My Mother’s Death: An Irrational Joy

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My mother died on Thanksgiving Day and I have never felt more joy in my life. Am I mad or merely cold-hearted?

Neither.

I was raised believing in Me and Mom and Dad. And that was pretty much it. God wasn’t in the picture. Or rather, he was but I didn’t know it.

My parents were children of the Great Depression, and as a result grew up devoted to Security. Money was good because it bought Things. Things were good because they bought Security. And Security was good because it bought Happiness.

And for a long time that seemed to do it for them. I grew up watching Dad make money, which he was brilliant at, and Mom make crafts, which she was brilliant at. She loved beautifying her surroundings.

But after my father died at age 45 and my mother disintegrated into grief, I lost whatever was left of my belief in the Things>Security>Happiness Principal. My atheism, which had been wobbling anyway, collapsed and I began to turn toward God. In fact, I turned into a full-blown Jesus Person.

That didn’t sit well with Mom: “That’s fine, honey, just don’t get too into it.”

“Mom, Jesus said he was ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’ You can’t be ‘too into’ the way, the truth, and the life!”

Mom eventually married Bud who was nearly as ambitious as my dad, and he helped restore her faith in the Things>Security>Happiness Principal.

But then, in the fall of 1999, she had a series of strokes. These left her mentally cloudy, shaky on her feet, and unable to pursue her projects. So she took to sitting and watching the news.

She began to look at the world differently. Our phone conversations, which had always been filled with reports of her little projects, now turned to diatribes against the cruelty and injustice of the world: “There’s so much suffering, so much wrong!”

For years I’d ended our conversations with, “I’m praying for you, Mom,” and she’d always replied, “I’m praying for you too.” Then I’d ask, “Really?” And she would answer, “Oh, you know, I mean I’m holding up a good thought for you.”

But one day, she said, “I’m praying for you” in a deliberate, I-mean-this sort of way. “Really?” I asked. And this time she replied, “Yes. Really. Oh, honey,” she continued, “the world is so broken–I never realized just how broken–and there’s nothing I can do about it. So I pray. All the time.”

Two days later, Bud called from a hospital in Hemet, California. He sounded shell-shocked. “Your mother’s heart…she’s not going to be leaving this place,” he whispered, refusing to confirm the truth with a full voice.

The moment I saw her, I knew he was right. Pale and struggling for every breath, her heart pulsing more like a memory than a reality, she smiled and whispered, “Still praying.”

“To God?” I asked, as if repeating an old punchline.

”Yes.”

She slept fitfully throughout the night. Bud and I did the same in two tired vinyl hospital chairs.

Mom faded in and out of consciousness all the next day, unable to offer more than yeses or nos. I talked about our life together, about her love for Dad and for Bud, about tennis and origami, about all the Christmases we’d spent together.

The doctor told us that in order to make her more comfortable they would need to up her medication; she no longer able to communicate. It was code for, “Say your good-byes.”

Bud sat by her for a long time, unable to speak. Then I took her hand, smiled and said, “You can’t have too much of the way, the truth, and the life, can you?” She did a little choking laugh, squeezed my hand, and shook her head no.

She was fighting for every breath, yet her eyes were glowing. I suddenly realized that in the race toward God, she’d run far ahead of me.

“I love you forever, Mom,” I told her. Tears slipped from her swollen eyes as she squeezed my hand one final time.

Dolores TMy mother died in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day. God, in his wonderful, inexplicable economy, had used everything—her strokes, her heart failure, the evening news—to speak to her, to strip away all that had kept his precious daughter from him for so many years.

