The Circle of Life

Last week my husband’s mother passed away. She was 97. She had lived a long life and had dementia. For her, death brought release from a mind and body that no longer functioned as it should. Still it’s never easy losing a parent.

As I looked through pictures of my mother-in-law the thought hit me that there was no one living today who knew her all the way from her birth to her death. Her parents and brothers were close to her when she was a child and young adult. But in her twenties she left Kansas where she had been born and raised and never moved back. She visited family faithfully, but her parents died years ago, and the visits back home became fewer and fewer. Eventually she wasn’t able to travel at all. The brothers passed away. All those who knew her in her youth gone one by one.

She moved to California and in her early thirties met my father-in-law. They got married, had a baby, and bought a house that they lived in for 44 years. But 17 years ago my father-in-law had a stroke and they could no longer handle things on their own. They moved closer to us so we could offer them help and support, leaving behind friends and neighbors and lots of memories. Six years ago my father-in-law passed away. They had been married for 57 years. The person who knew her the best no longer there to kiss her goodnight.

My husband was born when his mother was 35. He knew her first as mommy and then as mom. She took care of him, loved him, and built good memories of family times together. But at age 21 he got married and left home. For most of our married life we lived hundreds of miles away from his family. We called and visited often but it’s not the same as living in the same town. By the time they moved near us, his mom was almost 83 and their roles had been reversed. Now he was the one taking care of her. In the end she didn’t even know who he was.

As I reflected on life and love and loss I was reminded once again that there is only one being who is a part of our lives from the moment of birth on. That’s God Himself. He was there when my mother-in-law was conceived and He was there when she took her last breath. During all those years he loved her, even when she was unlovable. He offered her hope and peace and joy when times were hard and life was difficult. And in the end He welcomed her home.

Someday I will be the one being welcomed into the arms of Jesus. I don’t know who will be around when that happens or what their memories of me will be. But the same thing that was true for my mother-in-law will be true for me. God, and God alone will have been the only one who was with me every step of the way. I know that He was with us last Friday as we said goodbye to the last of our parents. And through the tears He reminded me once again that while neither my husband or I have any parents left here on earth we still have Papa God who daily showers us with His amazing grace.

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