Sometimes, a surprise pops out of the most unexpected places. Right now, I'm in Florida for a few days. We inherited my parents little patio home and have spent many exhausting hours giving it a good cleaning and face lift. This trip is a quick one to buy replacement mattresses.
The garage has not been on my priority list of places to spruce. We cleaned out quite a bit in there, but I noticed 3 boxes taped up and sitting quietly against the back wall. I'll get to those another day, I thought each time I saw them.
Yesterday, I opened the first box and it was immediately clear this one came from the skilled care center down the road. Both Mom and Dad stayed there for the final six months of Mom's battle with cancer that ended the summer of 2009. It was a wonderful place with beautiful facilities and caring people.
When we visited her, I quietly watched as a female housekeeper tip-toed into her room as she appeared to be sleeping. The lady gently placed clean laundry into the dresser drawer trying not to disturb Mom. Then, as she turned, Mom's arm lifted and she waved her fingers as a "hello."
The housekeeper brightened saying, "Oh, I thought you were sleeping! How are you today?" She moved toward the bed and leaned over Mom. "I have to see my favorite girl." Then, she placed a sweet kiss on Mom's forehead.
"Love you," Mom said as the lady moved toward the door.
"Love you, too." And then she was gone.
A quick little snapshot of Mom's loving spirit while she waited for heaven. And a memory that warms me still. It rides beside another memory of perhaps a year earlier. The diagnosis had just been given and my family quickly flew down to visit. On the day of our arrival, Mom was beaming at us at the door. She looked beautiful with makeup and hair styled. The next day, she stayed mostly in her room entertaining us there. By day three, she slept off and on most of the day while I tried to cook her favorite foods to entice her to eat more. She lived on Ensure, a drink packed with vitamins and protein. My favorite memory of these last days happened in a few seconds one evening and she didn't even know I was around.
I took a tray to her in bed and she sat up smiling at my attempt at love on a plate. A love language she had passed on to her only daughter. "I forgot the salt and pepper," I said. "I'll be right back." The kitchen was only a few steps away and I quickly returned. When I reached her door, I saw her sitting with her head bowed.
A whispered voice - the same voice that sang lullabies at night, read Old Yeller to me and my little brother one summer and offered sage advice through my tough times - was praying.
"Thank you God. Thank you for this food that my sweet Wendie fixed. Thank you for my family that I love so much. I trust you Jesus. And I love you so much." I didn't even breath. I felt like I was intruding on an intimate moment. She spoke to God with such love. I backed away from the door silently. It wasn't until I heard the "Amen" that I went in. She smiled at me and I fought back tears.
So often I encourage people to never give up praying for loved ones to know a personal surrendered life with Jesus. Although she always believed in Jesus, she didn't give her whole life to him until she was in her late 60s. But when she did, it was whole-hearted and she never looked back. She studied, worshipped, served others whenever she could and took any opportunity to tell others to follow Him.
So, when I opened that box of items from the facility, I couldn't help breathing out "Aww." On top was a little Bible with a homemade cover and on the front she had placed a heart. Because that was where she placed her heart. As I opened the front pages hoping to see something she'd written, I saw the following words:
Bought by Bettie Witherbee to carry in her purse - keep God close! October 15, 1997
Written in different ink:
3/2009 Don't carry in purse- but keep God close. I love God!
Thanks Mom... I see your fingers waving.