“Shalom Chaverim…`Til we meet again…” Tears slid down my face as I sang the familiar Jewish folk tune and watched transfixed as my mom’s irregular, rasping breaths slowed, slowed, then stopped.
After my sister and I made the first round of phone calls notifying people of my mom’s passing, I stepped outside into the thick Florida air for a few moments alone. It hit me for the first time: my mother was in the Lord’s presence. For almost all of her sixty-eight years, she’d been a tough-minded secular Jew, and had always prided herself on her ability to hold a grudge.
My early teen rebellion penciled me onto her grudge list more than thirty years earlier. Though my decision to follow Christ at age fifteen evaporated my drinking and drugging habits, my parents saw my new faith as the most rebellious thing I could have ever done. My mom overwrote my penciled-in name on her grudge list in black Sharpie.
And there it stayed, until August, 2008, when my sister and I learned that our widowed mom had terminal cancer. During the last weeks of her life, when I was her primary caregiver, God sent one believing hospice nurse after another into her home to provide both physical and spiritual care for my mom, as we partnered to share the love and mercy of Jesus the Messiah with her.
O me of little faith. I’d grown used to my place on my mom’s list. I was overwhelmed when she asked to pray with one of the nurses and I so she could make her peace with a God she’d kept on her list, too, for a much longer time than I’d been there. In that stunning moment, I realized that there was no more list. Days later, the Lord brought her home.
As I stood alone in a patch of sawgrass shortly after her death, the full force of all that had transpired in the last few days hit me, shifting a life-long paradigm like a 9.0 earthquake. My mom – my unforgiving, bitter mom – was a member of the community of saints. In spite of her long-cherished-but-toxic list. From the moment she cried out to her Savior. She is now a welcomed, important member of the great eternal cloud of witnesses surrounding my life, urging me on, praying for me.
Praying for each one of us.
Have you ever known someone who has long kept God at bay, then making a profession of faith in the finished work of Christ during the last moments of his or her life? How has the experience shaped your understanding of who a saint is?
Michelle is a contributor to Christianity Today's Her.meneutics blog. She is the author of two books about the parables of Christ, and has contributed to several devotional projects as well. You can find a list of her recently-published credits here: http://michellevanloon.com/published-works/. She is involved in mentoring and discipleship relationships, and is in the early stages of a discernment process about pursuing further formal training in the area of spiritual direction.