Last week my sweet mother-in-law went home to heaven. She has battled heart disease for some time and it was finally just too much. Over the last few days of her life, I think we all knew she wasn't there. I mean her body was in the room, but her spirit was not. There was a sad but peaceful feeling that she was at rest.
A series of hard decisions had to be made that resulted in removing a ventilator. For the next 12 minutes, my husband, our daughter, our son and his wife, and my husband's sister and her husband stood around this precious woman's bed. My father-in-law couldn't do it. He was so heartbroken. The idea of watching this woman he had loved since he was 17 years old, 64 years, as she left this world was more than he could bear.
It was now Thursday night. Since Sunday she hadn't shown any signs of life. Nothing. When she was in the hospital earlier in the summer, even under sedation, she was restless in a still-unconscious state. This time around, 2 days and 2 nights had passed since all sedation had been removed, and we had seen not one movement. No reaction to pain, to heat, to cold, to voices, to commands. Nothing. As we stood in silence reality hit that this was the end. Her breathing was a simple, even rhythm for a bit and then it began to slow down. My husband and I on one side, his sister and her husband on the other, our kids at the foot of the bed, the most remarkable thing happened. There, at the end of these days of fear and hope mixed with a deep knowing that our lives would never be the same, a tear rolled down his mom's face. A tear. I immediately looked at my Scott, his eyes widened, and we stood in wonder. I reached up and blotted the tear from her face. Hardly able to see through our own sorrow, we stood as our mom - our grandma - crossed over into heaven from this life. It was the saddest and most beautiful thing I've ever witnessed.
Later, walking down the long corridor to the elevator, we recounted what had just happened. I reasoned that it was fluid in her eyes, as the last exhales of her lungs pushed the air out of her earthly body, her eyes must have just excreted the excess moisture. My daughter in law, with that big beautiful smile all over her face, said "No! It was a tear - tears of joy! She was seeing Jesus for the first time and she just couldn't take it."
I believed at the minute she was exactly right and I'll never believe any differently.
This precious woman couldn't speak the name of Jesus without emotion. She loved Him on earth and she now lives with Him in heaven. She had been in that hospital bed for 4 days with not one movement. No need to wipe her nose or blot her eyes. No need to dry her mouth. Not one sign of anything. Nothing. Until that moment. You may know a great deal about science, and I may be wrong, but please just let me believe this.
You see, my husband's mother was a beautiful example of what it means to be Christlike. She was loving and kind, never speaking ill of anyone. She was compassionate, generous, full of drive and creativity to solve all of life's problems with you. Her trademark was that she couldn't make it through a prayer without crying. She was so deeply grateful for the price the Son of God paid for her and when she talked to Him it would overwhelm her. Now I will live the rest of my life with that image in my mind. This strong, determined woman who became weak and lacked all physical strength, met her Creator with tremendous joy. I cannot even imagine what it will be like to talk to her about it someday. I can't wait to ask her how it felt. I want her to tell me all about it.
Until then, I'll never forget that as she passed over from this life to the next the Lord gave us a sweet glimpse into her inexpressible joy. She saw the Lord, the One who died for her, and it was more than she could take.