A little later this morning, before it rains this afternoon, I’m going to plant two roses in our yard. Granted, they were first just purchased because we wanted two spot filled with flowers and beauty, that of course a rose bush can bring. However, the time and day just seemed to come together in a beautiful holy way, and so on this May 19, I’ll plant something that will live – and remember.
It was pretty early in the morning on Sunday, May 19, 2019 when I got a call from my sisters. I guess it was not unexpected, but heartbreaking nonetheless. Mom died, after more than five years on hospice as she endured both lymphoma and A-fib, which left her not only homebound, but bedbound for those years. I wish I could describe clearly and deeply enough the grace that walked with that woman who couldn’t walk. At most, there were times when she said she was uncomfortable, and other times when after visiting, she thought I was tired and should go back to my hotel and rest a bit. That of course was code that she was tired, and needed sleep, but we knew what it all meant.
In earlier years, after Dad died in 1993, I would fly down for a week and do handyman things around her house, like pruning trees and fixing toilets and the like. I’d work for a while, and then we would plan a trip to the antique mall, or some other craft place that she wanted to explore. I made sure we had great meals and lots of time to just talk and be together. We did that for 21 years. In 2012, when we got back to Rapid City from our stay in Nashville, we flew her up, and spent a number of days touring the Black Hills. I remember the huge mountain goat standing about 15 feet from our car at Mount Rushmore. I hadn’t been to see her for a couple of years, but you could tell she was slowing down. I don’t know why – she was only 84…
Then came the diagnosis, and the beginning of an entirely different way of relating. I had always called her every Sunday, just to check in for more than 20 years, but now the calls always included my plans to come and spend time with her, sitting by her bedside, and bringing her McGriddles and hash browns and of course, hot coffee in the mornings.
She kept having these little strokes, which further denied her any real mobility, and her right hand, which always had produced the absolutely perfect penmanship of an elementary teacher, no longer let her do more than scribble a bit. It also kept her from crafts and even doing the crossword puzzle, which was her daily workout. As they progressed, she approached it with good humor, as words slipped from her mind, and we would spend time finishing her sentences together.
Finally, it happened that another stroke took away her ability to speak. I thought it was so cruel, that this vital woman, who gave up walking, and even caring for her basic needs, and then writing, now was unable to speak more than an infrequent word, which was often wrong. Instead of calling her on Sundays, I would need to write her a short letter, and email it to my youngest sister who lived with her, so Amy could then give it to Mom to read.
In all of this, we celebrated her 85th and then 90th birthday! We flooded the house with her descendants, and had Texas barbecue and lots of fun. Over the course of the next six months, I made a few visits down, flying or driving, just to get those times in. When I left that April visit, I just believed I would never see her alive again.
I was right. Two of my sisters were with her all that Saturday night, and as they talked early Sunday morning, Mom just slipped away. It was the end of the oldest generation on both sides of the family. She had outlived many if not all of her relatives, at 90 years, seven months and fifteen days.
When I visited Israel many years ago, we were given the opportunity to plant a tree in memory of a loved one. I did so, claiming the tree for a number of my family, including my father. So today, I don’t have a tree needing to be planted, but I will take the time to plant two roses, as Mom always loved flowers, and I will thank God yet once again for this one who had such a huge life influence on me. There will never be another like her. I hope that somehow I can try.
Two years is a long time, and yet it’s not much more than a blink of an eye, and now and then to intentionally take a moment to remember is a nice gift to offer, both to the one who is now with God, and to our own future. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Word of the day: nincompoop. Pronounced NIN-come-poop. It’s a fascinating word, because no one is quite sure from where it arose. Used first in the 1670s, it’s an old word. Some experts say it came from a Latin phrase, “non compo mentis,” which is translated, “not competent in the mind.” It refers to someone who is insane, or just plain incompetent in their thinking. Of course, then you have “poop,” at the end of the word, which lots of folks are sure of. It could be just a way of further abasing someone, although in some cases, the word means “to cheat, deceive or fool.” That appears to go against the first part of the word, since cheating and deceiving usually requires a pretty sharp mind. I guess I think it just means you are calling someone a poop. The gist of it all is a caution to each of us to remember not to become a nincompoop…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.