She Gave Up the Ghost

MomMom and Janie w bday strawberry shortcake
MomMom and Janie w bday strawberry shortcake
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.)

Mac
Mac
Mommom holding great-grandchild
Mommom holding great-grandchild
Mom birthday 2008
Mom birthday 2008

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Mom
Mom

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Janie and Mommom
Janie and Mommom

Mommom love
Mommom love

White knuckles

Every newborn with normal reflexes closes his hand over an offered finger. We start life grasping, and some of us don’t let go until our fingers are stilled. Why is it so hard to let go? It seems that as soon as I tear something out of my grasp, I find myself holding on to something else.

My grandchildren beg me to read a parable series about a raccoon named Adam and a lion, King Aren. In Adam Raccoon in Lost Woods, Adam gathers a heavy load of his possessions for their day in the woods, even though the king assures him he has prepared everything, and Adam’s stuff would only get in his way. Besides ruining the day, Adam’s ‘treasures’ put him in danger. After the king rescues him, Adam realizes the only thing he needs to hold on to is King Aron’s hand.

It’s a simple story, a simple lesson.

After eight years in Honduras, where people even save bottle caps to make shoe scrapers, and we had few possessions by US standards, I’ve tended to hold onto things I’m not using, but ‘might need someday’.

However, right now my closets and attic are overflowing with boxes of my mother’s that require sorting. They are the wake-up call I need to lean my stuff. ‘Piles to sort’ is not the legacy I want to leave to my children.

So I’m really trying to let go of things.

When trials come, whether huge ones like 911, or more personal ones like cancer striking a family member, it’s as if the lights come on. I see that what I’ve been holding onto isn’t keeping me safe, or whole, or loved. Like a kid with a rabbit’s foot, the stuff’s not really giving me what I need.

And there’s the rub.

“If you ask for things from life instead of from God, you ask amiss…” My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

The strong bond between me and my stuff, as well as comfortable emotional states that no longer serve my life, reveal what I cling to for security. For years, God has been prying my white-knuckled hands off one idol after another.

This day, I surrender, once again, and reaffirm my desire to hold on to nothing but His hand.

Is there a habit of mind, a comfortable emotion, a special collection, any objects or patterns of life that are getting in the way of holding on to the only hand that can save you?

Driftwood by Jack H Thompson
Driftwood by Jack H Thompson with My Utmost for His Highest p 93