Getting ready for a loved one to die

I’m not ready.

It’s one the first things I said, sobbing, when I found out that my mom, who’s had dementiaIMG_3688

for about 10 years, had suddenly experienced a debilitating stroke. I was in the process of planning to move her to a lovely facility, just a one-minute drive from my house. I was so excited! I wanted to spend her remaining years giving care, spending time, and enjoying her, even though she is no longer the same mother I have known throughout my lifetime. Her condition had already digressed enough that I wasn’t afraid to move her to a new location, so I set the wheels in motion. While my brother and his family have done an amazing job caring for her, I couldn’t wait for my turn.

But now she’s not moving anywhere, except into heaven’s bliss. That’s a way better move. But it’s still hard to accept. I want more, now.

None of us feel ready for eternity, even though God created us for it. Our earthly lives are a race against time, and time always runs out before we can win the race. At least that’s how it feels.

God doesn’t look at death the same way that we do. Psalm 116:15 says: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” My mother is precious to the Lord. And she has completed her mission here. She’s just about ready.

But how do the rest of us get ready for a loved one’s death? I’m no expert. but we’re doing a few things that seem to help temper the loss.

  • sharing memories
  • sitting with her, almost round the clock
  • affirming our love and appreciation to her
  • reading Scripture (it’s amazing how many passages talk about heaven and death–I keep stumbling on them when I’m trying to read something perky)
  • playing hymns (same themes are in them!)
  • reading favorite stories
  • washing her face, hands, feet, arms
  • changing her sheets and pajamas, trying to keep her comfortable
  • lying in bed with her, with my arm around her
  • singing to her
  • reading through her cards, notes, and letters
  • taking pictures of us with her
  • looking through photo albums

Movement from this life to the next is a celebration, as much as it is a mourning.

Yesterday, my brother and I sat with a wonderful hospice staff while they explained the assistance they can offer us for mourning, preparing, and coping with our mother’s death. They asked questions and looked startled by our answers. I guess they caught us at a good time. We weren’t heaving sobs or wiping away tears at the moment.

After about 30 minutes, my brother joked, “I’m sorry we’re not more needy. We know where she’s going. We are very sad, but we’re not afraid.”

I added, “While this is hard for us, we are joyful for her. She will be reunited with our dad, whom she hasn’t seen for 47 years.” (Now that was a death without warning.) I continued, “Her faith has sustained her, and our faith is sustaining us. I don’t know how people who don’t have a relationship with God deal with the death of a loved one. We don’t want to lose her, but we are happy for her to end this difficult struggle with dementia and see my dad.”

They smiled at us. We smiled back.

God is good. All the time. He never changes.

While I’ll never be ready to lose her, I know what lies ahead for Mom, and that does bring comfort. And I have the added blessing of being here now with her.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you.

1 Corinthians 13:12–“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

10 thoughts on “Getting ready for a loved one to die

  1. Rob Loach

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings in such a beautiful manner, Sue. My mom passed away in mid-April this year after two and a half years of hospice (!). She came to know the Lord about six and a half years ago, after years of rejecting Him. Knowing that she is with the Lord now makes all the difference. I have such peace because I know she is with the Lord now, face to face.

    I had the privilege of doing her funeral. It was definitely the Lord that got me through that! My unbelieving sister is still struggling with losing Mom. Just last night she said she just wished she knew Mom was OK and at peace. I assured her that she was, without a doubt. She still doesn’t get it. What a blessing it is to be in God’s hands and to know He’s got us! The Lord gives special grace after the loss. His grace really is amazing!

    I lost my dad to a heart attack 42 years ago, and so I know what you mean about death coming unexpectedly. It was brutal, but in many ways it was easier than watching Mom decline for that long. The Lord has a different path for each of us, and as you have said, He is good. All the time. He never changes.

    I will be praying for you as you go through these difficult days, Sue.

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Rob, it’s so good to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing about your experiences with your family. I will be praying for you also. Thanks for blessing me with your comment!

  2. Beth Alley

    I am grateful you are sharing this sacred space with your mother vs wondering about the circumstances surrounding her entry into heaven. This was the case with my mom, dad and sister – a fact I have to keep turning over to God. May He shine His face upon you and grant you and your mother peace! Love, Beth and Gene

  3. Jeanell Creed

    Beautiful words. Love, hugs and prayers are with you during this difficult time. May God hold you in His arms and give you peace, comfort and strength and may your mom’s home going be peaceful. Her victory is won. She will soon see Jesus, face to face, and one day we’ll all be reunited. Love and Blessings, Jeanell

  4. Kent Walley

    Sue,
    My heart hurts for you and your family. Mike and his as well. I know your faith will help allot! We are praying for you all, see is moving on to a better place! Thank You for keeping us posted! Please tell aunt Barb we love her! Sincerely, Kent, Bobbie and Kids

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Thanks, Kent. I know you understand what I’m saying. It was hard to see your dad at the end of his life, so I know if was hard for you to watch. He was a delightful person!

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