Some Memories from Mom’s Last Days – by Pam (daughter)
January 2004 – medical check up
In early January of 2004 mom called me in Germany to say that it was necessary to have some special test made because of health issues. She told me not to worry; they were just some routine tests. But I knew as I talked with her that it was serious, and had the feeling I should fly home immediately. I booked the next flight home, then called to tell her I would be home the next evening at 10:00 pm.
When I arrived from the airport, she said she was scheduled to check in at the hospital immediately, so we left at 10:10 pm. Within a few days, the doctors learned that she had a full-blown case of lung cancer. The family doctor said she probably had 2-15 weeks to live, though I don’t believe he ever told her that it was so far advanced. I reckoned with the worst scenario, cancelled the coming weeks of work in Germany so I could be with her for however long she had. I called my brother and he and his wife came immediately and we just “moved in” with mom, probably expecting that things would quickly change, as the doctors had told us.
Within 3 weeks she started taking chemo treatments and the lung tumors began to shrink. She was doing better, and continued her daily routine pretty well. My brother (Dick) and wife returned to their home in North Carolina and I decided to stay with her, not being able to come and go from Germany so easily. Though she would probably have preferred to stay at home alone, she did realize from time to time that she needed help, and increasingly as the situation got worse.
A few weeks later spots started to appear on the liver. The chemo wasn’t affecting them. She was given another kind of chemo, but the cancer was growing faster and started getting the upper hand. As brave as she was, it was obvious that the battle for life was coming to a close. She continued her daily routine as best she could, and continued to drive herself to chemo treatments – at nearly 81 years! She enjoyed the company of friends and relatives, and her little Chihuahua companion “Ginger” – they were best friends! I stayed with her the entire year, returning briefly to Germany 2 times for business. My brother came several times to stay with her – really remarkable for a man to look so good after his mother – cooking, cleaning, etc.
Being a pastor and being interested in the spiritual side of people’s lives, I often asked her if she had had any special spiritual experience in this time. I was interested and concerned about her relationship to the Lord.
“Rock of Ages” – music in the air
One day when I came home from shopping, she asked me if I was playing music in the house. I said, “No”, and asked her what she was hearing. She listened for a few seconds and began to hum the old Gospel song “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, left me hide myself in Thee”. She said she had been hearing this song for 3 days now…and probably hadn’t heard this hymn for years.
A month or so before she died, I asked her if we could have communion together, and she agreed. I explained to her about the death of Christ upon the Cross, His body being broken and His blood being shed for our forgiveness. I asked her if she understood, and wanted to receive Him as her Saviour and the benefits of His death, and she said, “Yes”. We had communion again a week before she died.
The “Sign” of the Potato Peeling!
Then something very interesting happened, I think in answer to my prayers. I asked the Lord to give me a confirmation whether she was “saved”, whether she would go to heaven. One day as I was peeling potatoes at the sink, I saw a deep cut in one of the potatoes in the shape of a cross. It caught my attention, so I cut it off and laid it on the sink and watched it dry out and shrivel up over the next three weeks. Then two or three weeks later, I realized that day by day it had changed into something quite unique. It had turned into a miniature casket figure with a cross on top, and an angel-like figure in the upper left corner. The cross was no longer carved into the peeling, but was now standing on top, embossed on the “casket” like shape. While looking at what had happened, the Bible verse came to me from Colossians 3:3 “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” This seemed to be the answer to my prayer about mom’s place in Christ and in heaven. It was like I was looking at her casket with a cross laid on the top! I preached her funeral and shared this experience, and passed around this potato peeling casket. I still have this unusual/miraculous “sign” of the Lord’s grace to my mother. It was then, and is today, very special to me.
While she was still able to drive, she wanted me to go with her to make her funeral arrangements – what courage! She picked out her casket, ordered her flowers…and paid the bill – unbelievable, but true. We talked about her funeral and I told her that I would like to do it for her and she agreed. I thought I knew her better than any pastor would and could honor her one last time. God gave me amazing grace to officiate her funeral and I’m so glad that I could. It was a time of remembering as I shared things from her life that many people did not know…and it was a time of comfort as family and friends came to pay their respect.
Life Goes On
Mom died on December 15, 2004 just 5 days before her 82nd birthday and just a few days before Christmas. We were with her at home as she took her last breath – an experience we will never forget. Five days later we celebrated our first Christmas without her. It was different, but we had/have much to be thankful for. My brother and wife returned to North Carolina and I returned to my missionary work in Germany, where I have lived and worked since December 1994.
Dad and Mom 2001
Pam - February 2004
Rick - July 2004
Potato Peeling "casket"