Happy New Year to you all! It’s been a long time since I’ve written. My last entry was actually just after Thanksgiving. But it seems much longer than that because of where I’ve been since then. I’ve been on a journey. A journey that has, in one way, just ended—and in another, just begun.
For over a year, my mom—who has lived for some time in a lovely retirement community in Florida—has been battling recurrent breast cancer. In the past few months, since she fell and broke her hip the end of July, the battle has intensified. 2007 has been a year of many trips back and forth from my home in Wisconsin to hers in Ft Myers. Just after Thanksgiving, I returned to Florida, where she was in a nursing home—and essentially remained there, living in her condo and spending every day with her until her death in a hospice unit on December 19.
It has been a long, hard journey. And a topsy-turvy Christmas.
For many months we had planned to spend Christmas as a family with “Nini,” as my kids—who’ve loved her dearly—call her. Our whole family was scheduled to fly into Ft Myers on December 22 for a week with her: Bjorn, Abby, and Soren from New Hampshire; Lars, Kelly, and Bengt from North Carolina; and Erika and Richie from Dublin, Ireland. We had condos rented near her home and looked forward to lots of quality time with her.
But God had different plans for her Christmas than we did—bigger and far better, I imagine, than we could ever dream. She got to spend Christmas with my dad—and, better yet, with Jesus. Does it get any better than that?
Yet there was disappointment for us “on this side of the tapestry.” Though my husband and some of our kids were able to fly in for a brief visit with her ten days before she died—and she got to see her newest great-grandson Soren and sing “I love you a bushel and a peck” to her 2-year-old grandson Bengt—not all the kids were able to come. Lars, our Marine pilot son, could not leave his pre-deployment training (he is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in a month). And Erika and Richie could not come early from Ireland.
The week we had planned to spend visiting with Nini we instead spent planning her memorial service, which was held the day after Christmas.
Yes, a very different Christmas than we had planned. God’s plans are, as Isaiah so eloquently reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9, often very different from ours. As I sat by Mom’s bed those 2 weeks in hospice, I kept remembering Jill Briscoe’s words from a message last summer: “God’s clocks keep perfect time.”
So you can see why it seems a very long time since my last blog entry. Since I last wrote, I have taken a long journey—walking alongside my mother in her last hours and days, hugging all my family around me as we gathered at her gravesite, mourning her loss and celebrating her life. There have been many tears.
But there has also been joy and gratitude, laughter and fun. We celebrated a memorable Christmas together as a family. We love being with our kids—they are just a whole lot of fun, as well as being a strong and wonderful support at times like this. We got to play with our grandsons, savoring precious moments that flew by all too quickly. And we’ve received love and comfort beyond words from countless friends who have written and called and sent tributes and flowers and condolences. Through it all I have been continually reminded of the great, great gift of my mother’s life (I will write much more about her in the future) and the even greater gift of her (and our!) eternal life.
In the span of a few weeks I have experienced a virtual crazy-quilt of emotions. Just about every emotion life brings compacted into a few short—and long—days. Even amidst the wonderful eternal hope we have, I feel sad—very, very sad. I miss my mom. Next to my husband, she has been my best friend.
So how can I begin by wishing you a Happy New Year? Because I am convinced of God’s faithfulness through it all. And I hope you are, too. This past weekend a preacher challenged us to focus each day in 2008 on one characteristic of God and thank Him for it all that day. Today the word that came to me was faithfulness. And the refrain from that great hymn—one which I sometimes sang at the top of my tear-choked lungs as I walked early in the mornings before beginning a day with Mom in hospice:
“Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”
I wonder if some of you have had a topsy-turvy Christmas. If things may not have gone quite as you had planned. If you enter this New Year on somewhat shaky feet. If you might need to be reminded that Jill Briscoe is right (and Scripture backs her up) in saying that indeed, “God’s clocks keep perfect time.”
If so, I hope you can reflect on God’s faithfulness today. And know that He really will provide for you—as He will for me—all you need. Today. And tomorrow. And all the tomorrows of the year ahead. Which makes me able to wish you, truly from the heart, a very Happy New Year!