She called it her Arrival.
Today, it has been twenty-four years. She has missed so much – but not as much as we have missed her!
When Mom arrived in Heaven, she had a baker’s dozen grandchildren. Now there 29 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and a few more on the way.
No one can ever be completely prepared for the inevitable end of life, but Mom helped prepare us as she prepared herself.
No matter what was happening, she looked for the fun in the event. How many times we’d hear her say, “Aren’t we having fun today?!” or “Didn’t we have a good time today?!”
When her grandchildren overheard conversations or when they were present and asked questions themselves, Mom’s response assured them that death was not something to fear. “Grandma will be waiting for you in Heaven,” she was heard to tell grandchildren on different occasions.
But then, in the middle of her anticipation of being done with cancer, she was left with things she still wanted to do. She crocheted furiously to complete a baby afghan and told us, “I don’t have time to die.”
When she knew the inevitable was going to happen, she had fun planning her own memorial service. She asked us to sing at her funeral – and made us do a second recording when she didn’t hear one son’s tenor voice on the recording we did the day he couldn’t be there.
After she heard a minister speak of death as arriving in Heaven, she ordered us to remember that she wasn’t really dying. She was going to be arriving.
“So when I die,” she told us, “don’t call it my death. Call it my Arrival.”
And we did.
The grandchild who was to be born in April – would she live to see his birth?
“Will I be here for April?” she asked me in December.
I told her, “Sure, you’ll be here for April.” But she wasn’t.
She made use of her diagnosis to reach out to people who didn’t know Jesus.
“People listen to me now because they know I’m dying,” she smiled at me one day.
When her children rallied around and set up a schedule to take care of her at home in her last weeks, she quipped, “Now I know why I had all those babies, so they could take care of me when I die.” Those eight babies (and their spouses) did take care of her as she was dying.
There were questions. She thought them, and she asked them.
“Will I go through the valley alone?” “How does it feel to die?” and “Will we pray in Heaven?”
On the 29th of February, I told Mom that she couldn’t die that day. “For how,” I asked her, “are we to remember your Arrival?”
“Oh no, we wouldn’t want that happen now would we?” she chuckled as I gave her morning bath. “But we sure are having fun dying, aren’t we?”
Yes, Mom, we sure were having fun.
She knew where she was going, and she knew she would leave us behind. “Life goes on – remember?” she reminded us.
As her last days were near, she was not afraid.
When you know Jesus, you don’t need to be afraid.
“I know Jesus is going with me,” she said. “I won’t be alone.”
She wasn’t alone. Jesus was with her.
“Don’t hold me back,” she begged one day.
“We won’t hold you back,” we assured her. “When those angels come, you just go with them. “
So on March 16, 1992, those angels came.
As music played in the background and as her family gathered around her bed, her grimace of pain and her moaning stopped.
She opened her jaundiced eyes one last time. And. She. Smiled.
That is when we knew that Mom had, indeed, arrived.
We knew Jesus was there to go with her, and we knew He had welcomed her Home.
Happy Anniversary on your Arrival in Heaven, Mom.
The story of Mom’s journey following her terminal diagnosis is in the book Aren’t We having Fun Dying?! and can be purchased here.