“Would you like me to come along?” Jim asked.
Marion looked up from her breakfast. No, I don’t need Jim along today, she thought. She preferred to do this alone.
She quickly said, “No, thanks, Jim. I’ll be okay. All I have to do is pack Mother’s suitcase and take her there.” And she thought, All – what an understatement that is, taking your mother to a nursing home.
Feeling herself on the brink of tears she started to clean off the table even though she had barely touched her breakfast. Don’t let Jim see tears, she thought, trying to control herself. He might insist on coming along. And she did not think that was a good idea. With the best intentions he might say the wrong thing. But he meant well, she knew, and was thinking of her. They had worried for a long time already about Mother living alone. Mother had become so forgetful.
She tried to think about what a relief it would be to know that Mother was in a safe place, with people around her all day who would watch out for her. It really was an answer to prayer. It was a nice place where she was bringing her; she had made sure of that. And she would visit Mother regularly; maybe every day.
Then why did she still feel so downcast?
It was likely in part due to the dream she had this morning. She had lain awake most of the night, praying. She hadn’t fallen asleep until morning and then she had had this upsetting dream. She dreamt that she had been able to take Mother to this place without any resistance, but when she got ready to leave, Mother had clung to her for dear life’s sake. She had had to push her away and run out of the building – all the way hearing Mother scream, “I’ll never forgive you for this, Marion! I never will!”
With that, she had awoken. Her face had been wet with tears, the echo of her mother’s screams still in her ears.
Back to her mind now came a happening of many years ago. She still remembers her first day of school – Mother had taken her there and left her with a total stranger. While the teacher had been holding her, Mother had calmly walked away. And she had screamed and cried for a long time.
Now the roles had been reversed.
Marion bit her lip and tried to shake off the dream. It would not happen that way. Mother was always so sweet, always thinking of her. When she had told her yesterday about the room in the nursing home that had become available, Mother had become very quiet. Then, while a tear slowly rolled down her wrinkled face, she had said, “I wish I could die here, in my own home.” Marion had put her arms across Mother’s shoulders and they had both cried.
Trying to compose herself, she thought, “I have to stop this. I’ll be an emotional wreck before I even get to Mother’s house.”
Just the same, it was breaking her heart. She knew it was the hardest thing she had ever had to do in her entire life. She knew what mother thought of nursing homes. “Old folks homes,” she called them.
She went to the closet to take out her coat. “Are you sure you can handle it, Marion?” came Jim’s voice, concerned. Still afraid that he might insist on coming with her, she said, trying to keep her voice light and convincing, “Of course, I can. Don’t worry. I told her yesterday that I would take her there today.”
And then she added, “She knows, too, that we already moved some of her stuff out of the house.”
“That doesn’t mean a thing. You know that as well as I do, Marion,” Jim said again. And he was right. Mother might not remember. But when Jim saw her face, as she walked by him, he grabbed her hand and said, “She’ll be alright, honey. Don’t you worry.”
With a heavy heart she drove to Mother’s house. It wasn’t a big house but she had grown up in it and it held many happy memories for her. Not anymore. The trees, that once had been her delight when she was a child, were now looming over the house and almost hid it from view. She had grown to dislike the house because of the loneliness it represented. Part of that was, of course, the fact that mother had been there all alone since Dad had died 20 years ago. How lonely Mother must have been all those years. Yet she had never complained. Only of late, once in awhile, she’d say, ”I wish the Lord would take me home.”
When she stopped in Mother’s driveway she just sat in the car for a few minutes. She noticed that it was high time that Jim should do a bit of work around the place again. He couldn’t do much about the trees but he could cut down the weeds. They were at least a foot high. Well, they would likely sell the place once mother was gone.
A safe place
This thought brought her back to the present. She knew she was stalling. She reminded herself that she was on a mission to bring Mother to a safe place. She sent up a fervent prayer again as she got out of the car. “Please, Lord, let her remember what I told her yesterday.”
Entering the back door, she noticed more than ever before how musty the old house smelled and how dark it was. Again she thought how good it was that Mother was going somewhere else where there would be people and it wouldn’t be so depressingly dark.
Usually, she would hear mother puttering around in the kitchen. Today, it seemed so still. She sensed a strange emptiness and she got the odd feeling that she was alone in the house. And, as always upon entering, she called out, “Mother, it’s me, Marion!” while walking toward the kitchen.
She felt relieved when she caught a glimpse of Mother sitting by the kitchen table where she always sat. She was still in her night gown but her head lay slumped on the big, old family Bible on the table in front of her. Why was that? Had she gone back to sleep?
Then fear gripped her throat and a soft cry escaped her. “No,” she moaned. But even before she touched her mother, she knew. She knew why the house had seemed so empty when she entered.
An awesome reality hit her. She did not have to take Mother anywhere anymore. “In my house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). God himself had intervened and had taken Mother to a far better place than Marion ever could. Her heart filled with the wonder of what had happened.
Then, as she started to stroke mother’s frail, hunched back, her tears began to flow.
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