Mother’s Day 2017 has been celebrated. If you are a mom, I hope yours was a beautiful day.
My mom has been gone more than a decade. Soon after she left us, my heart urged my pen to write the following words:
An overwhelming sense of sadness swept over me as I stood at my kitchen sink peeling parsnips. Sadness accompanied by emptiness.
I’m told these emotions will often return.
Ever since I was a child I have loved parsnips. We dug gunny sacks full from the garden each fall. My mother always put them in her homemade soup and her beef roasts.
So it is that something as simple as parsnips reminds me of the one who for the last little while has been saying, “Miss me a little, but let me go.”
In the past, I’d written about my mother, Freda, stories of our canning peaches, our Easter bonnets, her faith and her move to a nursing home.
I’d also written about her bachelor brother, my Uncle Bernie, who had moved to assisted living before Mom did. They found comfort in their togetherness. Sitting across from one another at meal time, they shared stories of their childhood with new friends.
Because people ask about my mother, I must tell you she is now in her heavenly home. And Uncle Bernie, who apparently missed her more than any of us could imagine, soon followed. He was 93.
At 98, Mom left us one final, beautiful gift – a prayer.
Both my mother’s and my uncle’s spiritual bags had been packed for a long time. Mom said living in a nursing home is “no walk in the park.” Her weakened heart’s desire was to have at least one of her children with her when she died. I am so thankful all four of us were there.
I will dearly miss my monthly trips to visit her. Last night, the phone rang at 10 p.m., and I wondered if it was Mom. She often called at that hour.
The afternoon of the day she died, Mom sounded strong and chipper on the phone. That evening she told my sister she was having heart trouble. “Maybe the Lord will come for me tonight,” she said.
Toward the end of their phone conversation, Mom and my sis prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. Then out of the blue, Mom recited another prayer. After its “Amen,” my sister asked where in the world she had learned that prayer. “Oh, it was in the Lutheran Witness (magazine) in 1941,” she said, “the summer we had our tragedy. I memorized it then.”
My sister grabbed paper and pencil and asked Mom to repeat it:
Lord God in my affliction, I come to thee in prayer, unshaken in conviction, my life is in thy care. Dear Lord give me endurance, in trouble and in pain, and grant me sweet assurance, thy cross is my great gain. I know that every sorrow sent by thy loving hand, points to a brighter morrow in heaven’s holy land. Lord keep my faith unswerving and let thy will be done, until all undeserving, my rest in heaven be won.”
Within minutes I had the prayer via e-mail. I sent it to my brothers. None of us had ever heard Mom pray it before. Soon all 11 grandchildren heard the prayer Grandma kept hidden in her soul for 62 years. Since then, it’s gone across the United States and has been used by ministers in sermons.
The tragedy my mother spoke of was losing their oldest son to diphtheria when he was 9. My mother grieved within and didn’t speak of him until recent years when we started asking about him. Then she spoke freely of her precious, fun loving little boy.
During one of her final days, Mom softly spoke his name. “Wally is in heaven,” she said.
I never leave home without music and when I was called to the nursing home, my John Ylvisaker “Borning Cry,” CD went along.
The day she died, Mom heard these reassuring words: “I was there to hear your borning cry, I’ll be there when you are old.” And, “Sweet release, bring me sweet release, let me rest in the arms of my Savior.”
As the music faded, I sat on the edge of Mom’s bed holding her hand and caressing her arm. I’d never noticed how long and slim her fingers were – these precious fingers that fed hundreds of baby chicks so many springs ago, these fingers that had French braided my hair, and pulled it I might add. Her arms still bore the marks left by oven burns from all her wonderful baking.
“Mom,” I said through my tears, “your four children are all here and Wally is waiting for you on the other side. It’s OK to go. We’ll meet you in the golden city, in the new Jerusalem.”
About a half hour later our mother took her last breath. A peaceful veil seemed to rest upon her and she became more beautiful than ever. At that moment, we siblings held her hands and prayed.
From nine states, my mother’s grandchildren came to bid her a final beautiful farewell. Joined by their spouses and the great grandchildren and led by organ, trumpet and violin, Mom would have been so pleased to hear them sing, “Children of the Heavenly Father.”
Several of Uncle Bernie’s grand nieces and nephews visited him as he wasn’t able to attend his sister’s funeral. Two days after returning to their homes, we had to tell them he also had died.
A bagpipe echoed from the balcony of the church for Uncle Bernie’s funeral. My siblings and our cousins sang, “The Holy City,” a song we learned in his living room and sang for our grandmother; a song we love to this day.
Twice during my mother’s last week, one of my brothers wheeled Uncle Bernie to her bedside. “Hello sister,” he said, reaching for her hand. “God be with you ‘til we meet again.”
Within six days, they did meet again and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if at this very moment they’re seated across the table from one another eating parsnips from God’s garden.