All posts tagged death

A Tribute to My Mama

As most of you know, my mother passed from here into eternity on March 22, 2016. This is the tribute I wrote and read at her funeral:

Proverbs 31:10 states, “An excellent woman, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”

Today I’ll share with you some jewels that our excellent mother shared with not only her own family but a host of people whom she served.

Faithfulness is the first gem our mom passed on to us. Proverbs 31:11 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain.” 

When you talk about Pauline, you’ve got to talk about Ray—they came as a pair. They lived together, worked together, and played together. They not only loved each other, most days they liked each other.

As a teenager, or even as adult when I’d criticize Dad for one thing or another, she always stood up for him and encouraged me to think the best. “Your father is a good man,” she’d say.

And somehow I’d believe her. And she was correct.

The last several years of Dad’s life were difficult, to say the least, but Mom faithfully served him through it all. I’d try to get her to go out with me, but usually she’d say, “I don’t want to leave your father.”

Those who observed our family thought that Mom, or “Warden Wert,” ran the show. But those who really knew us knew the truth—Ray ran the show the show and Pauline did her best to hang on.

And Paula, Paulette, and I are hanging on to Mom’s faithfulness.

The next gem Mom passed on to us is caring. Whenever she visited people or people visited her, she always asked about them individually, remembering the details like the names of their children or parents.

Even in her last days—when thoughts remained difficult to grasp and harder for her to speak, she asked about her children and grandchildren. When they hurt, she hurt.

When word was posted on Facebook about Mom’s promotion to glory countless women who’d been under Mom’s guidance as they grew up said how much mom loved them and made them feel special. For a woman that would stand out in a crowd, had a minimum amount of education, and never signed an autograph, her life made a difference. 

I had the privilege of having my parents live in my home as their health declined. One of my fondest memories of both my parents was the morning devotions at our dining room table. They read a short scripture and an accompanying illustration. Then they pulled out their prayer list. The “list” was extensive and detailed. My children often commented on how many people were on the list—they knew each of them by name and when there were answers.

Both mom and dad cared enough to pray. I’m grateful for that.

The last gem we received from our mother was the gem of encouragement. She believed people could be better than they were and not only told them, she expected it.

I think this is what my children will miss the most. When they came home, Grandma was always there and ready to talk or just listen. I’ll probably never know some of the many words of encouragement that went on in her room.

Mom didn’t mince words. She asked the really hard questions everyone else was afraid to ask. Recently, my son came to visit. Knowing we’d been praying especially for him over the last several weeks and months she asked, “How are you, Micah?”

He hesitated for a moment, “I’m okay Grandma.”

Lying in her bed, she straightened herself up so she could look him in the eye. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Mom encouraged me not only by her life, but also by her death.

The last several months, Mom slept perhaps 18 hours a day. I’d go into her room to check on her after her naps and check on her. Sometimes I’d tell her of my very busy day, or complain about something that had gone wrong. Then I’d ask her how her day had been.

As she lay in her bed, after being bathed and changed and fed—eyes half closed she’d say, “Good.”

The Bible says in Psalms 90 to “Teach us to number our days so that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

I learned a lot from her.

I’d like to end with 2 short stories.

The first was when my father was still alive. Although he couldn’t walk, they’d travel up the block each evening from our house in Florida. Dad in his wheelchair, mom hobbling along with her cane.

One day as I pushed my father and mom ambled ahead of us, Dad motioned for me to bend listen to him.

“There goes the most beautiful woman in the world.” Then he pointed to my mama.

The other story happened about a week before she died. During the cool North Carolina evenings, we’d hoist mom into the chair in our living room in front of our wood stove. On that particular night, I read from the Salvation Army publication the War Cry and then I pulled out the hymnal.

She’d had a few good days in a row and we began to sing.

“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!”

She threw back her head and sang along with every word—not in her low, gravely, old-person voice, but on tune with a young fresh sound.

“That’ll be good won’t it Mom?”

She smiled and said, “Yes it will.”

That night as I prayed, I told the Lord that if he wanted to take my mama in her sleep, this would be a good night.

He didn’t. He allowed her to hold on a while so that I held my sweet mama in my arms and whispered in her ear how much we loved her and what a difference she’d made in our lives as she passed from here into eternity.

