The Joy of Death

You might read that title and think that I’m either crazy or heartless. I assure you: I am neither.

Let me explain:

Last month, more specifically July 9th, my mother passed away. She had had a history of extremely high blood pressure, diabetes, and more recently, some heart trouble. I didn’t know the heart trouble was as bad as it was; she never really told me how bad, just that it was “getting” bad. She had just went home from the hospital the week before… On Father’s Day she was in there and went home that next Monday. Saturday, July 3rd, I got a text from my brother telling me that Mama had been re-admitted into the hospital and this time, it wasn’t looking so good. I found out that this day, Saturday, she endured a sudden massive heart attack which triggered a massive stroke. Combined, those events basically killed her brain activity, effectively cutting short her life.

However, she didn’t die then. She was on a ventilator, life support, which kept her alive until I could get to her. My mom lived in Arizona. I live in Texas. My little brother lives in, just moved to as a matter of fact, North Carolina.

Let me tell you something: Television, Hollywood, the movies, they sensationalize the HELL outta everything. If you’ve never had to do it, know that there is NOTHING IN THIS WORLD that can prepare you for the task of having to stop life support for someone you love. (I would say anyone, but I think that only family can make this decision…and in the end, I still think it’s ANYONE) Nothing can prepare you for the pain you are going to feel having to see, actually WATCH, the life flow from someone you care so deeply for; someone you love.

I had not been prepared to see my mother lying in that hospital bed 1,700 miles away from my own bed.
I had not been prepared to NOT see her smiling face or hear the shortness in her breath I’d become accustomed to hearing over the phone tell me that all was well and “boy was THAT a great scare!”
I just wasn’t prepared. She was swollen and cold. She LOOKED like she was in pain! And I was NOT prepared!

Forget the fact that I had previously spoken to the attending nurse on the phone that Sunday night before actually getting to her hospital ICU room. He’d told me (knowing that he wasn’t supposed to) that there was a “slim to none” chance that my mom was coming out of this coma she was in.

Forget the fact that I had family members calling to tell me the nurse had told them the same thing.

I was not prepared.
My 12 yr old daughter (who adamantly REFUSED to stay home) and I walked into that room, and MIRACULOUSLY I did NOT fall apart right there, but my daughter and I found strength in each other and held each other up that first night. Boy was that hard!

The next day was Monday, and I had to wait all day for my little brother to fly in from NC. There was NO way I was letting him walk into that room alone without any support. Regardless of the fact that I had to get back to Texas because my best friend had driven to AZ with me and she needed to get back to work by no later than that Wednesday. (It’s a 20-hr drive there! 20 hrs back!) It was bad enough already that he was going to be in an unfamiliar state/city with our mother lying at the point of death alone for three days!
My brother and I ended up holding each other up.
Mutually, we made the decision not to turn off the life support until I could get back to AZ that Friday. This time, my older brother (not my mother’s son, but she made no such distinctions–I also have a sister) was driving back with me and my daughter (who STILL refused to stay in Texas with her daddy and his mama).

It was a tough time just driving! And couple that with the fact that AZ is HOT AS HELL (I’m pretty sure even the devil himself WOULDN’T vacation in Arizona! LOL), it was an extremely difficult time all around.

My little brother and I also decided, on that Monday night, that should Mama happen to code again (that means, if she went into cardiac arrest again) we did not want the doctors & nurses to try to resuscitate her again.

You see, after having spoke to all THREE of her doctors (the respiratory doctor, the attending physician, and the neurologist), we already knew that she wasn’t coming back to us. However, we are a family of faith and we know that God always has the final say. I had heard God’s final say that Monday morning when I went in and the nurse had told me that Mama had coded AGAIN and all they had done was taken her to get a CAT scan! She wasn’t even breathing on her own, but yet her heart had stopped beating again!

God’s final say was DEFINITELY hard to take! Believe me. And it was tough to accept, but as I said, we are a family of faith. We know that God doesn’t make mistakes and He was ready for His angel to come home. We would not try to stop what He had predestined to happen. She was gone.

But, because we REALLY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT WE WERE DOING, we made the decision not to turn off the machines until I could make it back to Arizona and we could all be together at the same time, get the help we would surely need in figuring out what to do with her body, and close all of what we could of her life business there in Arizona.

As I said before, NOTHING prepares you for the experience of “pulling the plug” on your loved one. Even when you know that no other decision can be made. My mama fought (I guess you’d say) for 10 minutes before the flat lines crossed the monitoring screen. That was THE longest 10 minutes of my life!

And here is where I say the “Joy of Death.”

While my flesh was drowning in the pain of losing my mother’s physical self, my soul rejoiced (!!!) because I knew that she was finally at rest…sleeping in the most comfortable place of all. I cried because my mother’s physical self would never be able to laugh at/with me again. She’d never say “Girly, girl” to me or my daughter again. She would never call my name in anger, joy, or pride again. She’d never get to look upon my face and tell me that she loved me ever again. I cried so hard for that physical shell.

But, I leaped for joy, rejoiced because I knew that NOW, after so many years of searching… after so much time praying… after one life disappointment after another… I knew that NOW my mother was sleeping in eternal peace in the arms of our God, our Father. Our Daddy was holding her and wiping her tears and resting her mind once and for all. And if you can’t see the JOY in that, I IMPLORE you to TRY GOD!

This earthly life that we live is filled, FILLED, with heart ache, sorrow, grief, and pain; sometimes, if we get lucky, happiness, contentment, love and a little bit of joy might dot the important moments of our lives. But, no matter what we compare it to: When we are right with our God, when you’re right with YOUR God, our welcome in Heaven, in His arms, is SO MUCH BETTER.

I believe this without even having the first hand experience.

The joy of death is for the loved ones who have passed on before us, but it’s what us living folk have to look forward to.
The joy of death is the eternal glory of being forever in the presence of our Lord God. We can hold on to our eternal hope that once we’re through with this life, we will be ready to accept it–the joy of death–with wide open hearts and souls.

In the meantime, I can honestly say that I’m fine with peace after my mother’s death. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5). Morning took a few weeks to get there for me, but now joy reigns when I think of my mama. I remember her fondly (even the not-so-good times) and I don’t cry. I don’t feel all that sad, either. I know that she’s in a better place than I am….and I’m almost, *almost* jealous! LOL


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