milk.

I received Christ as my Savior at the tender age of eight years. But as a mid-teen I faced doubts–had I said the right words and was I really now a part of God’s family? When I finally confessed my fears to Mom, she helped me understand that God knew my heart. I didn’t need a specific word set if I acknowledged my need for forgiveness of sins and a Savior. She showed me John 6:37 where Jesus promised “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And my soul was at peace, knowing I was accepted in the beloved.

Mom modeled love for Jesus Christ and for others. She was hospitable, gracious and kind. She was gifted with a beautiful, classically trained soprano voice and taught vocal lessons for many years. Whenever I couldn’t be home on an Easter Sunday I knew Mom would be singing “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah in church.

She modeled the disciplines of a walk with God–she loved reading her Bible, doing her Bible study and praying.

When my father died eighteen years ago, Mom refused to wallow in her grief. Deep as it was, she continued to meet with their friends, to enjoy their Sunday school class and church, and to invite others for a meal or conversation. One day not long after Dad’s death, I took Mom to a shopping center–I can’t recall why. As we walked and talked I told her I wished I could take her pain.

Gracious as always, she turned to me. “Carol, you have your own pain.” Despite her grief, she could look beyond herself to see my need in the loss of my beloved Dad.

Later, when both Mom and I were widowed, we took several overnight trips together. Our conversations during those times were deep, fun, meaningful. We talked about whether she had any desire to remarry (she didn’t, although she had a valued male friend for several years). We talked about my hopes and desires for my future. We explored other geographical areas.

We enjoyed seeing movies together.

Going to lunch together.

For many years Mom, my brother Arnold and I enjoyed singing trios together, until both her voice and mine waned. For a time we sang in the same church choir and I loved how her voice next to me challenged and improved mine.

Mom with her sister Mary, their brother Irvin, and me

When I was a child our family enjoyed family nights every Friday. Mom was our resident Chinese Checkers expert and winner. When my youngest brother, Bob, was five we taught him to make the popcorn and that was his job from then on. Since we didn’t have a television ’til I was in high school, Dad bought a movie projector. He and Melvyn often went to the city library and selected 16mm films we could enjoy as a family. Mel and Arn enjoyed playing with the movies–and watching downhill ski segments reversed so skiiers flew uphill backwards gave us big laughs!

Mom still enjoyed playing games until the last week of her life. She was part of a Wednesday night Rummikub group at the Manor. She loved it when she could win one or two games, and enjoyed the mental challenge and competition.

She loved her husband, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with all her heart and prayed for us faithfully. Her deepest desire was for her family members to know, love and serve the God she taught us about from our birth.

With the corona virus outbreak it’s been very hard not to be able to visit Mom in person. Bob and Sheila, Don and I have talked to her through her room window. But no touch, no hugs. Last Monday and Tuesday Mom told me she just didn’t “feel right” and was extra fatigued. Tuesday night an ambulance took her to Kaiser. Bob and Sheila and I waited in the parking lot, unable to enter the ER. Every 20-30 minutes one of us would check at the door for updates. Finally Mom was admitted and, because her x-rays showed spots on her lungs, she was isolated for two days awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. Mom did, however, have pneumonia and a serious case of sepsis (blood infection).

When the COVID-19 tests came back negative, Mom was admitted to end-of-life care and was allowed one visitor at a time. Over the next three days Don, Bob and Sheila, Mel and I spent time loving her, holding her hand, telling her it was all right to go Home. Arnold, unable to travel from Kansas, was with her on FaceTime.

I had the privilege of spending Friday afternoon, night and Saturday morning with her. I read Psalm 23 aloud and croakily sang several hymns, often breaking down in tears. I held her hand and kissed her and told her how much I love and appreciate her and that she would soon be with Jesus and Dad.

Saturday afternoon Bob spelled me and sent me home to rest. He loved on her too; and at 6:19 that evening she took her last breath on this side of eternity.

To use my nephew’s phrase, I am heartbrokenly grateful. Grateful for my mother’s long and loving life; for having her in my life for so many years; for her freedom from pain and suffering, limitations and loneliness. Grateful for God’s promise that because Jesus lives, I will be reunited with Mom when He calls me Home. And heartbroken because I want to pick up the phone and hear Mom’s voice, to hold her and hug her one more time.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21

I love you Mom. Give Dad a big hug for me, and I’ll see you both soon.

Farewell…For a Season

Don and I attended a meaningful memorial service yesterday for our dear friend, June McCuistion, who left earth for heaven a week before her 90th birthday. The service was a celebration. June had polio at five years of age and has been in constant pain since, every day of her life. Yet I’ve rarely seen a more beautiful, gracious, strong woman.