I began with Scripture, and I’ll end with it.

Proverbs 31:28-31 states:

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her. Many woman have done excellently but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Life’s Season of Winter

Yesterday, it snowed.

Barely.

Just enough to cover our meager lawn and dust the stark trees.

Beautiful.

I think winter has a bad reputation. Of course I don’t live in Milwaukee where your lawn is covered with snow in September and you don’t see it again until March. Or April.

I lived in Florida for almost thirty years and maybe saw snow once for about fifteen minutes. You could predict the weather almost everyday–sunny and humid with an afternoon shower.

Since calling North Carolina my home almost three years ago, I hadn’t realized how much I missed the seasons. They give a kind of cadence to life.

I thought of that yesterday when I stayed home from church to care for my 95-year-old mother. We observed the white ice drift down on the front porch railing. We smiled as small birds searched for food while our wily cat watched carefully from afar.

Since becoming a farmer, winter takes on new meaning. Shorter days and cold weather prevent much in the way of crops. (Although, miraculously my chickens are still producing eggs.) I’ve gotten some much needed rest.

Because of the weather, my life slows down and gets simpler. If I can’t make it to the superstore, I open a can of soup or have a bowl of cereal.

Sure, Tom and I watched four NFL playoff games over the weekend, but for the last few months we’ve mostly been watching reruns of the fire in our new wood stove. Sometimes we drink hot coffee or sometimes we read, but often we just stare at the flames and discuss how beautiful and unique they are.

I’ve noticed during the winter I can see more. During other seasons of the year, I notice several shades of green from my bedroom windows. In winter there is some green, but mostly I see weathered trunks, and brown leaves, and intricate twigs on bare branches.

I can also see farther. In front of our house, I catch sight of two tobacco barns hidden behind our forest. If I stare into the woods I view trees I’ve never noticed. Small ones that stretch for the sun. Beyond them is a mystery of gray. I can only guess at what lies beyond.

Mom is in the winter season of her life. Most people dread it or avoid it all costs. Some even avoid those who are in winter since it reminds them of the mystery after their lives are over.

I’m beginning to embrace life’s winter season. I look at the intricate lines on Mom’s face and see time and years have worn her soft young skin away. In those creases, I see wisdom, and strength, and love.

Both our lives have slowed down out of necessity. Mom can’t walk anymore so her movement is limited to her bed, the wheelchair, and a big chair in front of the fireplace.

Often in the evening, she sits in her chair while Tom and I watch reruns of the fire. I don’t know that she can see the fire much but she feels its warmth and she is content. She has to be fed now and the food must be easy to swallow since swallowing is difficult. Her food choices are limited–simple.

Her life is simple. She has few possessions and even fewer clothes. She doesn’t need them.

I’ll sometimes ask her how her days has been. “Good,” she’ll reply.

She can also see farther. She looks back on a life filled with lots of color and she looks forward to the mysterious gray of the woods. She can see the trees better and understands their intricate designs. Mom appreciates the gnarly trunks and weathered branches.

She’s lived them.

Her winter forces me to examine mine. It compels me to slow down and enjoy the day. To understand that under the green canopy are sturdy trunks and elaborate designs that are meant to be appreciated and enjoyed.

It also reminds me that soon Mom is headed to the mystery beyond the gray.

And I’ve heard it’s spring there.

It’s just in a different place.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.” Ps. 23:4-5 (ESV)

 

 

Jesus is My Mouthwash

Recently, while reading through the Psalms, I noticed the reoccurring phrase of how man is just a vapor, a fleeting breath.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had bad breath. Serious. Bad. Breath.

It made me wonder what kind of breath I’d be if my life’s breath could be smelled and rated on say a 1-10 scale. Or for that matter, if all our lives could be rated on our life’s breath, maybe like the Olympics–cards would be held up with 7.5, 8.1, 6.3… (Of course the Russians would always be lowest.)

Some would say my cards would be high and my heavenly breath good because of caregiving or other good works, but I know better. I know my hidden thoughts and insidious pride.

I’ve thought about life’s breath a lot lately. One of my new friends in North Carolina died Friday. Her death came both suddenly and quickly. One day she was at church, and over the next few weeks, she went from the hospital to home to Hospice to heaven.

