I’d like to introduce my brother, Allan Morton, who is guest posting for me today. As I have stated in previous posts, our mother went to be with the Lord in February of last year. Both of my siblings live out of state and were unable to be part of my mother’s care for her final months, as I was. As difficult as it was to be here caring for her as she slowly died, it was an entirely different kind of painful for them. Allan agreed to record his thoughts for my blog, in hopes that those thoughts would minister to someone enduring the same kind of pain.
Allan is a gifted writer, and I’d say so even if he weren’t my brother. Check out his blog, Where Do We Go from Here?
She’s Dying…and So Am I
Death doesn’t play well on the Hallmark Channel. It isn’t neat or tidy. Most of us I suspect have been conditioned to want life events to play out like TV shows. From beginning to end – some character development, creative setting, adrenalin raising conflict, intriguing plot twist, and yet the story virtually always resolves with a satisfying ending. Two hour max and you’re left with a complete story. That’s part of the appeal. It’s an escape from what we know to be reality.
My sister Beth asked me to write a blog post sharing my perspective of what its like to have a parent dying and you can’t be near to help. Even typing that…can’t help. I hate it.Death leaves the bed of my mind 'unmade'. Click To Tweet
This has been a recent episode for me. Death leaves the bed of my mind “unmade”. It reminds me of signs I’ve encountered causing me to stop and think about what could have been but can’t be. “Out of Order…Road Closed… Closed for the Season…” There is a reason for these signs being posted. One was blocking entrance to a flood damaged road. Another a bridge with questionable structural integrity. And a roadway that was closed due to epic amounts of snow that fall every winter making it dangerous for travelers. In each instance something was broken or impassable. Invariably it requires a detour. Sometimes its little more than an inconvenience. Or maybe it causes your journey to double in time required. It’s possible that it even prevents you completely from being where you want to be. Life IS out of order.
My emotions during that time were all over the map – frustration, sadness, and a biggie – guilt. My Mama had always been there for me while I was growing up – even when it was inconvenient for her and she wasn’t well herself. I felt like I was letting her down, even feelings of abandoning her.
She didn’t say things to intentionally make me feel guilty. But a well placed “Miss you, son” was really all it took. “Miss you too, Mama.” She knew I had a family, business, and other commitments some 1,700 miles away from her that I needed to tend to. She knew. I knew she knew, but that doesn’t really seem to matter when you wish you were somewhere else. There is nothing really I could do but attempt to honor my Mom (and my Dad) by taking care of things where I was in a manner that would make them proud. My parents had freed me to take care of things around me. Besides, Beth was there providing top notch care for both of them. But the pull on my heart was unabated.
“Daddy, do you need me there? Because I will get on a plane tomorrow. You know that.”
“No son”, he’d say. “You take care of what’s there. I’ll let you know if I need you to come home. Beth is taking good care of Mama.”
Beth definitely was. I expressed my feelings to her so many times. She’d reply with affirmations of my heart’s desire, prayer requests for strength, and a perspective – “Just let me be your hands and feet here. Pray for me. This is the ministry God has given me. Pray that I have the strength for this journey.”
In my mind, I’d always say “That’s not enough. I need to do more.” But what was I to do? Of course that shows how little I felt like my prayers mattered. But that’s a topic for another day.
Resolution? – I hope you didn’t get this far in reading and think there would be a resolution to the feelings of guilt and regret that invariably accompany the death of a parent – especially if the orchestration of events kept you farther away than you wished. I have nothing for you but a recipe.
Death itself is the main ingredient of this stew that simmers on the back burner of your heart. Now, add to the recipe a pinch of powerlessness, a dash of unresolved emotions, two tablespoons of regrets and four cups of “wanted to’s”. Stir occasionally and let the distinctive aroma fill your nostrils. Then eat until full. But that’s the thing. You never will be.
So is there ANYTHING you can take away from this? Maybe. Here are a few observations after having almost a year to process:
1. Do what you can while you can. Make the most of each day. A kind word, an act of kindness, a confession of your love, or a gesture of gratitude. But do not do so with the expectation that it will feel like “enough” when your parent is gone. It won’t happen – plain and simple. It will never feel like enough. You just have to come to a point of realizing more often than not the parent/child relationship is imbalanced. My parents out-gave me. They out-graced me, out-loved me, out-performed me, out-mercied me, out-wisdomed me. You get the picture. And yes, I did just make up words and made a mess of grammar. Deal with it.
2. If death leaves you dissatisfied – good. It’s supposed to. It was never supposed to be this way. I know that there is an art to providing comfort for those that mourn. I get that and even appreciated it at my Mama’s service. Celebrating the life of the parent is appropriate. But don’t ever try to embrace death as a “natural” course of events. It isn’t. The resurrection of Jesus was a demonstration of His conquering death. You don’t reverse something (death) into something that is good or natural. It is a reversal of a critical implication of the Fall of Man. Revelation 20 paints the picture of “Death and Hades being throw into the Lake of Fire”. That’s where they belong and that’s where they will be when Jesus sets all things right. We want death to be peaceful. It isn’t. It’s the enemy. And one day, Death will be put in its proper place.
3. If death leaves you lonely, it should. It a natural consequence of our broken condition. Logically it should lead one to conclude there is something more. Incomplete, deficient, unfulfilled, undone, broken, interrupted, disjointed – all describe emotions I felt. It’s a reminder that this existence in its current form is incomplete – a shadow of what will be. C.S. Lewis referenced an unsatisfied longing built into us to help us draw the conclusion there is more. It’s not just the absence of a parent taken in death that creates the loneliness. That’s a mere taste of the feast of relationship from which we have been deprived with our Heavenly Father. So embrace the lonely and the longing. Let it draw you to Him.So embrace the lonely and the longing. Let it draw you to Him. Click To Tweet
So those are my take aways. Death hurts and being at a distance from the one dying only exacerbates the feelings. But its not the end. It isn’t final. The One who created all things has promised to make things right again – to redeem, restore, and resurrect. In that I find comfort. I hope you will too.
Allan Morton, Jr.
Where Do We Go from Here? A beggar showing other beggars where I found bread.