I never recall her complaining about her pain. This morning Don and I read the following statement: “I call you to lead the life that I have assigned to you, and to be content … Learning to be content is both a discipline and an art: you train your mind to trust my sovereign ways with you–bowing before my mysterious, infinite intelligence.” (Jesus Today, by Sarah Young) As Jan, June’s daughter, shared at yesterday’s service, “Mom’s faith allowed her to choose to accept the life she had, and to be the best she could be.”

June also had severe scoliosis, and a spine that was quite curved, making it harder for her to find clothing she liked. Once, June and Walt and Fritz and Frank Buschman were vacationing together with us in Puerto Vallarta. Fritz, June and I went shopping and found some clothes that were beautiful on June, with her stylishly simple, snow-white hair and beautiful face. That evening she modeled the clothes for her husband, Walt, and the rest of us. Walt’s eyes shone, and June teared up. “I feel beautiful.”

And she was beautiful…inside and out. June regularly listened and empathized and went beyond her pain to hear and feel the needs of others, which may in retrospect have been far smaller than her own needs. She could also speak truth in a firm, but loving way, when women coming to her for advice needed to correct their thinking or behavior.

June’s dear husband, Walt McCuistion, was a pastor and counselor for many years. He and I had lunch together one day when I was in conflict at work. I’d called in sick because I woke up in tears and couldn’t face going into the office that day. My sweet husband called Walt and asked if he could meet me for lunch. Over that brief period, Walt gave me perspective on the situation I was in, challenging me to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). I returned to work with a new attitude and a refreshed heart.

Walt married Don and me. He was getting forgetful, and started to pronounce us husband and wife before we said our vows. Both June and I spoke up.

“Not yet, Walt.”

“What?”

“We haven’t said our vows yet.”

“Oh, go ahead.”

And with that we simply moved forward through the rest of the ceremony. We’d decided to have a very small wedding–had both had big weddings in our prior lives–and the interruption of Walt’s forgetfulness felt so natural, so comfortable with only eight people there, that it remains one of our fond memories of a very intimate and close time.

Walt died five years ago. June was in a rehab center after a bone break, and the family had all gathered in a conference room to discuss her treatment. As Walt sat in his chair, surrounded by his wife, daughter and son, he simply passed into the presence of Jesus. “Good for him, bad for us,” his son Greg said yesterday. And yet, what a way to go Home, to the eternity that awaits those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ and His atonement for us. We were created for heaven … and, for the believer, death is a transition, a graduation if you will, to what we were made for–unending, perfect fellowship with our God and fellow believers.

June and Walt are reunited. Their memorial services were five years and one day apart. But their lives have impacted many for eternity. I miss them; and their family needs God’s comfort in the loss of this wonderful mother and grandmother. But heaven is enriched because another saint has come Home.

If you haven’t looked at the claims of Jesus, please do so. Read the New Testament book of John to discover his words, his heart, his sacrifice, his gift of eternal life. And consider his invitation to become part of his eternal family.

 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:12) 

See you soon, June and Walt!

A Tearful Farewell

We said a tearful goodbye Wednesday morning. Our sweet, 14-year old Kelly has recently gone steadily downhill. It hurt to watch her stumble, her legs splay underneath her, her turn away from food, and sleep most of the day.

Don and I have prayed that God would give us wisdom as to when it was time to say goodbye. Several times we’ve thought we were there, but then she’s rallied. And Kelly has never been a complainer, so we watched her eyes, her walk, her food intake, her energy level. Monday we took her to the vet for blood tests. “I’m really not happy with what I see,” Kelly’s kind and competent doctor told us. It was time.

We took our Kelly-girl home for another day and a half to love on her and to say goodbye. En route home I said, “Don, I’d love it if we could take her to the beach one more time. But I know it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” Kelly slept on my shoulder for two hours that night, something I don’t think she’s done since Don and I married, when she retreated to the bottom of the bed.

My sweet number 1 girl

Rain was heavy Tuesday morning, but the sun peeked out about noon. “Let’s go!” Don and I took Kelly and Paige down to the beach, where we strapped Kelly into her doggie stroller. Paigey ran alongside. We walked over a mile in glorious sunshine, a lovely breeze cooling us. Kelly perked up enough to sit up and watch life around her. It was a wonderful time and the sunshine, a gracious gift from the Father to assuage my hurting heart, allowed us to do something special for Kelly on her last day.

This little beauty has brought a lot of joy and laughter to our lives over the almost ten years I’ve had her.

