THE BEAUTY OF SILENCE? – NO!
During one of my one-hour feasts of conversation with Dick, my director for the Retreat, (see “The Beauty of Silence” – my first blog piece) I showed him a picture my sister had sent me while there. You see, it was difficult for me to even follow through on my long-laid plans for this silent retreat as my Mom lay home dying, and was at the end of her long battle with ALS. It was possible she would pass through the veil at any moment. I decided to go but knew I had to take my phone (a no-no on a silent, directed retreat). Hence, I had to check my phone from time to time to see any updated status reports from my sister Patty, or wife Terry. I received a short video of my Mom lying partly on her side with a faint but detectable smile on her face, as she sung the words to a beautiful Christmas Carol she had sung hundreds of times in the past, Silent Night. My sister had played the song for her from her phone, lying just beside my Mom’s semi-conscious state of awareness. I showed this video to Dick and we both welled up with tears. He said he had never seen anything like it. Nor had I.
I only mention this part of my Silent Retreat because not long after my return home, my Mom was welcomed to her heavenly home by Jesus on December 30, 2018. She made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas and even her Birthday (December 26th)! We had all gathered as a family for each of these celebrations with the awareness and expectancy that she might not make it to the next family celebration. My sister and I were there as she took her last earthly breath - I on her left side and my sister on her right side. It’s a very strange feeling losing your mom. Death sucks! There is absolutely nothing good about it and it was never a part of God’s plan for us. It’s not the type of “silence”I had in mind when I began this blog series! NO! Sure, we can have hope in our loss, but we grieve. We suffer. We cry. And it sucks…After everyone left her bed, I stayed as she was taken away by some incredibly gracious and loving men from the funeral home who had the utmost respect and care. After collecting myself and trying to come to terms with what had actually transpired the last 2 hours subsequent to her death, I eventually returned home and entered into flood of grieving tears, the type of which I hadn’t cried since my Uncle had been killed in Viet Nam during the Tet Offensive, in January of 1968. I do think that the time away at the retreat had made me more aware of what was going on inside me as I had practiced plenty of time centering on God’s work in the deepest places of my life, which takes time, silence, and solitude – and God’s grace to even begin to reach into those internal places of my soul. If I didn’t have that time of deep sorrow and tears, I doubt I would be able to do what was coming next.
Our beloved “forever pastor” who is 88 years old was supposed to do Mom’s funeral. We had talked repeatedly about how it was to be conducted, who was going to speak and what she wanted spoken during the homily. Unfortunately, he had a terrible fall a couple of days prior and was unable to come! Guess who presided at the funeral? Yepper – me. Oh wow. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that the funeral was absolutely beautiful and bespoke who our Mom, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Aunt and Friend was, and how she lived her life consistently throughout her years. The theme was family. The theme was Jesus. The theme was self-giving love toward all who had came in contact with her over her many years. There were even some of her second grade students from the 60's in attendance to reveal the enormous impact Mom had on their lives - even in second grade! Our pastor had forwarded a letter I read to everyone which was beautiful, and expressed such a large part of the Good News of Jesus. I had wondered what I was going to say but had woken up three nights prior at 3:30 am to God’s clear prompting to write some words down. As I did, they kept coming – and coming – and coming. I kept writing them down with amazement. I felt as though he was dictating the words to me I was to say. Those were the words I spoke to all. They were words about my mom, words about death, words about resurrection, words about grief and, words about God's awesome comfort. We said good-bye to Mom. We gathered with friends and family. We said good-bye. I returned to my house and to precious silence…to hear God…to ponder my loss…to think on the magnanimous qualities of expressive love my mom’s life evidenced to all…and to continue on my journey of eternal life with God now; until I too cross over the veil into the arms of Jesus.