Every so often we get to make trips home to Phoenix. I am preparing for one now, looking forward to seeing what happens and seeing family.. vacationing a bit with our kids.
I like trips home. It's fun to see family and friends, sad not to be more a part of their everyday lives, and this sad part is true, more sad about some than others. There are special people in my life that I never hear from or get to talk to as much as I would like, and it makes me sad... (perhaps they know who they are) ... but the world keeps turning and these trips do happen from time to time, and they are good for me.
Something happened recently to jostle my memories about one particular trip to Phoenix...about ten or eleven years ago now... It was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment thing... an opportunity to take, and so I was able to. It was to be a ten day trip.
Margarita... (I like to say Margarita sometimes but it's actually Margaret,) was going to Arizona and suggested that we go together since she had family there and I had family there... and she said I could stay with her and life would be cool. So I did, and it was. You would have to know Margarita to know what I am talking about... exactly... I mean to know just how cool.
Well, here is an example of how cool...
We were driving through a BAD neighborhood and she is looking out the window commenting on how pretty everything is... or rather, the pretty things... never mind she did have sunglasses on and we were in an air-conditioned car, (which is a necessity in the AZ heat!) The cool thing about Maragrita is that God has given her permanent rose colored glasses that she wears all the time through which she views life, seeing the good and lovable in most everything... Did I meantion this was an ugly neighborhood and the heat was glaring and I did not have sunglasses on at the time... I made her take her sunglasses off and take a real look and do you know what? She still found joy in our surroundings. This... is just one example of "cool."
It was a bit of a drive everyday to see my mom, which is who I went to see mostly, but with the new freeway system that they had it only took about 20 minutes in my cool rental car. Jars of Clay became my carpool buddies and off I went each day to visit mom, who was living in a nursing home that she didn't like very much. Margaret would go and do whatever she did all day and I would go and do my thing and then we would recconect in the evenings and be off for another day.
The first day when I got there I went to see her and we had dinner and went for a walk. I pushed her in her wheelchair outside the nursing home and we talked. She seemed well, but on the second day when I arrived firetrucks and an ambulance was at the home.
Lo and behold, they were even in my mother's room. Off they went to the hospital, and I followed. They told me she had pneumonia.
Upon arrival at the hospital everything was a really big deal... tubes and nurses and doctors were everywhere, and they wanted to know if she was a DNR.
(Do Not Reccessitate) This means that if she were to die should they put her on life support or not... keep her alive, try to save her life.... that kind of thing.
My poor mother. Well, She was definitely a DRN... I had hear it all my life, I had had it drilled into me ... She was definitely a DNR.
She had been through so much in life, and had her share of physical ailments over the years and disabilities on top of it all. Now at 72 she was no, as she would say, "spring chicken." She was now living in a low income nursing home, frustrated with the state of affairs in the family, alienated from everything she loved, unable to do the things she wanted to do, stuck in a bed or wheelchair.... at the mercy of underpaid and overworked nursing home staff... on continual pain medication and now, is stricken with pnumonia... Funny thing was, we had as a family been down this road so many times before. It was nothing new.
Well, I called all my family members and told them the situation. I was ready for anything. Mostly I hoped she would get better and we could have some time together. This was not at all what I expected. I expected to be taking her to lunch today... or to visit family. Instead I got to sit in the waiting room of the County Hospital watching as people rushed to help someohne who came in with gunshot wounds.. crying babies.... people feeling sick... big city hospital stuff like that. I did meet one man, a Christian man in the waiting room that day and we talked about the Lord as we sat there together. THAT was encouraging to me.... Then I was able to go and see my mom.
Each day of my trip was a blurr after that... but each evening I would meet up with Margaret and tell her everything that transpired. God had obviously prepared this for me to walk though and here I was.. walking through it, amazed to see all the little things he did and cared about. Praying to be faithful to the call... and be there for my ailing mother.
For years I had been praying, asking God to send someone to share the gospel with my mom, not that I didn't already, not that she had never heard, but she had issues. She knew about God, she believed in God... but she didn;t know him or trust him, most of the time. Faith is always a struggle, but because of her illnesses and her life, she felt unlovable, like she was being punished for sin... getting what she deserved...stricken by God. I think suffering sometimes just amkes a person want to die... and often, she just wanted to die and hope for the best. Little did I know, god had this plan to send me.
The trip was a trip! It was ten days of being blown away by the power and expertise of a mighty God.
My mom was alert, but on morphine most the time. she was on oxygen and sheared a room with four other people. She would come in and out of sleep and consciousness, and when she did we would have a chance to talk.
