By Simon Presland
The following account is by Trish Presland, as told to her husband, Simon.
I sit quietly, not wanting to wake her. But I hope she stirs soon. Her chest barely moves the blanket that covers her frail body. Frail? My mom? I never thought I’d use that word to describe her. Throughout my life, Mom has been a tower of strength, both spiritual and physical. My mind drifts back to catch glimpses of the past . . .
“Mom, I skinned my knee.” “I’m sorry sweetie, a bandage and prayer will fix you right up.”
“Mom, I can’t find my homework.” “Where did you have it last?”
“Come on, Trishie, we don’t want to be late for church.” “Coming, Mom.”
“Oh my, Trish, you look so good in your graduation cap and gown. God has given you so much talent!”
“Mom, I got the job!” “Oh honey, I’m so proud of you, and God is so good!”
“Trish?” I hear my name slide from her lips.
“Yes, Mom, I’m here.” I reach over and gently place my hand on hers. It is bone thin now, as is her arm. Her eyes flutter open. “How are you feeling today?”
“Pretty good for someone full of cancer.” A smile touches her lips. She coughs and cannot move her other arm fast enough to cover her mouth. I quickly pull a tissue from the ever-present box on her rollaway table, and dab her mouth.
She shifts in her bed and raises her head slightly to glance out the window. “It’s Sunday, right, sweetie? The sunshine is so warm and the fall colors are gorgeous. God is the ultimate artist.”
“Yes, Mom, and it’s already afternoon.”
She rests her head back on her pillow and smiles at me. “Tell me about church.”
In the next moments, I go over every detail of the service. This is what I most love about my mom: if any recent news has to do with the Lord—my personal walk with my Savior, a church service, or someone at church—she wants to know. Now 82 years old, Aileen Shalling has faithfully served her Lord for well over 70 years. Jesus has always been the center of her life, and what a rich spiritual heritage she has passed onto me! Her love for the Bible. Her dedication to prayer. Hosting a weekly time of intercession with ladies to pray for ministers and congregations, for missionaries, and for the needs of Christians throughout the world. Her constant smile and the words, “It’s good to have God on your side!” have been her trademark. I have so much to be thankful for.
“God is so good to us, isn’t he, honey?” Mom says, her voice cracking.
My eyes moisten and my throat grows thick with emotion. Her words are so true. Even though I know Mom will soon go home to Heaven and I will miss her more than life itself, God has been overwhelmingly gracious to our family. His provision. His protection. The wisdom and strength that come from his written Word. Knowing his love, his faithfulness.
Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. These words float through my mind, and I feel comforted—and they will continue to comfort me when Mom is no longer here.
Mom’s eyelids close and I watch her blanket slowly, barely, rise and fall.
I rush home from work, grab a glass of milk, throw my husband a kiss, and head back out the door. It’s supper time at the nursing home, and I need to be there to make sure Mom eats something, as I’ve done almost every night for the past several weeks.
“Hi, honey,” Mom says as I rush into her room. A tiny smile creases her lips. “God has been with me this entire day; I can feel his presence.”
“I believe it, Mom. That’s what happens when you love him like you do.” I bend over her and kiss her cheek. “How are you feeling today?” I glance at the tray of food. “Did you eat anything ?”
“No, I don’t feel like trying to choke down any food. I am getting too nauseous these days. Besides, I have my Bible to feed my spirit.” She is deteriorating almost daily now. I squeeze my eyes shut, forcing back the tears. She doesn’t need to see me upset.
I sit on the side of her bed and catch her up on my workday. “I received several messages from members of your church today. They wanted me to tell you they were praying for you.”
“It’s so comforting to know that people are praying, honey. The prayers of God’s people are like incense to him. That’s what his Word says.”
I take her hands in both of mine and we chat about the weather, my husband, and Dad. But we always end up talking about the Lord.
“You know, honey, I’m not afraid to die. In fact, I won’t be dying at all. I’ll just be passing from this world to the next, and I’ll be with Jesus. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
I attempt to smile, knowing those are powerful words. Jesus, God in the flesh, died for our sins, rose from the grave, and is alive forevermore. And Mom, like all Christians, will live with him in Heaven. It is our great hope. Yet it is more than hope: it is the great assurance that all believers in Christ have. This truth has guided the way our family has lived for generations. Yet the reality of Mom leaving me collides in my heart with the very thing that I desire most for her. I am torn. She needs to be with Jesus, and I don’t want to see her suffer any longer. But how can I go on without my mom, my confidant and spiritual partner? I gently squeeze her hand as my eyes start to glisten.
On my drive home, the tears I had been fighting flood down my cheeks. Father, I know Mom is going to be with you soon. She will be completely healed, and that is what I’ve been praying for. But I cannot bear the thought of never seeing her again.
As I wipe my eyes and try to focus on the road ahead of me, I sense these words in my heart: You will see her again. I take a deep breath as God’s peace fills me. Yes, I will see her again. I will mourn when Mom passes. But it will also be a time of celebration. On that day, she will finally be home.
For Mom, and all Christians, this earth is only a temporal dwelling place. Our sojourn will end when we are ushered into the very presence of our Savior. I will shed countless tears at Mom’s funeral, but they will be a mix of grieving and joy. And in the days, weeks, months, and years that follow, it is the joy of knowing I will see both Mom and Jesus one day that will carry me. Truly, weeping may come at night, but God’s joy always comes in the morning.
Simon Presland is a freelance writer in Clinton Township, Michigan.