Opinion

Losing Mum

When the floating begins

I didn’t let Mum hug me for an entire year when I was eleven.

Now I’d do anything for one of her hugs.

It’s a strange thing to be on earth without your mother. It’s like your umbilical cord has been severed and you’re just kind of floating.

I thought it would be easier, having known Mum was sick for 15 years with brain cancer, having known we could lose her any day and being grateful for the miracle of the extra time we got with her.

But it wasn’t.

And you’re never ready.

No, instead, you’re camping with your family, reading a book on the beach and you happen to pick up your phone to take a photo of the fish your oldest son has caught when you see the urgent text from your sister:

“Emily, we’ve been trying to get a hold of you. Dad’s taken Mum to emergency. The doctor says she only has less than a month. The other one said weeks. We thought you’d want to know.”

That’s when the floating begins.

Your kids grab your arm and show you the fish and the waves keep lapping at the shore and no one knows that your axis has actually stopped rotating. That somehow you need to get 40 hours away from there, right this very minute, before your mama dies.

I drive six hours into the city and fly into Ontario from Alberta early the next morning yet it still isn’t fast enough.

When they said weeks, they should have said days; and when they said days, they should have said hours. And as I sit stuck in traffic in a taxi cab in Kitchener with an East Indian man feeding me cherries, I read on my phone, “Mum died about 2:15 pm, gone to the loving arms of her Saviour.”

Holy grief

I cry. I weep silent and long and then, when I find time alone at Mum’s and Dad’s house hours later, after the funeral directors have come and taken my mother away, I pound the ground and get angry at God and ask, Why? Why did he seem to ignore my one request to get home in time to say goodbye? Why?

Yes, my family and I celebrate the 15 years we had with Mum, but we also mourn the very real torture of being separated from someone we love. Because love is beyond time, and we are eternal beings, made for eternal life, made to spend forever with our heavenly family, and this separation doesn’t make any sense. Except when Jesus whispers to me as I’m washing Mum’s sheets and smelling her skin on the sheets and crying again, “She’s more alive than she’s ever been, Emily.” And then that helps, a little.

Mum was a pastor’s wife. I’m a pastor’s daughter. And together we want to invite you to enter into the pain of death and embrace it. Don’t fight it.

We don’t need to mask death with “Celebrations” – we can be sad and it’s not unholy. It’s a part of loving someone, this hard losing. This wrestling with the “Whys.” We can pound the ground and cry out to our loving Heavenly Father and in turn, he’ll cup our face gently and tell us he was protecting us – that’s why he took Mum before I got home. He was protecting me from the pain of seeing her go.

Because our Heavenly Father will never leave us nor forsake us, and he loves us in an eternal kind of way – acting as the bridge between us and our home, where one day we’ll be able to hug those who’ve gone before.

And we’ll never have to say goodbye again.

  • Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of the non profit The Lulu Tree. To learn more, please visit www.thelulutree.com.

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