Unnoticed by the men at the table, she hugged the jug close to her body, precious oil that cost her everything, and wove her way through the servants. Eyes cast down and chin trembling, she stood before him. All conversation ceased.
Gripped by the immensity of his love and the release of her burden, she sobbed, her tears bathing his feet. She dropped to her knees and emptied her jar as well, the fine scent flowing over his feet and rising around them. The men gasped as she unbound her hair, let it tumble to the floor, and wiped his feet.
After almost a week in hospice, with loved ones by her side, my mother gave up the ghost. Long after I said goodbye, “give up the ghost” lingered in my mind. For over a decade I had walked with Mom through the tunnels of advancing dementia, then stood watch in the dim light of her hospice room. Over and over, she seemed ready to go. Her breath would stop, then twenty seconds later, she’d suck in air and battle on with furrowed brow. Giving up the ghost took on a different meaning.
‘Giving up the ghost’ comes from the King James Version of Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s also used commonly, as an old car gives up the ghost.
For Mom, I think more of ghosts that haunt. Ghosts that lurk around corners and pounce at unexpected times. Ghosts of Christmas Past. Ghosts of if-only. Ghosts of what-I-should-have-done.
I believe the “ghost” that threatened her peace and made her reluctant to run to the Light was guilt over the death of a tiny soul.
When I was ten, my youngest brother drowned. As families will after a tragedy, we all privately blamed ourselves. But Mom was the mother, and she hadn’t cared for her three-year-old. Though she maintained she was fine, since Mac was safely in heaven with Jesus, that event shook her foundations, and brought her back to her Lord.
However, as executive function diminished in her brain toward the end of her life, nightmares and delusions often crowded out her joy. In the final days, clearly she could not let go. When my sister and I, separately, talked to Mom of going to heaven, that her mother and sisters were waiting for her, she beamed. But when we mentioned our little brother, she drew back, almost in fear, and the darkness covered her again. When we realized what was happening, we assured her that she was forgiven, by Jesus, and by Mac.
Still, I believe she was afraid to face that child.
After several more days of prayers, Psalm reading and songs, Mom found peace. The shadows gone, she is restored and whole and radiant. With her dear son, and the Son who makes true restoration possible.
Why, you ask, am I sharing this with you?
Because many of us have buried pain. Remorse still raw, or guilt not absolved. Perhaps “The Secret” that lingers in the shadows, waiting to accuse, again.
I’m encouraged by the lesson from my mother’s bedside to continue to let go. To journey forward on The Healing Path, and offer you, my friend, a hand.
When it’s my time, I want to run to Jesus with open arms, not edging back into the darkness.
Come join the journey to Peace.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matt 11: 28-30
(If you do not see the video below, click on the title at the top to view pictures and videos in the webpage.)
Immediately following his agonizing crucifixion and supernatural resurrection, the first time Jesus appeared to the whole bunch, he breathed peace and the power of his Spirit over his disciples, and said, “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them? John 20:22-23, The Message. That last line stopped me cold.
I would have expected words of comfort for the fear and dejection they had experienced in the last few days.
What happened to Jesus? Where was he during those dark hours? What did it feel like? How was his body changed? How’d he get in the room with the doors locked against the world? What would happen to Him now, to all of them?
Instead, Jesus tells them the point of his resurrection power is forgiveness.
Then I recall the words he gasped from the cross. “Father, forgive them they know not what they do.”
All right. I know He took our sins to the cross. But giving us the power to forgive sins?
“If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
Good question. What am I doing with sins against me?
God often speaks to me in mental pictures. As I ponder this, I see an image of me, navigating life with my hands full, cradling scars from childhood when someone hurt me deeply or wounded me by neglect, or from a painful relationship, or rage against the one who abused my children . . . (It goes on, and I’m sure you can write your own list.)
With my hands full, I have nothing to help me make my way through the tough places,
or to receive any gifts,
or to offer assistance to others.
I have to ask, who is being hindered the most now by my holding onto sin against me?
In the light of this, holding on seems preposterous.
So I journey on, forgiving some easily. With the others, deeper wounds from those who should have been the most loving, I have struggled.
Sometimes all I’ve managed is wanting to let go. And for a while, that was enough. The beginning of that road.
But as I felt the call to grow, no amount of sheer effort would make it happen.
I’ve come back around to the breathing part. Jesus breathes his spirit on us to give us the power to really live. The life we were created to live.
It’s pure gift. As I open my hands and heart, and welcome that breath, something in me is transformed.
Lord, breathe on me, giving me the peace the world cannot give, and the power to let go of sins, mine and those of others that have burdened me for way too long. Thank you for new life power.