It was during one of these conversations that I asked her about her faith. She assured me that she was catholic. I said, I know Mom... but tell me, you know Jesus died for your sin... because God loves you... and because you believe in Jesus, when you die... you will go home to be with the Lord... in heaven.. forever?
She said, of course I believe in Jesus...
I tell you, one minute later a man came into the room. He barely looked up from a black book in his hands and but said, my mothers name s if asking if indeeed this person in the bed was she. I sid yes and he introduced himself as father so and so and said he was there to give her the last rites. Without even looking at us, he stood at the foot of the bed, ask my mother if she wanted to receive the last rites.. (of the Catholic Church) to which she said "yes" and proceeded to read something... from his book, make the sign of the cross over her bed and then saying good day, he turned and walked away.
That was it, the last rites. Although I know she had had "the last rites" more than once in her life.
It was quite a little ritual in my mind as I sat there, privy to it all, thinking in my head how glad I was that I had just had that conversation with her about Jesus, hearing her tell me that she believed Jesus died for her sin and she believed in Jesus... I kinda rejoiced in my heart, thankful that God was there BEFORE this man came in.
To this man I felt like my mom was just a name on a list and not really a person to visit and comfort. There was no real conversation. The man was a robot. He looked a little like Don Novello, but there was nothing amusing about the visit. There was no compassion. He didn't even touch her, or hold her hand or pray for her; he didn't ask her or me if we needed anything. There was no eye contact. He simply asked it she was the right person, said some words, asked her a question, and said some more words and left. It was as if he was going threough the motions, simply getting through a long list for the day. In a couple of minutes, he was off...
I wish I remember what-all he said. Whatever it was she agreed. In my mind, whatever it was didn't matter because one thing was certain... she believed in Jesus and believed she would go to be in heaven with the Lord when she died, not because of what she did or didn't do, not because she gave enough money at the church, not because she was good enough to escape the reality of hell... complete separation from God, but because God loved her and sent Jesus who being the exact representation of God, took her place in death. She believed on the one who God sent...
It was on Sunday that my mother died. I had gone to church, seeking some fellowship with Christians who could pray for me. I prayed with the pastor, Mark was his name... because I was a wee bit stressed out. I would be leaving in just a few days and concerned about leaving her in the hospital. (could I stay longer?) I wondered what that would be like and needed encouragement in trusting the Lord through all I foresaw as possibilities. I was thanking God for the many things I could see him doing in my life, in my family... and when I arrived back at the hospital, I entered the room and saw that she had died.
The woman in the bed across the room said no one had been in for a while and my mom was sleeping. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I perceived that she was dead. I just called the nurse.
We arranged a memorial service to which many family members came. Some of my mother's sister were there. My sister even made it. The fact that we had the memorial service before I felt was amazing too. An answer to prayer.
At a memorial service, people get up and say things...
Someone said it was a blessing that she died because now she would not suffer anymore. I got up and said that death was not the blessing, eternal life through faith in Christ was, despite death and suffering. I told of how blessed it was that my mom knew that she was going to heaven because of Jesus.
This was followed by a rebuttal from a catholic family member who was mad at me and insisted that my mother was Catholic, a good Catholic... and that she even prayed the rosary! I hope that means that Catholics believe in Jesus and will because of him will go to heaven when they die... but the rebuttal effect, the sharpness of the remark really made me wonder. (Even though I think I understand what "Catholics" believe, and this because I have read what the Catholic books and teachings say... at least in English.) The sharpness of the remark reminded me that this life is spiritual battle for the souls of men and women. In my mom's case, the matter is settled and quite frankly, I have to believe God won.
Did I mention that on our way to Phoenix the Airlines (Alaska Airlines) gave us a little card on our dining tray... It was the picture of a sunrise and it said, "I will praise the name of God with a song, and will glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30." Margaret and I were pretty amazed. It was amazing to think that the Airlines would even distribute such a thing... but then this is America.... The little card e en says, "Alaska Airlines." But you know we were even more impressed that on the return flight home we got another card on our tray. This one was the picture of an evening sky and it read, " I will be glad and rejoice in you: I will sing praise to yourname, O most High. Psalm 9:2" I still have these little cards in my bible.
With all the adventures done Margarita and I headed home.. as scheduled... talking laughing rejoicing in what God had done and shown us on this trip, wishing life was always such an adventure.
Funny thing it is... we just often fail to realize the miracle of faith and the miracle of grace and JEsus... even this thing called life that we are living in.
Need those "rose colored" glasses, I guess...
Jesus.. that " sweet rose " of Sharon...