Sunday morning, November 18, 2007, I received the call I had been expecting. Around 9:30 a.m. CST my 90-yr.-old mother slipped out of that frail body that was once so vibrant and woke up in the presence of the Lord. Through the grace of God, my beloved church and a wonderfully compassionate and helpful Sharon at American Airlines we were able to book our flights (6 of them; Ally stayed overseas) to Mississippi on such short notice during Thanksgiving week, one of the busiest in the air. We arrived at my sister Sandra’s place in Jackson on Monday and spent the week with her. Mother’s memorial service was Saturday in Tupelo, our hometown.
I’M THANKFUL FOR FUNERALS! I’m sure, in almost 30 years of pastoring I’ve led hundreds. But this one was different. This was Mother. For many years Mother has been in a nursing home and for the past several years she has been in poor health and basically non-communicative. Though she could still get around in her wheelchair, the verbal part of her existence basically ceased to exist. And, physically, she deteriorated a great deal. So the prevalent memories have been of her like she was at the end of her life.
It was my sister who first remarked about the unique blessing this time was for us. As we began to hear from and see old friends and family members we were constantly nourished and comforted by their memories of Mother—memories, not of nursing homes and wheelchairs and one-way conversations and the inability to talk on the phone—rather memories of the Mother we once knew, full of life and loving her family and friends, especially those grandkids. There were her loving little brother who remembered a special oldest sister; my best friend whom she helped raise; those who knew her as a fraternity and sorority house mother at Mississippi State; those who worked with her in Tupelo; those who were with her in all her activities at church; those whom she taught in Sunday School; those who knew she harbored a secret “Baptist sin,” she loved to dance; and many more.
So, I’m thankful for this tough and tender trip. It replaced the memory of suffering with one of joy and gratitude for God’s gift to me.