When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30 (NIV)
This verse kept resonating with me during Holy Week while my mother was dying. The words of Jesus as he hung on the cross were never more meaningful.
Mom died on Good Friday shortly before 9 p.m.
Earlier in the day, sometime after noon, I received a call from my sister that the hospice nurse had called and said that Mom was in “terminal anxiety” and that we should gather the family because it could be hours or maybe a day. I was committed to leading a Good Friday worship service that evening at 7:30 p.m. at Bethel Lutheran Church. Even though I agonized about it, I decided to go ahead and lead the worship.
My wife and I left immediately after the end of the worship at around 8:45 p.m. for the two-hour drive to Columbus. Shortly after nine p.m. I received another call, this one from my niece, that Mom was gone. Fortunately, the hospital said that they would wait until I arrived and would allow me time with the body before the funeral home would be notified.
I wasn’t prepared for the breakdown I had when I saw the lifeless body of my mother lying in the hospital bed at Riverside Hospital. The strength that had sustained me during this ordeal abandoned me at that moment and I cried like a baby. Though I had told myself I had no regrets, I longed desperately to talk to her one more time. I touched her cheeks and embraced her innocent-looking face as the tears gushed and my heart broke. The thought of her not being with us anymore was just too much to take. It is a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever experience ever again.
We have not had a major loss in our family for decades. My father died more than 50 years ago and we’ve lost grandparents, uncles and aunts–but never anyone this close in many years. It has been ten days since her death, but the haunting memory of that scene in the hospital room is as vivid as if it were today.