“I had a fall,” my mother’s voice announced over the phone. It was just before the weekend I had planned for my husband, Michael, and me––a romantic anniversary getaway to Hermosa Beach. Mom lived in Ohio near my two brothers who checked in on her. I visited her whenever I could. She had always sugar-coated her falls and was the “bounce-back kid,” so I was not too worried. She lived at home, liked it that way, and resisted us having anyone come to the house to help.
“I’m coming to see you soon, Mom,” I assured her. “Where’s Dan and John?” My thoughts returned to the weekend.
Michael suffered from ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease). I had been caring for him the past two years, watching him get weaker, losing the use of his legs. This trip would probably be the last time we’d be able to go to the beach together. I wanted him to see the ocean, to feel the sun on his face, to remember happy romantic times.
The nice bellmen at the hotel helped me transfer him to his wheelchair and settled us in our room. I took him out to the Hermosa Beach Pier, and we spent the afternoon watching the waves as I kept his hand in mine. On Sunday, John called.
“Mom’s not doing well. She’s in the hospital.” I ended the conversation with my brother and called my daughter. Lindsay rushed to the hotel and helped me gather Michael and our things. She followed us home, where I quickly re-packed and arranged for Michael’s round-the-clock care. I needed to be with my mom.
As I arrived at my brother’s house paramedics were wheeling Mom into the guest bedroom. She would have hospice care. It was April, and she was 92. She smiled at me and I kissed her cheek, trying not to sob. My mom––my rock––was dying. Soon she was sleeping peacefully, no longer conscious.
My brother lives in the country. We felt the gentle breezes flow through the house, looked out over the corn fields and prayed, feeling almost numb. How could this be? Our mother was leaving us? Pastor Brian, from the church we grew up in, came to counsel and pray with us. Three days later, Mom was gone.
It is hard to describe the following days. Lost would be a good word, or disbelief. The approaching Mother’s Day would be very hard, but Lindsay was with me and we went through the motions. She had lost her grandma, the one who made cookies, the one who let her and her sister, Ashley, play for hours with the jewelry in her jewelry box. She was our light, our rock, and now she was gone.
When I returned home as full-time caregiver for Michael, it was so hard to get up the strength. “How am I going to do this, Lord?” Tears of grief flowed and then, I heard his gentle voice in my soul. “I am your Rock,” he said. “I am your Rock.” So I pressed in, leaning on the Lord like never before. “Give me strength, dear God,” was my daily cry. Little did I know how much I would need Him.
Michael increasingly weakened. I finally had to put him into an assisted living care facility with hospice backup. That was June. As September rolled around, my strong handsome husband, a marathon runner, a blackbelt in karate, was skin and bones. One Saturday I held his hand while he slept all day. By God’s strength, I held it until it turned cold.
If it wasn’t for God in my life, I don’t know how I would have made it. This September will be three years since Michael passed away, and it was three years this past April that I also had to say good-bye to my mom. God is my rock, and the verses I hold dear still today are:
“I will love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength in whom I will trust.” Psalm 18:1-2
Each day, God gives me the strength to keep walking forward. My sorrows have turned to joy as I turn to him. I have two beautiful daughters and two wonderful grandkids. God has even brought wonderful new friends into my life, and––while I have lost two of my beloved cats––I still have my one white cat, Lucy, whose name means “light.”
God never promised us life would be easy, but if we are willing to keep on walking with him, there are easier days ahead, as well as days filled with joy, and endless possibilities.
By Anne Mount