“I don’t think Madalynne will be coming back with you.” Those were the words of our dear visiting nurse, as I told her that we would be leaving Michigan for the winter and coming back in April. Her prediction turned out to be true.
Mom entered hospice when we returned to Tennessee, and lived just two months longer, as Kathy had predicted. Mom’s body slowly failed, with ups and downs along the way, but she never lost her will to keep going. I kept waiting for her to stop eating, but she never did. And she never took to her bed either. She was a fighter right up until the end. In the last weeks, though, she did have hallucinations. Art came to bed late on that last night, and Mom called out to him, “Look at all the children!” Those were the last words she spoke. When I got up early the next morning, she was breathing shallowly, and soon slipped away. It was a blessing that she was not in pain, and didn’t have to go to the hospital or nursing home at the end. She never had a disease to fight. After 97 years, her body just wore out.
I’m not surprised that her last words were about children. She had been involved with children her whole life, beginning with her own, but extending out to her Sunday school pupils, friends’ and relatives’ children, and of course her own grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was always there for us. When we were small, we only had one car, and Dad took it to work each day. But she didn’t mind. She loved being a wife and mother, and never wanted a career. To suggest that she was unfulfilled would have sounded silly to her. She loved the freedom to be able to sew for her family, take care of their needs, and cook their meals. She was thrifty and made Dad’s paycheck go a long way. At church, she taught the little children’s class for many years. When her own children grew up and left home, and Dad retired, she was always bugging him about taking another trip to see the grandchildren. Dad, easy-going fellow that he was, indulged her, and they visited several of us each year.
Mom had a special bond with little children, one that I envied. She lived long enough that most of her great grandchildren will remember her, even the little ones, because she had time for them. She sang to them, taught them games, colored with them and read them stories. At church, even when she was in her nineties, she wanted to go help with the children’s Sunday school classes instead of attending the adult class. We explained that things weren’t done that way anymore. But between services she always cornered a few and visited with them. She gave them quarters for the offering if she had the change. She was always a child at heart.
Perhaps that’s why she was so close to the kingdom of God. Jesus said we must come to him in faith, like little children. Hers was a simple, trusting faith. Yet it was enough. Perhaps it was stronger because of its simplicity. Earlier in her life she had faced mental and emotional challenges, but it was her faith in God that brought her through. She prayed constantly for her family members and those whose needs were brought to her through prayer requests. Her Bible and devotional books were her constant companions while she lived with us. And no matter what the challenge, she saw it through the eyes of faith. She was a strong person, but never mean or bitter. As Dad liked to say, she knew how the story ends.
Her story on this earth has ended, and my dearest hope is that we as her descendants and brothers and sisters in faith, will handle well the legacy that has been given to us. And that we will know through her example, and through the truth of the Scripture she loved, the overwhelming love and grace of God.