The Loss of a Parent
On February 6, 2008 my mother passed away after a horrific series of events that spiraled out of control with a urinary tract infection. I won’t go into all the details, because the events are so appalling that they are hard to believe that they could ever happen. The last week of my mother’s life she was taken off of all life support, and basically forced to die of starvation. We were told that keeping her alive was selfish and cruel by all of the medical staff at the hospice where she was taken after the hospital said they couldn’t do anything else for her. My dad, my two sisters and I stayed at the hospice the entire week waiting for her to die. It was the worst thing that I had ever experienced at that point in my life, but six months later when we received the report from UCLA on the research data collected from my mom’s brain, even worse news arrived. My mother’s death certificate lists the cause of death as complications from late stages of Alzheimer’s, but the brain bank discovered that my mother didn’t have Alzheimer’s or any other dementia type illness. Her brain was normal, and had no signs of what the hospital and doctors had all told us was the issue, and the reason that we should let our mother starve to death to save her from further suffering.
Her death and the two months of suffering in ICU were bad enough, but then to find out that it was all a lie, and the doctors just used that as a means to keep her from ever telling the truth about what happened at that hospital that she went into with bladder infection or UTI, and ended up septic and fighting for her life, was simply a weight and sorrow too heavy for me to carry.
The enemy made sure that not only did I lose my mother at age 54, but that I also felt a guilt-burdened grief that just wouldn’t let up for two years. Finally I heard a New Year’s Eve sermon at Cornerstone Church in Chandler on the message of HOPE. The service was led by a Pastor that had a three or four year old daughter in ICU with a brain tumor. His family had no idea if their baby would live or die, but somehow the man got up and gave a broken congregation a message on hope.
The congregation was broken, because it was during the worst economic downturn the country had ever seen. Thousands of people were losing homes, jobs, and all that they had saved and worked for years to attain. It was so bad that people had to call a business to make sure they were still open before going anywhere then. Like most families, my family was struggling to keep up with the massive burden of our mortgage and IRS bills, but those issues were nothing compared to what I was suffering over the torment of the images that played over and over in my mind of my mother dying in front of my eyes for a week.
Although I was in church to hear the message, I had never known God before then. I always wanted to believe that there was something more, but I had never seen any evidence or even found a church that wasn’t filled with a bunch of bitter and judgmental people shaming anyone that wanted to believe. That was all about to change with just one glimpse of hope from Pastor Aaron McRae though. I remember he caught my attention immediately when he said that most people believe that God won’t give us more than we can handle, but that was not actually in scripture. He said that people didn’t understand that God never said that we wouldn’t suffer. In fact, he said that we will suffer, and he warned us, so that we would be ready when those trials and tests come. Who knew? Not me or anyone else in the crowd obviously, because that would mean that we actually read our bibles. (Of course, I have read it many times since then)
He said that God didn’t want us to suffer, and he gave us a way to get through the worst situations, because he said that we should cast our cares on him, because he cares for us. That seemed a little too easy to me, but I listened intently, because I was desperate to escape the weight that was causing me so much suffering from condemnation and guilt over not doing more to keep my mother alive.
Pastor McRae went on to show how we could literally take every burden and worry and pretend like we were throwing a baseball with the issue in our hand and tossing it straight to God. He said that it might not seem like it was enough, but he made it clear that it was the only way that he and his wife could manage to keep going everyday as their daughter was clinging on for her young life with negative reports filling their ears about her chances of survival. The Pastor said that God’s word is true, and if the people would just try this casting of their cares to God, then they would be filled with peace and God would work on the issue that the people couldn’t do anything to change anyway.
I went home ready to give it a try. As I started to speak to God, I was sobbing and told him that I knew that I wasn’t a good daughter, and I should have done so much more to help my mom, but after bearing the guilt and grief for two years, I couldn’t stand the thought of my own children having to suffer from my state of depression. I said, “God if you are real, and Pastor McRae was right about you wanting to take my burdens, I am asking if you will please remove this pain and suffering from me, so that I can be a mother and wife to my family again.” Before I had even finished the words, I felt this massive weight lifting out of my body. It went right from my shoulders and it was 100% gone! It was unbelievable to me, and I could never deny what happened, because it was so clearly felt when it left my body. From that moment on, I have never been able to cry or feel that grief over my mother’s death. I no longer focused on the days before her death, but I was finally able to remember all of the better days of her life, and I had peace in place of the pain.
My dad died on June 20, 2017, and it was a bit of a shock even though he had been sick and in and out of the hospital for years. I just assumed that God was keeping him alive for something bigger, and that he would be completely healed at some point. I realized that he was actually just waiting for my dad to have time to spend with my older sister and her children before departing. He went to live with my sister for the first time ever about a month before he died. They had never been close, and I guess that God wanted to give my dad the chance to spend time with her family, so he kept him alive until that happened. My dad had everything from a brain aneurysm to lung Cancer and all sorts of stuff in between, but he seemed to be invincible. I guess we are all invincible until God says we can go home, and so my dad passed away while my sister was at work.
My sister came home to discover my dad on the floor of her living room. She was consumed with unbearable guilt, because my dad had asked her to stay home that day, but she had to go to work, and told him that she would be off all weekend to spend with him. My nephew was also bearing the weight of feeling like he was somehow to blame, because his phone was dead when my dad called and left him a voicemail that day. I knew what was happening immediately, because I could see right through Satan’s tricks of deception now. I began praying for peace for all of my family and specifically for her and her son. I did my best to comfort her and told her that God was actually in control when he sent her to work that day. I know if she would have stayed home to see him dying and not be able to save him that would have been far more traumatizing. She had other friends share the same thing with her, and one that told her how bad it was to watch her mother die in a similar situation, so my sister was able to see God’s love for her by making her go to work that day.
I never had any tears after the initial shock of just hearing that my dad was gone. I only cried, because I thought that God had abandoned me and my family for the first five minutes of hearing about his death, but I quickly understood that wasn’t what happened at all. I was filled with a peace that I can only describe as love that just kept pouring over me. I was laughing and serving food to 200 homeless people in Phoenix a few days before the funeral. I didn’t cry at the service, and I actually felt bad for not looking more pathetic for the people who were there to comfort and support my sisters and I. I wore sunglasses so no one would notice that I had no tears in my eyes.
I just wanted to share this story, because everyone goes through the death of a loved one at some point in life, and I have experienced the worst and the best. The worst being without knowing God yet, and the best being so closely connected to my Heavenly Father that even the passing of my dad whom I loved more than anyone most of my life, simply couldn’t shake me. Proverbs 3:5 was my dad’s favorite scripture.