As 2020 dawned, the new year brought significant changes in the health of my 89-year-old mother. She was experiencing the increasing effects of dementia and painful bone-on-bone contact in her knee, resulting in her transition to a wheelchair. My mother had always been a busy and active wife, mother, grandmother and realtor, so she felt her losses deeply.
As the firstborn child and only daughter, I found the daily deterioration of her memory and her physical body causing an overwhelming feeling of sadness as I lost my mother piece by piece. Yet her needs had drawn us even closer than we were before her decline. Thankfully, she lived only minutes away in a condo. I had become her primary caregiver, but I was quickly realizing her needs were greater than my abilities. I needed a new place for Mom.
As 2020 and the pandemic unfolded, I watched assisted living facilities all over the country close their doors to all family members for visits as well as visitors considering a place for their loved ones. Several of my friends with parents in assisted living facilities did not see their parents for many months. My mother had on numerous occasions communicated she had no interest in leaving her condo. I struggled greatly with her request for independence juxtaposed with her safety and the daily challenges of taking care of her needs. I found God’s grace, peace and strength through daily prayer, through the truths of Psalm 91 and through my weekly Bible study group.
Knowing the clock was ticking, I was already grieving the idea of having to drive up to an assisted living facility and drop my mother off to a complete stranger and not be able to go inside with her. I knew God had a plan and, in His Sovereignty, would reveal His plan to me in His perfect timing. During some of the really tough days when I was burdened with sadness, the Lord reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:8: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
On June 5, 2020, my sweet mother suddenly went home to be with the Lord. Jesus had prepared a place for my mother as He has promised to do for all His children. Of course, it was still devastating. Mother had gotten out of her condo in her wheelchair and fallen down a staircase, ending with catastrophic injuries. When we were able to see Mother in the hospital, she was hooked up to life support. We were amazed by the look of peace and absence of pain on her face – something we hadn’t seen in a long time. We said our goodbyes and released Mother to the Lord. She was at peace and God had provided for her needs and for ours, though in a truly unexpected way.
As much as I longed to understand why my mother’s death happened the way it did, the Holy Spirit’s sweet voice reminded me God’s thoughts and ways are not our ways and often beyond our ability to grasp (Isaiah 55:8-9). I believe Jesus is the King of every situation, every sorrow and every suffering. I can honestly say I am thankful to God we did not have to drop my mother at the front door of an assisted living facility only to have her experience confusion and loneliness. I am thankful Mother did not have to experience any more excruciating knee pain. I’m thankful God spared us seeing my mother decline any further. Most of all, I’m thankful my mother is safe at home with Jesus Christ where someday I will join her.
For a month after Mother’s death, I was having sleepless nights with a recurring nightmare of seeing her falling down the stairs in her wheelchair to her death. I had not witnessed the accident, but when I slept I was distraught imagining those horrible moments.
I asked the Lord for relief from this nightly dream, and God kindly and graciously replaced this nightly vision with beautiful verses from Genesis. I had just finished a Bible study of Genesis and found peace and comfort from Genesis 28:12 where Jacob has a dream of angels ascending and descending a staircase. Above the staircase stands the Lord. God assured me my mother was no longer falling or descending a staircase, but was instead going up or ascending a staircase where Jesus was standing and welcoming her home. As I imagined Jesus welcoming my mother, the Lord said to me, “Sweet girl, now you can rest!”
Mother and I both now rest in God’s holy presence and peace. For a little while, we rest from different ends of the staircase. Jesus stands at the top to welcome all His dear ones home with His loving embrace.