Sum­mer is time for deep per­sonal re­flec­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - RE­BECCA HAGELIN ● Re­becca Hagelin can be reached at re­becca@re­bec­c­a­hagelin.com.

Sum­mer is filled with an­niver­saries of lifechang­ing events for me. As I wrote about last week, I met my hus­band one glo­ri­ous day in July. But it was also in the sum­mer, now 15 years ago, that I lost my amaz­ing mother to metas­ta­sized breast can­cer.

While the ris­ing sum­mer sun chased away night’s dark­est hours, my somber priv­i­lege was to be hold­ing my mother’s soft, swollen hand as she left the painful con­fines of a body wracked with can­cer for a glo­ri­ous, lu­mi­nous eter­nity.

Our quiet fi­nal hours to­gether were a unique bless­ing for me. Al­though I knew the Lord would be with her as she walked through the shadow of death, I had des­per­ately wanted to be there for her, too. I was called to this pur­pose dur­ing what turned out to be her last few weeks of life on this earth. I felt it deeply in my spirit and in the depths of my soul that I must be with her.

It was the un­de­ni­able guid­ance of the Holy Spirit that led me to make the drive from Vir­ginia to Florida for a visit that ended up be­ing our last.

In God’s mercy, he al­lowed me to be with my mom dur­ing her last three days and nights as she drifted in and out of con­scious­ness. I had the priv­i­lege of hold­ing her, lov­ing her and pray­ing with her as her body strug­gled to hang on and her spirit fought to de­part.

Al­ways a fighter, it was clear that Mom’s brain was re­sist­ing the in­evitable.

“Mommy,” I whis­pered, “It’s OK. Let go of your bro­ken body and go to Je­sus, where you will be free and whole again. You don’t have to live like this any­more. A per­fect body awaits. Daddy is wait­ing for you. It’s time to go to Je­sus. I love you so much, and very soon we will all join you there.”

After a last night­long vigil, when the sun be­gan to rise, my mom saw the face of the Liv­ing God. Her spirit was fi­nally set free from the fee­ble body that ul­ti­mately failed its at­tempt to hold her cap­tive.

God called Mom in his per­fect tim­ing. I was not privy to his voice or their con­ver­sa­tion. It was Mom and the de­ity, and per­haps a le­gion or two of an­gels that must have danced and twirled as she joined them in flight to that place of per­fect peace and abid­ing love.

For each one of us, the in­ter­ac­tion with death will be pri­vate, and will re­main a mys­tery to the rest of the world — even to those who love us the most. They can be in our pres­ence, but we will face God alone.

As her breath be­came more la­bored, I ca­ressed my mother’s arms and placed my hand over her heart and felt the weak­en­ing beat. I sponged her fore­head, kissed her cheek and leaned over the bed to cud­dle on her shoul­der one last time. I sang and prayed and read to her from my fa­ther’s Bi­ble. All the while, I knew there was an­other un­seen realm of ac­tiv­ity around her that pro­vided her more hope, more joy, more warmth and more ful­fill­ment than I could pos­si­bly imag­ine.

My mother’s life was marked by both im­mense joy and un­speak­able tragedy. Her fi­nal years were marred by the rav­ages of men­tal ill­ness and the con­se­quences of aw­ful choices she made as she be­came in­creas­ingly lost in her world of fan­tasy. But when I was young, and through­out my own years of young moth­er­hood, my mom was the best. So that is how I will choose to re­mem­ber her.

Mom was able to make peace with her cre­ator be­fore she left us, and equally as im­por­tant, she asked for­give­ness from those whom she had hurt. Some found their own heal­ing when they re­leased their bit­ter­ness as they blessed her and them­selves by ac­cept­ing her apol­ogy. Some never did.

Our own for­give­ness and the strength to give it to oth­ers both flow from one place: grace. God’s grace. God’s spec­tac­u­lar, un­de­served fa­vor and for­give­ness, which save us from the de­spair of guilt and re­gret, are also pow­er­ful enough to surge through our pain with the force of a ti­dal wave, wash­ing away the grudges and anger we have to­ward oth­ers who have wronged us.

In fact, the abil­ity to be blessed by God’s de­ci­sion to for­get our wrongs is com­pletely de­pen­dent on our will­ing­ness to ex­tend that same grace to those who have wronged us. All of this is pos­si­ble only through Je­sus Christ, who loves us enough to have paid for our sins with his life.

These are truths I learned from my mom, both in her words and in her deeds. They are pow­er­ful and lib­er­at­ing and for­ever true. I am eter­nally grate­ful for her life and for what I fi­nally fully re­al­ized through her death.

Thank you, Je­sus. Thank you, Mom.

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