There is still a text message saved in my phone under the sent mailbox: Time of Death 10:27. It’s been almost a year, but every time cleaning and deleting my messages comes along, I—hardly without a thought—skip over that one. Part of me wants the message to remember the reality; a similar part wants to hold on to any scrap of her it can because memories of the past fade too quickly these days. Another part, though, wants to let go of semi-superstitious practices and grieve for the last time the loss of a mother. But can one ever mourn Eve for the last time?
At the beginning of last May, my mom suffered from an unforeseen brain aneurysm that ruptured. While it took her a week to “wake up,” she shouldn’t have even made it to the hospital to begin with. There were certain things mom was stubborn about, and though I believe grace was the main factor, I can’t rule out her will in hanging on. Flying from one coast to another to see her lying motionless in a hospital bed was surreal. She was always filled with life and laughter, and the shackles of IV needles and a breathing tube did seem to be more bondage to her spirit than help. The first time I was alone with her I started caressing her arm, weeping and mumbling all the things I wanted to say about my love for her, about Jesus’ love for her and about things I wanted her to let go of. I’m still unsure if she heard anything I said that day. Friends tell me that even if she wasn’t with it, that her spirit could have still responded; I would be more comforted to know that her whole being heard it. I wanted to know she understood.
As I looked at my mom, hooked up to machines and beat up from her condition, something came together in my heart and mind that never did before … she was beautiful. Even now it’s almost a mystical concept that is hard to articulate. It wasn’t necessarily her physical beauty or her character or memories of her; it wasn’t her perfection, because, Lord knows, she wasn’t perfect. It was just that she was beautiful. I told her this over and over as I was by her side that day. For the next week, family and friends kept loving on her, even anointed her and prayed using Psalm 34 as a guide. She slowly progressed but needed surgery, which was being put off due to an infection.
In hope and regret, my wife and I flew back to the west coast; Mom was alert and awake the day we left. The last true memory I have of her is me saying, “Goodbye,” saying, “I love you,” and having her react. She still had a breathing tube in and couldn’t speak, but when I said farewell her eyes opened up like the dawn, wider than I had ever seen them. She slightly moved forward as though she was trying to throw her love towards me but couldn’t. Again, it was something mystical like she was saying all at once, “I love you … I heard you … don’t leave me … I’ll be alright, go.”
Two weeks later I received a phone call from my brother saying that mom’s aneurysm had ruptured again, and this time there was no recovery. A few long hours later we were back in the hospital where we officially got the news, where I texted my friends those three horrific words mentioned before. My Eve, the mother of life, was dead.
In some way, a mother is the most eternal thing we know on this earth. No matter how you slice it, we came from them, and it hits hard when the closest thing you relate eternity to, the very thing that bore you, dies. I always knew in my head that I was going to die, but it wasn’t until my mom died that I actually believed it. In reality, I don’t think most of us, including the Church, believe in our own mortality.
I was watching a Damien Rice performance/interview recently, and the host asked the musician what he had learned in-between albums. Rice said, “I think the biggest thing I learned was that I’m going to die.” The host reacted with a joking arrogance: “I could have told you that; you should have just asked me.” And it is that joking arrogance, whether in whole or in part, that a lot of us use to skirt the sincerity of death. We are ignorant, and the subject matter is not funny.
It appears that most Christians jump ahead of themselves, not in promise but in ignorance and fear, and forget that one of the necessary ingredients for resurrection is death. This trivialization has the same applicable effect as talking about forgiveness without talking about sin.
Getting a glimpse at the genuineness of death stretches your faith. I’m still dealing with some anger and bitterness issues (the loss of a mother, a widowed father, a yet to be child that will miss out on a rockin’ grandma, etc.) but have an increased hope in how majestic victory over death must be. As a follower of Christ, a universalistic afterlife dependent upon personal merit is out of the question. Fallen by nature and beautiful by design we are, but our beauty won’t save us. However, the truth of the grace of Jesus, which is bigger than my own Christianity, is something to hold onto. We need a savior, and that Savior needs to be as real as death.