The late April snow had not arrived yet. It was a scenic drive as we wound our way through the countryside to the military cemetery where we would honor our mother one last time before entrusting her earthly body to the ground in this lovely place of honor. A spring sun graced the setting with beauty as the breeze caressed the floral spray adorning Mom’s casket. It was time to say goodbye.
A person who no longer dwells in their human frame is in need of nothing. No food. No sleep. No protection. No human kindness. How much of the daily work of our lives is for the care of the human body and our needs? What would I do every day if I didn’t need to cook, wash clothes, sleep, exercise, earn money to put a roof over my head, or seek out a friend for some conversation? Perhaps this is what makes the finality of death so difficult. We live with our needs and the meeting of our needs every waking moment. And then suddenly, it stops.
We can’t imagine the ending we call death. In an even deeper way, we can’t imagine the second beginning we call eternity. It is more mind-boggling than the thought of death. How can life never end? How can I believe there is something so amazing I wouldn’t want it to end? I mean, life can be wonderful at times, but even exciting things get boring after a while. The truth is, I can’t grasp eternity. It makes my head hurt and my heart race just a bit. No more time? No more waiting? No more need?
Because of the ravaging effects of pain, aging, and the loss of both appetite and strength, Mom had not smiled for several weeks. Not a real smile. Oh, she gave a weak tweak of her lips for a second or two if we mentioned a funny memory, but if you weren’t watching closely, you missed it. At the evening twilight on Easter Sunday my husband and I held Mom’s hand and spoke quietly to her as her breaths became distinctly shallow. Just as we began to wonder if she would breathe one more time, Mom’s face lit up with the brightest and most distinct smile we had seen in months. And in that instant, time met eternity and Mom walked into her new beginning. I like to think she ran, like a little girl who hasn’t seen her daddy in a long time, running for a hug. And with that, she left us. But she also gave us her last gift – the gift of a smile. A smile of promise that eternity is to be anticipated with joy for those who believe in Jesus, because being with Him is the one great joy we can experience forever. Thank you, Mom, for such an amazing last gift.