Recently, I lost my mom. My mom lived 79 years. I was her fifth and final child. We didn’t have much growing up. My mom’s life was filled with struggle and disappointment. She was married to my dad around 1960. I don’t know the exact date. They started to have children right away. My sister was born, then another sister and then another after that. It was at that point, that my mom and dad took a break from having children. Three girls in 3 years can do that to anyone. 4 years later, my brother was born. My dad was a long-haul truck driver, alcoholic, and (let’s just keep this PG) he had an affinity for women. When my father brought home his girlfriend and asked my mom to watch the girlfriend’s kids, that was enough. Out of the picture my father went. My mom was 6 months pregnant with me at the time.
It has taken me a couple of months to really understand the effects that losing my mother would ultimately have on me. I have to say, they have been both terrible and a complete blessing. Don’t worry, I will explain.
You see, my mom’s life was filled with struggle and disappointment. She had a broken marriage caused by drinking and cheating from her father to her father-in-law who both struggled with alcohol. My grandfather had left my grandmother alone with two kids and now my mom was following in her footsteps, almost exactly.
My mom had been left with five hungry children to raise on her own. She was uneducated, overworked and all alone in raising my siblings and I. Struggle and disappointment followed her at every turn. She struggled her way through the 70s working 2-3 jobs, cooking, cleaning and trying to care for us. In the late 70s she started school again in an attempt to get a law degree and help under-privileged people who didn’t have representation. Much to everyone’s surprise and to my mother’s delight she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon. I promise you, that with five kids, a job, school and trying to all around survive the life in front of her that this was serious pain, anguish and struggle. She found a job with Legal Aid of Oregon and continued to struggle as she fought for the underdog.
As kids, we didn’t make it easy on her. My oldest sister was trouble, my third sister as well, and let’s just say my brother and I, well, we weren’t exactly saints. In fact, I don’t know how my mother kept her sanity raising five kids, two of which were 100% boys. Somehow, she managed to keep us all together, out of jail, in school and out of the morgue. I guarantee, we filled her life with disappointment and she struggled to keep us moving in the right direction.
My mom struggled most of her life financially. After all, she was caring for five children on one para-legal’s income. She wasn’t paid much, but she pushed forward.
My mom never really drank. I think this was because of the devastation that alcohol had proved in her life. She did however (probably to relieve stress) smoke. Like many young people in the 50s, she started this habit at a very early age and ended up smoking for around 60 years, give or take. She later developed COPD and emphysema, which ultimately led to heart failure and took her life on July 20, 2018. She was 79 years old; just 3 weeks shy of her 80th birthday.
By now you may be thinking that this post couldn’t get much worse… Hang in there. This is where it gets good. My mom had an experience as a young girl with the Catholic church. Unfortunately, the nuns in her life hadn’t learned much about grace and compassion. Her time with them really pushed her away from a relationship with God. However, in August 2017, right around her 79th birthday a friend of her’s came to visit and led her into a relationship with Jesus.
It was at this time that my mom’s health was failing and she had begun to show obvious signs of her body giving out from the years of smoking and stress that she had endured. By November 2017, my mom’s health was really crashing. We think that there was a good possibility that she had an undiagnosed stroke at that time. By December of that year, she was struggling to speak from the COPD and effects of the stroke. By early 2018, she developed more issues and suffered a second possible stroke that left her without the ability to speak at all. Although her body was failing and her voice gone, her mind was solid and she could still write to communicate. My mom was a fighter, an underdog; she could still out think and out wit you.
That Easter she took a fall, cracking some ribs. A second fall followed in June. We had been trying to convince her to move from her home where she lived unassisted. She had purchased that same home when I was in just 1st grade. 44 years in the same house proved to be a chore in convincing her to leave, but after the second fall it had scared her enough to come and live with me and my family.
Because of the pain and hurt, struggle and disappointment, the relationship I had with my mom was unique. I loved her with all that I had and she loved me the same, but “loving” is not really what I would describe our relationship as.
After my mom moved in with us, and because Christ had come into her life softening her fighting tough heart she became much more loving, thankful and kind to be with. My family and I had just 5 weeks of her living here, but I can tell you that short time impacted my entire relationship with my mom. It gave me a greater appreciation of all she had done for me; the way she gave me a chance and the life that she had endured. It gave me a chance to see her for who she had become; a gentle, loving person who was just struggling to breathe.
My mom went home to see Jesus early on a Friday morning. I sat with her as she took her last breaths on planet Earth…Just the three of us- my mom, me and our Savior. I prayed, talked with her and read the Lord’s Prayer. As I finished the prayer, she took her last breath.
The moral of this story is simple. No matter what life hands you, keep fighting like my mom did. We should always have justice in mind, fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, just like my mom did. We are never too old to learn something new, allow change in our lives or embrace our family in a new way, just like my mom did. And lastly, if we believe in Jesus, we should never think that it is impossible for someone’s life to be redeemed, even in their last year of life, just like my mom did.
My mom didn’t have a lot of love when I was born. She struggled in her life to make money, raise five kids and receive an education. She fought for the five of us and every underdog that she came in contact with. But, those last 5 weeks of her life with my family and I is how I will remember my mom; still fighting to breathe, learning to love again, allowing the Holy Spirit to soften her even into her final moments, and seeing the joy and laughter come back to my mom.
The great news of the Gospel is summed up by the verse we find in the book of John.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.John 16:33
And when you take that into account, know that we are overcomers who will rise victoriously. Everyone who believes in Jesus, no mater if it happens at an early age or in your last days, will inherit a new joyful, victorious, loving, happy, pain free life where there are no struggles, no tears, no fears, and no disappointments for eternity. We also gain the ability to be over comers who live in victory no matter what disappointment or struggle may come here on this Earth as well.
I am so glad that on July 20, 2018 my mom had her first birthday in Heaven. I am so glad that I spent the last 5 weeks for my mom on planet Earth with her. I am so glad that we can overcome this world’s struggles and disappointments. And lastly, I am so glad I get to have eternity with my mom.
Live in victory, walk in His blessing and don’t do this life alone!