  • She came to me, a good gift from God, when I was alone and lonely. During a time of grief, she gave me a reason to get up every day because she needed me. During cold winter months I often wakened to feel her little body cuddled under the covers against my thigh. She sneaked under without waking me. I never knew how she managed to breathe underneath the blankets, but she did; and I loved waking to her warmth.
  • Kelly’s antics made me laugh. Early in our life together I went straight to my laptop in the morning. Kelly looked at me from across the room. She opened her mouth and chomped her teeth – I hadn’t fed her yet! Message received.
  • She was my buddy and sweet companion, and I took her along whenever I went somewhere dogs were allowed. She sat quietly and unobtrusively at my feet in Bible studies, lunches, and one-on-ones, never disrupting except with her sweet cuteness, happy as long as she was with me. And if I lunched with a girlfriend and left the table to use the restroom, Kelly stayed behind, remaining in one position, her big brown eyes fixed on the door until I returned.
  • She had grit. When Kelly was just a baby, she took on a big dog who broke her jaw. In the last few years, my girl’s tongue hung out to one side of her sweet, crooked mouth. I think her imperfection made her even more beautiful. And when we brought her grandpup, Paigey, to join our family, Kelly definitely let her know who was boss!
  • I acquired Kelly two months after meeting Don. When we began dating, Kelly was always happy to greet him, to sit with us, to go on walks with Don and his gentle German Shepherd, Ginger. I once waved my hand to include Kelly and said to Don, “You know this is a package deal.” He smiled. “Oh, I figured that out a long time ago.”
  • Our precious princess has left us and we miss her. I am so grateful for this good gift God gave me when I needed her more than I knew.

“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.” James 1:17a (MSG)

I love you, Kelly girl! Your imprint will always be on my heart.

Have you lost a pet? What did you love about him or her?

 

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Saying Goodbye

“I’ll see you after your surgery, honey,” I said, tears streaming down my face as I kissed my husband’s goodbye-rosessweet face. “And if God takes you home, I’ll meet you later at Jesus’ feet.” He leaned his face up to meet mine and we kissed … long, soft, tender. I felt like we put all our love into that kiss, knowing it was likely our last.

Saying goodbye may be one of the hardest things we ever have to do. Whether it’s a parent whose child is brain-dead because of one hit on a potent drug, a child whose parent or sibling is dying, or a spouse whose partner is on his deathbed, you feel like your heart will simply burst inside your chest. If your loved one has been ill, you’ve done all you can–you’ve expressed your love and appreciation, you’ve advocated for her, you’ve sat and held his hand for hours, knowing how important your presence and touch are to your loved one.

If you’re a person of faith, you’ve prayed with and for your partner and may have encouraged her with the promises of God. If not, perhaps you’ve invited a chaplain, pastor or priest in to address your partner’s need for peace with God. Here are a few other recommendations from hospice workers and physicians.

Ask if he needs help to resolve unsettled relationships. When my father lay dying, a young hospice worker asked, “Is there anyone you need to make things right with before you go?” While it’s not always possible to restore broken relationships, this is a good question to ask to help loved ones resolve outstanding issues.

Think of how you feel, and say it. Often. Repeatedly. Hospice workers say those who are dying sometimes have an uncanny ability to choose the moment of passing. You may or may not be present when the transition occurs, so don’t wait for the last minute to share your thoughts and feelings. One woman shared that her mother passed while she stepped out of the room to use the restroom.

Give them permission to go: Sometimes our loved ones want to stay for us … but there comes a time when we need to release them, let them know that however much we will miss them, we will be ok.  Two days before Dad moved into eternity, my brother assured him, “We’ll take care of Mom. And each other. We’ll be all right.” This seemed to set Dad’s mind at ease.

My mother-in-law had been in excruciating pain following surgery. Although she was in a coma, we knew she could probably still hear us. We all spoke to her. Jerry was last. “Mom, it seems that if God was going to heal you, He would have done it by now; so if you see Him calling you, go to Him.” Instantly, her heart stopped! Even the nurse gasped.

Often, your presence is more important than words. Show up. Be there. If you can, give a foot or backrub (Dad loved head rubs). Your loving touch speaks volumes.

gloryThe God who has led you and your partner to this moment knows your pain, your loss, and has promised never to leave you nor forsake you; and one day in His presence you and your loved one will again be reunited, to enjoy life eternal with Him.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died…Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17b-18 (NLT)

Additional resources:

https://www.caring.com/articles/how-to-say-goodbye

https://www.caring.com/reflections/david-kuhl-reflection

 

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