The following tribute was paid by Ann to her mother-in-law who went to be with Jesus a year ago. Last summer I met Ann's father-in-law just days after his dearly beloved wife had left for heaven's splendor. What a godly man!
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As a family we gather today at the graveside. We bring flowers, ones she grew, divided, gave us. Because a year ago today...
I stand in the hallway, watching the dark drift in, inky and thick. My head aches. It’s been a long day: wringing out cold cloths for the sweat beads threading across my mother-in-laws fevered brow, carefully stirring ice-cream to a soft, palatable consistency, offering up small spoonfuls with the whispered encouragement, “Good, Mom! Now swallow? That’s it. That’s it!”
I lean up against the cool of the cement block wall outside her room and wait. In a few moments it will be my turn. I’ll push open that heavy door again, cup her gaunt face in my hands, and say my good-bye.
How do I say good bye to a woman who, over the course of 22 years of turning her home into Friday night Good News Bible Club, rescued hundreds of unchurched kids from the sinking mire of hopelessness and dragged them up onto the solid ground of Jesus—one of who was me. This woman, her bringing me Good News—the best news—led to my sister, mother and eventually brother all being plucked from the drowning pit and ushered into staggering new life.
How do I say goodbye to the woman who prayed to have a ninth child – yes, she wanted and prayed for the ninth---and raised that boy up to be the only boy I ever held hands with, who is the father of the six children I tuck into bed every night, and who wraps me up in his big Dutch arms, presses his soul into mine, and walks me through this thing called life?
No, I have no words—not the right ones, anyways. How to gather up the perfect ones to express it all to the woman who was instrumental in my faith, my marriage, and the legacy my children inherit? I wait, fumbling through my mind, groping along for phrases, words, that will somehow express what I feel, this overwhelming gratitude.
The illuminated herald over the lobby doorway keeps interrupting. In neon red, four letters blazing in the black, herald the imminent: EXIT.
Exit. This way to vacate the premises. Depart here.
The lump in my throat stings. And from the dark and down the hall, Margaret in 113 begins again. At first, weeks ago, I could hardly tolerate it when Margaret’s cry would drift through the hospital halls at all hours. In a plaintive, desperate plea, like a heart-pounding bird, trapped and caged, the frail woman calls to the universe, “I can’t get out of here! Hurry! Hurry! Get me out of here, Murray, get me out of here! I can’t get out! Help, Murray, Help!”
The exit sign glows. The halls fill with Margaret cries for release.
My father-in-law steps out of Mom's room, and my sister-in-law slips in. I’m next. And all I have is a trembling chin.
My father-in-law’s thick fingers find mine and he squeezes. I can hear him humming, braiding his song in the lightless dark, with Margaret’s pleas:
“What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be."
I join in, softly humming too, he and I staring up at the exit sign.
I know, Margaret, I know. The waiting room wears on us, doesn’t it?
"Get me out of here. Help. I am done with this dull ache, this gnawing restlessness, this never finding what I am looking for. I just want to catch a flight Home."
Yes, to depart the waiting room, head towards the exit sign, and grab our flight home to Him and all this heart has been crying for.
My mother-in-law’s glorious day came Saturday.
She left the waiting room. Her flight departed. And she's soared.
Our glorious day will be soon, Margaret, soon....