My sister and I kept a vigil by my mom’s bedside that night, trying to keep her as comfortable as possible. We took turns standing by her hospital bed and holding her hand through the metal railing, counting the long seconds between her breaths. Every time I thought that was it, she’d gasp again. Torn between my selfish desire to keep her with me at all costs and my deeper desire for her not to be in pain anymore, I didn’t know whether to be relieved or saddened.
Nine months earlier, we heard those dreaded words: “it’s stage 4 lung cancer.” The chemo, the radiation, the surgery, the road trip to see my grandmother were all a blur of memories that culminated in this life-changing moment when time ran out and my mother breathed her last breath.
Although my sister and I tried our best to stay awake and be present when she passed, exhaustion after a trying week of round-the-clock care consumed our bodies. One minute, I was curled on the couch next to my sister, listening to my mom’s deliberate and sporadic breathing, and the next I was fully immersed in some sort of alternate world.
I couldn’t see anything. I could not see my mother, but I clearly heard her voice as though she were speaking to me face-to-face. But it was her normal voice before cancer had robbed her of speaking clearly and freely, having to take a deep breath after every two or three words. “There’s my daddy! And my sisters! Bobbie! Helen! Georgia! And Grandma and Grandpa Roberts!”
Laughter bubbled up out of my soul as I was overwhelmed with joy for the family reunion of lost loved ones that I was eavesdropping on.
I was trying to get information from her. “Momma, Momma, how are they?” But she was so enraptured in the glory and joy before her, I was old news. Finally, she said, “Oh they’re good. They’re good.” And she was back to them and laughing all over again.
Then it hit me. “Wait a minute,” I reasoned, “If she’s seeing our family who died, she had to have died, too.” The thought jolted me awake. In one movement, I jumped up off the sofa and lept towards the hospital bed to find that she was gone.
I woke up my sister and when we looked at the clock, she told me she had to have just passed away because my nephew Cory had just left to go to work 15-20 minutes prior.
I can’t explain it but God, in His mercy, lifted the veil and let me hear my mom enter heaven—when I didn’t even believe in heaven or Him.
Written by: Crystal Wormser
Featured image by Insung Yoon