About six months before Mama went home to be with Jesus:
“Anne…..you have studied the Bible more than most of us in the family….why do you think that God allows suffering? I’m not angry with God, but I really do wonder about that.”
“I don’t know that I know the answer to that, Mama. The only thing I can think of is that maybe one reason that he allows it so it will be easier for us to leave when the time comes.”
“Maybe. Maybe so.”
I think of this conversation with my Mama a lot. I was so grateful she was talking to me about suffering that day, even though it was twisting my guts and my hearts into tiny squished up pieces. Mama never shared a lot of her complaints in life with others. She was an absolute pinnacle of strength in many ways. She intermittently, throughout life, would share that she was tired – I think that’s just because there was no way around the fact that it would show. So she more-so wanted to make sure that when she wanted to go to bed early in the evening, no one would think it was because she didn’t want to be around them. It just was what it was: Mama liked to sleep.
Mama loved family above all else. Family get togethers, checking in with each person about the happenings in their lives, being there for others, being the caretaker, the hostess. Others first….that was what kept my mother going. That…WE…is what motivated her in life. I know many people may say that about their parents, but this was true to an extreme (a good one) for my own Mama.
I knew. I knew the thing that would make it hard for her to let go and allow cancer to take its final toll would be concern for us. And if there could be one small thing that could make her care about her own self, it would be the desire to stay behind and see her little family grow and move through the different changes, big life events, heartaches, and joys in their lives here on earth. I knew.
I was drawing a blank though, during that conversation. I truly didn’t know what to say. I believe, to this day, that the Holy Spirit told me what to say. He told me the truth. The truth for Mama specifically, as to why God would allow such suffering.
See, at this time, cancer was starting to sprout new tentacles. New, rotten, squeezing, suffocating tentacles. The ones that would finally squeeze the last breath out of her.
And I think she knew it.
Sometimes things never come full circle in life. Other times, they do, and you get the gift of seeing God weave His divine confirmation and redemption through that part of the story. This was one of those times for me. I will never forget it.
I think it was about a week before Mama died ~ she was in hospice ~ at home in her bed and my brothers and I were with her. She turned to me and kind of out of the blue said….
“You were so right, Anne. I still wish I could stay, but you were so right about the suffering thing we talked about.”
She wasn’t sad, she was resigned. She had an inner peace about the whole thing, although her body wasn’t treating her quite so peacefully. She had made peace with the good that was to be brought about out of the suffering. The good, was that it made it “less hard” for her to leave us. Then she started to talk a lot about Jesus and how He was coming for her.
Mama still struggled to leave, but, to me, it seemed more like her body was trying to keep her here than anything else. Suffering didn’t make it easy for her body to let go by any stretch of the imagination. But it made staying less appetizing. That’s for sure.
Mama loved her Savior. But she was a Mama through and through. A Mama who had a little bit of a stronger tie to this earth that others might because her kids had no Father (he died when we were young teens). A Mama who had an elderly father she wanted to look out for, grandchildren she wanted to see grow up, and adult kids who she knew would be orphaned upon her departure.
But during her last days here, God took Mama on a journey and showed her the beauty of what was to come in her new and eternal life. She was able to share much of it with us.
And then He came. He came and He took her home.
Suffering didn’t stop any of that. It didn’t stop Mama from sharing the beauty of what she was seeing as Jesus came for her. It didn’t stop God from taking His loved one home. It didn’t stop her from still caring about everyone around her to the last breath.
It didn’t stop her from telling us her last wish either:
“I want ALL of my family to come with me to Heaven. I want ALL of my family to come with me to Heaven. I want ALL of my family to come with me to Heaven.”
But she also knew this: Her own wish was not the most important one. So she made certain to tell us that. She followed that up with telling us the most important thing she could.
- More important than “I love you.”
- More important than “I will miss you all.”
- More important than “thank you for being such a wonderful family.”
“He says Come All.” HE says “Come ALL.”
Maybe Mama wanted to tell us that she now knew the answer to her question so we didn’t have to wonder. I keep on thinking that might be why she made it a point to tell us what HE says. It was a plea, an exhortation, and utterly emphasized in tone and urgency. Mama wanted us, she needed for us to know the REAL answer to the questions of life. She wanted us to know that the reason for the suffering is so that we know that THIS life is not where it’s at for us. That all that matters now, and most certainly at the end of the day, is that He says “Come ALL.”
This life is not where it ends if, like Mama, we choose Jesus. We come to Him in them midst of our sufferings and trials and gain a knowledge of Him that is so much more clear than it can be when we are distracted by good health, prosperity, and ease. Those are good things, but they tend not to be the times that we seek Jesus’ face as ardently.
He meets us there.
He loves us there.
He carries us and sustains us there.
And sometimes, just sometimes ~ He decides that is the last time we will weep.
Eventually, He takes us home.
Won’t you come too? To our forever home with Jesus. If you haven’t decided yet, think about it. Today might just be the day you need to decide.
He’s given us the answer. He’s given us the open invitation. And He wants us to come to His feet today. Today may not be our day to go to our forever home ~ the place we will reside for all eternity ~ the place where my Mama is, with Jesus. But we are invited. We are invited into His presence now.
We can rest in Jesus today.
Because He says “Come ALL.”
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17