I have to admit…the last few weeks have been very challenging for me. My family experienced 2 deaths in 4 days….a dear aunt and my former sister in law. Now before you scratch your head trying to figure out the ‘former sister in law’ part….she and my brother were married for a good deal of time. Their daughter is my oldest niece. And I had known her since high school. So though by ‘law’ she was no longer part of the family she had been part of the family long before the law got involved.
It was a Friday at a nursing home. All of her kids were there except one who was out of state. Oddly enough it was the main caregiver daughter who was not at the bedside. I guess they knew Aunt Marie was fading for everyone to be there. And from what I understand, she just quietly passed. No pain. No drama. Just slipped away. One minute here. The next before Jesus. We found out Saturday.
At the same time about 4 states away Lori was in the hospital. They were running tests but things weren’t looking too good. We got the news about Aunt Marie on Saturday. On Sunday we got word that the doctors had told my niece that Lori was not coming out of the hospital. They gave her two to four weeks to live. And then the news got worse. On Monday the news became she wasn’t going to make it to the weekend. And within hours the news became she was going to pass sometime that same day, maybe the next.
To say our heads were spinning and our emotions numb by this point is an understatement. My eyes hurt from crying and my coworkers were trying to help me get through the day.
The next two weeks were full of phone calls, Facebook messages, and funeral plans. The funeral for Aunt Marie was the Friday of this same week. Lori’s service was the Saturday of the following week.
I’m still somewhat numb about all that’s taken place. Lori’s passing is the hardest for me. She once called me the ‘little sister she never had.’ We were involved in the same retreat program in high school – it’s how we met. And then she literally became family. And though we lost touch in the later years that ‘special place in the heart’ was never replaced.
What struck me through all this was simply this: escort them home.
Aunt Marie had both her sons and one of her daughters at her side when she passed. Lori had her brothers and sister by her side as she was fading but waited until her final escort arrived: my niece.
The day Lori passed was obviously the hardest day in my niece’s life. She was struggling with going back to the hospital to say goodbye. Her mom had slipped so far and was only semi-conscious Monday but somehow made it through the night. There was no change all morning Tuesday. My brother told Ellyce she needed to say goodbye and let her mom know it was OK to go…that she was waiting for someone or something. It was the only explanation.
Ellyce finally went to the hospital early afternoon. Everyone was there. When Ellyce arrived she went to Lori’s bedside, took her hand, told her she loved her, that it was OK to go and that she’d be OK. (I cry as I type). And with that….with her final escort at her side….Lori took one breath and met Jesus.
I was also struck at Aunt Marie’s funeral with a common family value being lived out for everyone to see. Each of the 3 sisters left in the family (there once were 6) are all in wheelchairs. My mom is the youngest and she’s 80. What was so incredibly cool is that each of the sisters were escorted by their children (pushing them in their wheelchairs and serving them well). Be it helping get a plate of food to getting in and out of the car or making sure they had the opportunity to receive communion, all of the aunts were well taken care of by their children. One cousin simply said ‘my job is to keep track of her today’ as she pointed to my aunt. I think that’s rare in this day and age. It was often heard when taking pictures that ‘the problem is it’s a dwindling pool’ and ‘there won’t be many more opportunities for this type of picture.’ We all know the calendar is turning faster than we desire. And we’re all committed to taking care of our parents the same way they took care of us. It was so refreshing to see and encouraging to me to know I’m not the only one in our extended family who is doing the same thing.
We all have the privilege of escorting people Home. In some instances we’ll physically be there to hold their hand until we gently let go and let Jesus take it from us. In more times than not we still have the opportunity to escort them to the front door of Home by serving them and sharing the gospel.
When I got the word about Lori I wanted to write a letter to share the gospel and let her know how much I loved her and treasured her. I thought I had time. Until I got the message Monday that in a two hour timespan it went from maybe a month to maybe a few more hours. I started crying and said ‘I wanted to write her a letter.’ The regret poured from my voice. My brother graciously agreed to read a note that I wrote and emailed to him. My peace level increased dramatically after I sent it.
It’s been a tumultuous few weeks. Mom even just said she didn’t realize how much of life passed us by the last few weeks. While we try to move on we never forget. It still feels very unreal to me about Lori being gone. She was my age. I have no illusions of immortality but for whatever reason it just seems unreal. Her life was celebrated in true Lori style, the way it should be. My Aunt’s memorial service became a mini family reunion with as much laughter as we could muster and as many pictures as we could take. Laughter always makes sorrow a bit more palatable.
As time passes the ache will lessen and the sting will be calmed. I’m thankful for the daily opportunity to escort Mom in the day to day. And I find great solace in having had the opportunity to at least escort Lori to the front door of Home by having shared the gospel. It has increased my boldness to share whenever the opportunity arises.
What about you? Will you BE BOLD enough to escort someone to the front door of Heaven today? There is no greater privilege.