My loving, independent, hardworking, 95-year-old mother died peacefully in her bed on the morning of Dec. 1. My sister, Jill, sat beside her, holding her hand and reading aloud from the Scriptures as our mother gently transitioned from her physical life on earth to her eternal life with Jesus. Days later, our mailboxes filled with a strange assortment of Christmas and sympathy cards—the joy and celebration of Christ’s birth mixed with the sorrow of a mother’s death.
The Mixed Messages of Mother’s Day
While many grown sons and daughters will experience heartbreaking grief as they observe Mother’s Day—the annual occasion that makes them stop, reminisce and painfully miss a mother’s presence—I have discovered a new perspective. I miss my mother, but I know my mother loved Jesus, and, as a young girl, gave her heart and life to Him, receiving His promised forgiveness for sins and His gift of salvation and eternal life.
I can still hear her memorized words from John 14 as she quoted Jesus’ promise to me with a smile when I was a little girl: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you … I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).
I watched my mother anticipate with joy her upcoming move into the room her Father had lovingly prepared for her, much like an unborn baby waits for birth, intrinsically sensing that a new life awaits him outside his mother’s womb. The seed of eternity God planted deep within my mother’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11) came to fruition, an expected gift she could finally unwrap and treasure forever.
I still pick up the phone to call her, wanting to wish her a good day, check on her health, and tell her the latest cute saying spoken by her 5-year-old great-grandson. I feel the absence of her physical presence, her sweet comforting voice, her advice seasoned with wisdom. But I know with certainty where she is, and I would never selfishly wish to have her return to life in her former physical body.
The Great Pause Death Brings
I have spent much time since Dec. 1 reading Scripture, praying, stopping to think deeply, pausing to contemplate for long hours the Biblical reality of a Christian’s death. And I have made some fascinating and reaffirming discoveries as I anticipate this first Mother’s Day without my mother.
Jesus Is the Way to the Father
Jesus answered Thomas’ doubts and questions in John 14 with absolute certainty: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). I trust Jesus’ statement, the Scriptural declaration He made to Thomas, the words of God that my mother and grandmother taught me in my youth. I have known God’s love for a lifetime. My eternal security is strongly rooted within His Scriptural promises, for I am convinced that Jesus has forgiven me of my sins and adopted me into His family. Like my mother, who is already resting at Home with Christ, I have no doubt as to my eternal destination.
The Moment of Death Brings the Christian into Jesus’ Presence
As Jesus faced His death on the cross, He gave this insightful promise to the criminal who sought salvation: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). These words gave my dying mom reassurance about what would happen at the moment of her death.
When I close my eyes, I see my sister placing my mother’s hand into the hand of Jesus as He welcomes her home. My mother meets Jesus face to face, and He escorts her to His promised Paradise. The image brings a smile to my lips and a prayer of gratitude from my heart.
For the Christian, Death Is a Gift
Oftentimes, when we grieve a loved one’s death, we view the passing as a punishment, a tragedy. The slow and repeated tolling of the bell can send a shocking chill down our spine. But a Christian’s death is different, coming to us as an anticipated gift from God.
I often ponder the death of Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus (John 11). Jesus Himself cried at Lazarus’ tomb. I sometimes wonder if those tears came not because Lazarus had died, but from Jesus’ need to glorify God by calling Lazarus away from Paradise and back to life.
John states that Jesus was “deeply moved” as He stood beside Lazarus’ tomb, commanding the mourning crowd to “take away the stone” that sealed His friend’s grave. Jesus called out in a loud voice: “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43), and the dead man walked out. Alive.
We aren’t told Lazarus’ immediate response, what he said or cried out when suddenly jerked from a peaceful Paradise back to Earth’s bondage. Did he thank Jesus for his unexpected resurrection, rejoicing to see his sisters, happy to be back in his weak human flesh? Or did he cry out in anguish, railing against the unexpected miracle, knowing his feeble body must once again go through painful sickness and death before he could reenter Paradise?
The Change Death Brings
My mother’s recent death has brought great change to my life, placing my feet on an untrod path. Death may seem cruel and prove difficult to the loved ones who are left behind. But for the believer in Christ, death beautifully fulfills God’s John 3:16 promise of eternal life with our loving Father.
On this Mother’s Day, as I take renewed hope in the promises of God, I find great comfort in knowing that one day I will be reunited with my dear mother at my own promised Homecoming. ©2023 Denise George
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.
Denise George is author of 31 nonfiction books, and teaches writing through Christian Writers for Life. She is the mother of two grown children, and the grandmother of a 5-year-old. She is married to theologian Timothy George, and they live in Birmingham, Alabama. You can contact Denise through her website: denisegeorge.org.