And that was why, just after sunrise on Thanksgiving Day, 1999, I drove home to be with my family,

Filled with irrational joy.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

93 Responses to My Mother’s Death: An Irrational Joy

  1. Precious memories, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That’s a beautiful tribute, Mitch….to your mother and to God. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Christmas of 1995, I prayed one of those prayers that only a son who has watched his mom fade for years can pray. She had been sick, in and out of the hospitals since 1980 and I could tell she was tired. I asked God to take her to her home and by the next morning, on Christmas day, she went home. I miss her and I know you miss your mom too, but God has them both and we will see them again. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. sashiengland says:

    I understand your joy. It helps me to know that each day is one day closer to going home.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Edward Sosa says:

    Deeply moved by this powerful witness Mitch. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a beautiful mother and fine parents you had! You are always shining with many virtues they each imparted to you !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Susan Taylor Brand says:

    Thank you your tale is so well told and your mother beautiful … Inside and out, apparently. Praying for our families has such an impact.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. thedamari says:

    I know it’s hard losing your mother. I’m glad you had a meaningful relationship and goodbye.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a sweet post, Mitch! Thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Joan says:

    What a joy you must have been to each other, Mitch. Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. smzang says:

    It is an honor to read of this sacred moment.
    I tip-toe quietly, knowing there is nothing needing
    to be added to such unconditional love.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Yoly says:

    Very beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wonderful tribute. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jeff Haberman says:

    Reading about Doloris’ passing was very moving Mitch. My mind and heart was swelled with fond memories of your mother and how much she supported our efforts with The Daily Planet. Truly a beautiful woman and I loved her very much. Thanks for the recollection.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. wboyack says:

    So beautifully written! This touched my soul. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh my, tears are streaming down my cheeks and I love this irrational joy that filled you and only a lover of God can know. It’s as if by all of your prayers for your mother over the years, she was catapulted to the Heavenly Father. To experience this – a true conversion of a loved one – is the best thing we can hope for on earth.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. BelleUnruh says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is wonderful how God reaches into people’s lives to bring them to himself. Most times, it is sadness and pain that makes us seek him.

    It was suffering that moved my grandson and nephew to seek God before they died. It was the pain of losing her son that led my daughter into God’s arms. The pain of the world moved your mother so much, she flew to God.

    I spent the better half of my life resenting and being afraid of pain, for myself, my family and the world. But I was wrong to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. atimetoshare.me says:

    Great story on the lesson of persistence. Your mom was gorgeous and what a blessing that she’s sharing in God’s bountiful thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. feistyfroggy says:

    Great testimony! How wonderful to know that you will see her again someday!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. John says:

    Thanks Mitch in taking the time to share this story. VERY honored to call you friend

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing! Truly touched my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. What a beautiful, beautiful account of your journey to faith with your mother. So touching. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Jon Kissner says:

    Beautiful. Death truly has no sting. No power, no hold. If we can just accept it and believe. Thank you for sharing your mom’s goodbye with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Jennie says:

    A beautiful and powerful story, Mitch. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Such a beautiful memory. I lost my mama in August 2015 and I miss her terribly. I know she is with Jesus, but in my selfishness I miss my mama. Does it ever get better? With the passage of time? I know I’ll see her again someday, but right now my heart aches so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I can’t add anything but wanted to thank you for sharing such a moving and heartfelt story.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. nancyehead says:

    I love the stories of God working. So very, very beautiful. God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. beigebirds says:

    God is so proud of you. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. jaynezak says:

    so sorry. my mother died ten years ago the week before thanksgiving. I always feel sadness now around the preparation for the holiday. But I also always remember to be grateful. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. GP Cox says:

    A wonderful tribute. But I’m sorry for the world’s loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Ann Coleman says:

    What a beautiful story about the power of faith. I’m sorry you lost your mother, but very happy it happened the way it did. What a gift to leave behind for her son.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Thank you so much, Mitch, for sharing the story of your Mom’s life and times… of how the two of you had expressed your farewells… for your heartfelt tribute to her. My condolences to you and your loved ones are quite late… but you have them nonetheless.

    All you’ve related here reminds me so much of things I expressed during the eulogy, which I delivered at my Mom’s memorial service (she had passed on two days before Good Friday 2003)… and in my WordPress tribute to her (13 Aprils later).

