I held my mom’s hand while she took her last breath.
She died one month short of her 90th birthday. A couple of weeks before, I visited her in the nursing facility where she had recently moved, and she said, “I want you to see my fingernails.” Proudly she stretched out her hands so I could see that her nails had been filed and painted with pink fingernail polish. I asked, “How long has it been since you got a manicure?” She replied, “Never. This was my first one.” My mother never had anyone do her nails till she was almost 90.
Her hands were busy doing other things. As a girl she aspired to live in a big city and work in the business world, but God led her in a different direction. After World War II ended, at age 18 she married my dad, whose calling was to run the family farm. Throughout their 64 years of marriage, her hands did the tasks of a homemaker and a farmer’s wife.
Her name was June, like the month when summer begins. In our farm family we called her Mother. Hard work toughened her slender hands. She canned green beans, corn, and tomatoes grown in our large garden. Her hands supplemented our income by doing typing for a big-city business and working as a school secretary. She changed her three sons’ diapers and rubbed Vicks Vapo-Rub on our chests when we got sick. She washed our clothes in an old-fashioned wringer washer, hanging laundry on a clothesline to dry in the breeze.
Her hands played the piano and organ at church, expressing her heart for God and her feel for music. Her hands prepared delicious meals featuring her famous homemade noodles, which she pressed to the perfect thickness with a rolling pin and cut by hand to exactly the right width. (Before she died, she admitted that she personally never liked eating noodles! All of those years she made them simply because others enjoyed them so much.)
A godly woman “opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20). Throughout her life my mom opened her arms and extended her hands to her family, church, and community.
A Grateful Heart
A few days before she died, Mother suffered a massive stroke that took away the use of her left side. In the hospital the physical therapists and nurses told her, “Stretch out your right hand, June,” and she did her best to comply. We asked, “Are you at peace, Mother?” She nodded, “Yes.” And somehow she mustered up the strength to say, “Thank you.” Those were the last two words I heard her say.
Jesus encountered a man who had a withered hand, and the Lord told him, “Stretch out your hand.” The man obeyed, and his hand was healed and restored (Matthew 12:9-14). That’s Mother’s condition now: healed and restored. She kept a little diary in the nursing facility, and two days before her life-ending stroke she wrote, “I like my new home.” I’m sure she likes her new home in Heaven far better. I imagine that when she stepped across the threshold of glory, the Lord took her hand and said, “Well done, June. Welcome home.”
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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