I didn’t get to say goodbye to my mom.
By the time I got to the hospital she was already deeply sedated. I’m glad she was because it meant that she wasn’t in any pain, but it also meant that I couldn’t communicate with her. There was a really sweet moment where she smiled at me when I first walked in and another when she smiled at Davy girl and Chels when they came in to the hospital a little later in the day. Snapshots of life that I will treasure forever.
That day is a blur in my mind. It started off with the doctors telling us that we would need to move my mom into hospice because she only had six months to live. Our next update was that we should expect her to not live anymore than 6 weeks. That was a tough pill to swallow, but both of those options allowed for more time and conversation with my mom. There was no language used that I would never get to have another heart-to-heart with her, so I began to prepare for the end – but an ending with a little more time.
As the day progressed she worsened. I could see it in the nurses and doctor’s eyes, but no one wanted to articulate to our family that my mom, as I have known her my whole life, was not coming back. Her breaths became less frequent and more spaced out. After a little while, I walked down to the chapel with some of my friends to pray. We thanked God for her life and asked him to take her to the place where her cancer would be no more and she would be more alive than she had ever been.
In the middle of our prayer I received a phone call to come back to the room quickly. I rushed back to her bedside, but was too late. I knew she was already gone simply by walking in the hallway with all of her friends lining the path to her bedside. Their eyes possessed the sadness of death and the burden of communicating to Molly’s son through their glances. The glances never lasted long, but they preached sermons.
My mom went out on her terms. No one was in the room with her. It was fitting. She wouldn’t have wanted us in there with her. She was tough and always portrayed strength.
However, as my dad, brothers and I stood there by her bedside, arms strongly wrapped around one another, it hit me like a crashing wave – I would never get to tell my mom goodbye. I would never be able to tell her how much I loved her and was so grateful for her. Of all those things though, the hardest was not being able to say goodbye and have her speak final words over me.
Was she proud of me? Did I love her well in the end? Were there any final words of encouragement, advice or wisdom?
I would never get to hear the answers to these questions.
A few weeks later I was talking to my friend and told him how deeply saddened I was by not getting to hear these final words and answers from my mom. He was kind and responded with grace, but then articulated something that changed the way I viewed the end I had with my mom.
He told me, “Scott, she didn’t have to say goodbye to you because she answered those questions with her life.”
He was right.
I didn’t need to hear the answers to those questions – as great as they would have been to hear – because she lived those answers. She told those she loved that she loved them. She spoke words of life to those around her. Lastly, I would argue that my mom lived life to the fullest every day.
My friend’s comments have led me to reflect on why I titled this blog “Numbered Days” in the first place. The phrase was inspired from the hand of King David. In Psalm 39 he articulates, “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! 5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Our days are measured, they are numbered by God’s design.
It closely resembles Psalm 90:12 which states, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” When we start to live life with the end in mind our days begin to look differently and we gain a wisdom, an insight that we didn’t possess beforehand. Author Stephen Covey used to have people envision their funeral so that they could begin with the end in mind. How did they want to be remembered? What did they want accomplish? Beginning with the end in mind can help us shape the days that lead up to that end.
My mom lived that type of life – a life lived with the end in mind. I’m fighting to live that type of life. I pray that you are too.
Are you holding on to bitterness that you should let go? Have you not forgiven someone that you should? Is there a job that you should have left years ago, but you stayed at for fear of chasing you dreams? Most importantly, have you stopped running from God and come back to him to be swept up in his love?
At the end of day I wonder if we all started living with the end in mind how our lives would look differently? I encourage you to spend a few moments envisioning your death bed and reverse engineer your life to a be a life lived for the glory of God, the joy of all people and fulfillment of your personal destiny – not someone else’s destiny – but yours.
In the conclusion of my mom’s eulogy I closed with the words that I believe she would tell you if you could have had one last conversation with her.
She would say, “Fight for joy, make a statement and live with purpose.” Then, she would follow that up by saying, “You can do all of that if you make Jesus your joy, your statement and make glorifying him your purpose.”
So friends, live a life where you say “goodbye” with your actions, not just your final words. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start loving God, loving others or living life to the full because tomorrow may never come. Start today. Start right now.
I pray that you fight for joy, make a statement and live with purpose today, tomorrow and everyday until Jesus comes back or calls you home.