Lessons Learned from the Death of a Loved One
My mom died Sunday night. I sat by her bed in the nursing home for her last fifteen minutes of life as her soul left this world to spend eternity with the Lord. Nothing prepares you for moments like this. I cared for Dad long distance and my first husband directly day in and day out, but I never saw either of them gasp their last breath. She passed from death here to life eternal just a few minutes before midnight on the Lord’s Day. It isn’t pretty.
So many thoughts rush through my head about her and loved ones dying in general. Mom,90 years young, had her full mental capacity until around the end of October. Being mentally sharp can be a double-edged sword for any older person, especially during the Pandemic. Mom, an extrovert living in an independent senior living community, helped stave off excruciating loneliness over the past five years. When the Pandemic hit and lockdowns forced seniors to stay apart from loved ones and friends, it was difficult for her. Her saving grace was a gentleman who fell in love with her over the two years he lived in the same community. She finally gave in to his overtures of love since she had been a domestic violence survivor and allowed her heart to open up. He loved her to the very end. The best I could do for her from outside lockdown’s protective bubble was talk on the phone or text with her. They built quite a life together, as Pandemic Love blessed them both. It hurt my heart to see them ripped apart when she suddenly fell ill, causing her to need full-time nursing care.
I wondered if I made the right decisions for Mom’s care since she could no longer make rational decisions. I hoped she could go back home after finishing rehab in a nursing facility. It became apparent that I did indeed do the right thing for her when I saw the damage infections and a possible stroke caused. All those falls were the signal of a downward spiral that took away her mental capacity in small chunks over the past four to five months. We almost lost her to sepsis. Covid was a ticking bomb in the background, systematically robbing her of her ability to keep memories straight. Who knows? It may have been the final blow that brought her to her deathbed. With stringent lockdowns in nursing homes, it was nearly impossible to see what all transpired. Phone calls and FaceTime were our only means of communication until she was admitted to the hospital around Valentine’s Day. An incredible window of opportunity opened up so she could see my brother and her boyfriend for the last time due to limited hospital visitation. I’m just glad I could be there for her as lockdown restrictions eased and during her final moment of life.
I try not to write downers here on my blog. Still, I felt the Holy Spirit’s leading to write this by giving you a glimpse into the lessons I’ve learned as a caregiver walking with a loved one to go Home. You see, God has been active through all of these situations bringing about blessings and faith-building lessons.
- Get to know more about the first three books of Genesis to fully grasp the consequences of the sin Adam and Eve put into motion from their rebellion. They knew nothing of death, decline, or decay—that is, until they took a bite of the forbidden fruit. “Don’t eat it,” God said, “Or you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-3) Sitting beside Mom and my first husband, I watched death suck away her last breath. It is painfully ugly. Death on our side is permanent, indelibly etched into my mind. Only by accepting Jesus as Savior can I know my loved ones have moved from death to life eternal. It’s because of His blood shed on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. I will see them again someday.
- Similar to #1, loved ones who don’t know Jesus are given over to death. What a sad day indeed when a loved one dies who doesn’t have Jesus as Savior. God doesn’t force anyone to live in eternity with Him. All the more reason to share Jesus in love with our family members.
- We hate losing our independence, especially in the late stages of life. Both Mom and Dad fought to keep their last bit of independence. We should never take it personally, although they often blame us. It just is. Compassion helps ease our pain from the angry words they toss our way because fear says those things. Love them and do the right thing with wise counsel along the way. If it is your parent, always honor them to the very end (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2)
- Behind every elderly person—and dying person of any age—is a legacy like no other. The life they’ve lived and the history they’ve built leave a legacy. My Dad served in WW2. My first husband served the Lord as pastor touching lives. My mother served her community as a volunteer EMT and was honored by the people she served alongside. A bit of history dies with them.
- One day, it will be our turn. We often teach others what it means to die. My first husband showed dignity in death because he had no regrets in life. He showed us love, as he passed on through the veil of death. We should all want to live a life of influence and die with dignity and love.
- Never rob someone of the privilege to die peacefully. It’s selfish of us to keep our loved ones with us when all signs point to their inevitable death. One more procedure, one more day, doesn’t stop death. Their days, and ours, are numbered by God (Job 14:5). Why put them through the torture if their time is here? I asked that question when Mom was in the hospital the last time, but she needed to see people one last time. My first husband told me, “I can’t stay here for you and the kids—no more medical treatment. Just make me comfortable. I know where I am going.” My Dad heard the Gospel one last time. While I deliberated about a feed tube and nursing care, he gave in to death. Let people pass away peacefully when their time comes.
- God answers prayers even until the last moment. Just as my mother was transported in the spirit to see her friend, Evelyn, one last time, we got to spend the final moments with those slipping into eternity (See “Walking Evelyn Home”). My first husband had family surround him one last time, probably because he prayed for all of them to be there. Mom probably prayed to see her family and her boyfriend one last time. God still answers their prayers—and yours—one last time.
Are you wrestling with grief over a loved one? Take heart. There are lessons you can learn from their lives as they pass on. You can also learn from others who have been where we are now. If your loved one knew Jesus as Savior, you will see them again one day. Why rob them of this blessing by trying to keep them alive when it’s obvious it is time for them to go? If your loved one doesn’t know Jesus, now is the time to show your love by sharing Jesus with them until their breath. Trust that Jesus continued to reach out to your unsaved loved one through hospital staff, hospice workers, even the janitor cleaning their room. And know that you have likely done the best you could do for them when you allow Holy Spirit to guide you along the way. Grieving? Need prayer? You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many blessings to you this Easter season!