My wife and I had driven some 500 miles to be with my godly mother who was dying of cancer. The evil scourge had started in her throat several years before, where a tiny fish bone had embedded years before. My mother was a tall, big-boned woman of maybe 160-165 pounds for most of her life. But now the fearful disease had taken its toll, spreading to her tongue, her throat, eating her larynx along the way, then finally, into her lungs. There was little left of her body but a skeleton with skin.
As I sat that day by her bedside, she was alternating in and out of consciousness. All during her illness, which was now entering its third year, Mom would attend the services of her church, visit the shut-ins, send cards and notes to the hurting and depending on her physical strength, help others in any way she could. She took the command to love others seriously, in word and deed. In the hospital, as long as she had the strength to move around, she visited other rooms seeking to encourage others.
I did not know it at the time, but Mom was experiencing in her hospital bed, the last few hours of life on earth. I was in my second or third year of my first pastorate. I was going through the struggles and disappointments of the ministry. Now this. In the course of the day I had mentioned to my Mom something about having a headache Now, the time had come when we had to return home to Pittsfield, Illinois for Sunday services. The doctor had told us earlier that mother was in unbearable pain and the medicine was having little or no positive effect. He had instructed the nurses on duty to provide her with pain killers whenever she needed them.
Nevertheless, coming out of that twilight-zone trance that only the sick and dying know, she patted my hand with that little smile that was so endearing and she said, her voice now barely audible, “Wes, I hope you get over your headache.” A simple gesture, to be sure. But here she was in terrific pain, barely able to speak, in the final throes of death – and she was concerned about my headache! I thought later, it was so typical of the way she had lived – always caring and concerned about others.
It made me realize how selfish I had been. Before I had left that day, I bent down to kiss Mom on the forehead. As I did, with what little energy she had left, she reached up and pulled me down close and with her last bit of strength, she whispered in my ear, “Wes, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” It was some of the words of her favorite song.
I left that day with a fresh reminder as to what it means to love others with the love of Christ. It was a fresh awakening to the reality that what we do is more important than what we say. Its easy to talk the Christian life than it is to walk it. I never saw my mother again alive or heard her sweet, gentle voice on this earth. She went to be with the Lord, while my wife and I were driving back home. But the faith and love she showed in her darkest hours has remained fresh in my mind for more than fifty years. This last day with Mother still helps me to understand that the very best medicine for life’s hurts is helping to ease the hurts of others. Just like Jesus Himself set the example.