The first part of 2016 has been one of the most difficult periods of my adult life. From the time the doctors recommended hospice care for my mother until her passing at the end of February, I felt that my emotions were like a dam ready to burst at the prick of a pin. Without a doubt, the only thing that held me together was the grace of God, which was so apparent during this season of my life.
As I spent time daily with my ailing mother, she taught me, directly and indirectly, many things about life. Some she had already been instilling in me since I was a child and others I learned as I listened to and observed her in the last couple of months of her life. These are treasures that I will carry with me in my journey thru life and hopefully pass on to my children because I know they are from God.
Live with an Attitude of Gratitude
As I watched my mother’s ailing body wither away and every day tasks, that most of us take for granted, become increasingly difficult for her, the fragility of life became a palpable reality. Just as God breathed life into man and he came into being, He can just as easily take that breath away at any given moment of our existence. Scripture reminds us in Psalm 39:5, “Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” I’m awestruck when I ponder the reality of this almighty God that created the heavens and the earth, who could wipe me away with a simple puff, but chooses to gently breathe air into my lungs and grant me life day in and day out.
Life is fragile but despite it and because of it, life is also precious. This realization made me grateful for every breath that God granted my mother as the days went by. Even as her health declined, an attitude of gratitude was apparent in my mother, who constantly verbalized how thankful she was for everything God had done. My mother taught me to see everything with the eyes and heart of gratitude and it is something I will constantly remind myself to do, especially during those challenging seasons of life. We are reminded in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances... 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Click To Tweet
Set Your Eyes on Eternity
Like it or not, we have all been given a finite number of days on this earth. Only God knows when our journey will come to an end in this lifetime. Psalm 39:4 comes to mind, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” Knowing that life on this earth is but a dot in light of eternity, I realize more than ever that we need to make the most of every opportunity while we’re here, with heavenly reward as our ultimate goal in life.
Most of us have our retirement years in mind as we plan out our lives. We invest almost all of our energy working hard to save up so that we are met with comfort and security during our golden years. Instead, Scripture seems to teach us to live our lives with eternity in mind. Our best life is yet to come. Philippians 3:20 reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven” and we’re not meant to feel at home here on earth. It seems to me that if we have eternity before us, comfort and security in this lifetime become less important and less logical to strive for. We should strive for treasures in heaven. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This means that I will offer up my earthly life to the glory of the One who has given me life and whom I will join in heaven for eternity.I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 Click To Tweet
You Can’t Take Anything with You
I stood in the middle of the closet and looked around at all the pretty things that my mother had accumulated over the years. The stillness of these inanimate objects weighed down heavily on my heart and revealed a truth that I only knew in concept before that moment. You really can’t take anything with you! Not even one little thing. Not your favorite hat, not your favorite pair of shoes, not even a small precious ring.
All of a sudden I felt an incredible urge to rummage thru my entire house and purge everything that I didn’t need. My possessions no longer felt like treasures, but instead, they felt like burdens that keep me anchored down and chained to the false promises of this world. I am determined to simplify and give away my surplus of material blessings to those in need. I am reminded of Matthew 6:19-21 where it says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:20-21 Click To Tweet
This is something that my mother instilled in me since I was a child and in her last days, she continued to remind us of the need to live generously. Although it was a given that we should be generous with our monetary blessings, she also made sure to emphasize the need to be generous with our words, our time and our kindness. She would often say that compliments are worth much more than the effort it takes to give them. We can uplift and edify those around us with a few sincere words or simple acts of kindness.
From my own personal experience, I’ve realized that the more I give of myself and of what I have, the more blessings I receive from God in return. The words in 2 Corinthians 9:6 ring true to me more and more thru the years, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” I can choose to hold tight to whatever is mine but this is erroneous thinking in so many levels. First off, nothing we have is our own. Everything we have comes from God and belongs to Him as stated in 1 Chronicles 29:14, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” Thinking that we have earned and rightfully own anything in this world is a delusion. Holding tight to our possessions is futile. God can take it all away at any given moment and that is His right. Job 1:21 says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
For me, living generously is an investment towards the building of God’s kingdom in the form of lasting relationships that hopefully will continue on thru eternity. 1 Timothy 6:18-19 says, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. Job 1:21 Click To Tweet
There is Joy in Suffering
Although the Bible repeatedly says so, I never truly understood how joy, as I know it, could be experienced in suffering…until now. I admit that I have yet to fully grasp and embrace this truth, but I think that God gave me a taste of this “joy” as I walked alongside my mother in her journey to the next life. In suffering, we experience greater depths of God’s immense love and mercy, the truth of His sufficient grace, and the reality of His character. 2 Corinthians 1:5 says, “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” When we surrender to His will, in the midst of our loss, we gain more of Him and that is pure joy.
There can be joy in the death journey of a loved one. There is much to be thankful for in the process. In my personal experience, I was grateful for the fact that I was able to spend every day with my mother before she went on to be with the Lord. The fact that my brother and I worked together in harmony for the best possible care for my mother in her last days was also a blessing from God. Even though I miss her terribly, I know her joy is complete in heaven, and knowing that someday I will be joining her there gives me immense hope and anticipation for what is yet to come. I rely on 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 more now than ever before, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Cor 4:17 Click To Tweet