I miss her.

She wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. A rather ordinary-looking, middle 70-ish woman who of course drove a Buick.

She was the first to greet us in our new church. Each week I could count on her pleasant smile and kind words. She always asked about my bed-bound mom or how farming was going with us. Or how my son was doing in Florida.

But it never stopped at just words. Her actions backed up her strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

She called almost every week to check on Mom and update the prayer list. One evening, on a particularly difficult night for me, she corralled chickens and even helped me make a gallon of salsa for an event I attended.

There were other acts of kindness that I am not allowed to discuss because those were her terms. If she did something for us, Tom and I couldn’t tell anyone.

She had fresh breath. It was made fresh by Jesus.

Mine, too.

Our human effort smells foul to God. Isaiah stated that all our best works are like filthy rags. A negative number on the vapor/breath scale.

Yet, by Christ’s atoning work, he makes our life-breath clean. Pure. Acceptable to God.

I’ll miss my friend, but I’m not sorry she’s gone. She’s breathing heavenly air. Air I long to breathe one day.

Fresh. Eternal. Jesus-filled.

But for now, I’ve got to think about my breath here. Do I smell like heaven, or do people move away?

What about you?

 

 

Real Hope

“Someone said that living for this earth is like re-arranging furniture on the Titanic while she’s going down,” my pastor said.

This world is doomed for destruction. Even those who don’t believe in the judgment of God believe  that we will somehow destroy ourselves.

Scripture tells us that one day, this world will be judged and destroyed by fire.

Even before that, we will all die. And we don’t know when.

Just this week I attended the funeral of my friend’s son. She didn’t think she’d be planning his funeral when he was just 20 years old.

At 48-years-old I moved my father into a nursing home. He and Mom  lived with me for almost six years. Dad lost both legs to diabetes and finally it was too much to continuing caring for him.

I hurried around the house, preparing him for the move. When I gathered his belongings, I could hold them all in one arm. My father was going to a nursing home to die. We both knew that.

That day changed my life.

I continued to visit him and saw first-hand what our culture conveniently withholds from us. Namely, that unless we die an untimely death, we will grow old, we may grow sick, and then we will die. Then what?

I asked myself a few questions: What am I spending my time doing? What am I holding onto that will rust or fall apart. Did my life have meaning?

Did I have hope?

Yes.

Jesus.

He is our only hope. He is our salvation. Scripture says that “without shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22 (NLT)

It also says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NLT)

I made changes. I’m making changes based on the eternal truth of God’s Word.

I’m investing in heaven.

You never know when you’re leaving earth.

Invest well.

Invest today.

Find hope.

Stop re-arranging furniture.

 

Investing in Christmas, Day 8-Free of Fear

freedom

Years ago, I wrote my own eulogy. Basically it said, blah blah blah and STOP WHISPERING!

I’m not afraid to die. In fact, I’m looking forward to it. Not the way, mind you. Not getting old. Not getting sick. Not getting hurt. I’m looking forward to heaven.

I think most people fear death. Understandable. If you suspect there is a God, and are not sure of your standing with Him, you should fear death.

Some people just stay so busy they don’t have time to think about it.

Almost a decade of caregiving has given me an upclose, personal, look at it.

How does a person get right with God?

Let’s go back to Christmas. We think about a little baby and then smother ourselves with stuff. What we don’t consider is the reason that Christ came. To die.

That doesn’t make for a cheery Christmas card.

But it’s the truth.

Romans 6:5-7 states: “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (NIV)

We are freed from sin through faith in Jesus Christ. Not just believing. The book of James says even the demons believe and shudder. No, a living, active faith in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross to pay for our sins.

Once for all.

No works.

Amazing.

When freed from sin, we no longer have to fear death. It holds no dread. Just anticipation.

But, it is on God’s terms. Not ours.

Let me throw in one more Scripture passage for today. Hebrews 2:14-15, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (NIV)

If you haven’t been freed from death. Email me. I’ll explain how.

Then write your own eulogy. It’ll be fun.

Listen to this song today, friend. If you are freed from sin, celebrate your freedom in Christ.

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