    It is my heartfelt hope that those who’ve experienced the loss of a loved one can take some small comfort in viewing the YouTube masterpiece to follow. I know that I do. To quote the videographer, this presentation is…

    “In honor and loving memory of all those who have gone home before us”

    Liked by 2 people

  33. David Cosier says:

    A wonderful story of your Mom! Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. grumpygorman says:

    This is so penetrating and tender… I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. DebFarris says:

    Or is it irrational that a story can move you to tears yet bring too such joy? There’s never a good time to lose our mother’s, this I know, but I can only imagine the joy you feel remembering the squeeze of her hand, her laugh pushing through her breathlessness, the glow in her eyes and the understanding you shared. This story will live on, and so too, your mother. Timeless. Beautiful Mitch. I’m still choked up…:)

    Liked by 2 people

  36. carhicks says:

    Wow, such a wonderful thought and love to be taken from a sad time. Thanks for sharing your life with us. God’s love will give us what we need to live.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Sorry for your loss. It is lovely tribute and glad your prayers worked.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. What a lovely, lovely account!

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Absolutely beautiful story and memory… oh, and to know you will see her again, PRICELESS! Always blessed by your blogs, Mitch…especially this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. I mourn with you in loss and rejoice with you in her gain of heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Wonderful story of love. My mother died one day prior to Thanksgiving, 1986. I know the feeling and the memories and the love of family Thank you for sharing these tender moments that will last forever in your and now our hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Your Mama is Beautiful, your words are beautiful, and they give my heart hope….that God can and Will “use Everything” to cause those for whom i pray to become Alive in Him….Thank you, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Jacquie says:

    Your sentiments were beautifully expressed. Although my parents are still in this world, your words have hit a familiar note. Thank you for sharing, and I am looking forward to reading more.
    One day, you will be dancing down golden streets with your mother…Maybe you will pause a moment to introduce her. It is likely that we will know her from the smile on your face.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Mitch, Thanks, My father died 2 years ago today. Your words are encouraging. Faith-Family-Friends. I wrote a novel for my children as a Christmas gift demonstrating this very thing. If we are grounded by faith, a simple act of love can change lives and change the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. themeonnblog says:

    Wow…my mom also died on Thanksgiving Day, 1974. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Kristin says:

    So beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Nitin says:

    This makes me want to cry. But it helped me realise to never give up on people or myself. I’ll admit that I’ve done both and have often been so volatile in my writing. But that’s because I feel that writing things (which aren’t always true) is a better way of expressing yourself during periods of crippling depression and religious angst. My country is moving towards Fascism and it’s nothing compared to what Donald Trump does. I’ve often felt like ending it all. As far as matters of faith are concerned, I’m not very sure about traditional Calvinism anymore. To be honest I’m not even sure about TULIP. And if there is cancer in this world, the church must acknowledge the existence of mental illness, which they often don’t. And there are things about faith that I absolutely have no answers for. But anyhow, that’s a different topic. This just helped me see things differently. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Hi Nitin. I’m so glad this post spoke to your heart. Are you from India? Yes, there is a move towards fascism, or at least reactionary nationalism, affecting many countries today, including the U.S. Re. Calvinism: I’m not even sure even Calvin would have embraced the entire 5 point TULIP formula. Calvinism is certainly not synonymous with Christianity (I’m not a Calvinist), just one school of thought. There are indeed many mysteries we can’t explain. I find it’s best to put my faith in the character of God himself, rather than any particular set of doctrines: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) Blessings on your journey of faith, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nitin says:

        Yes Mitch. I am from India, and what is happening here is a nightmare. The newsmen aren’t reporting what’s really going on. And the ones who do find their offices or houses raided. And the others are jingoistic. There is a system in place here. It’s called aadhaar. I’ll be honest, I’m a little afraid to mention it because I don’t know who reads what. It’s supposedly an economic system, but it’s really much more than it. It’s a linking of everything to everything. And soon there will be no freedom of speech and Big Brother will take over. Look for it. I hope you get what I’m saying. As far as Christianity is concerned, I remember terrible fear, then repentance for who I was and not the things I’d done, then realizing that He lived the life that I didn’t and died in my place, and then deep love, but everyone around me turned against me, and my love just went cold. I had no peace after that. I was restored recently, and I even wrote to a publisher asking them to take down one of my poems, but it was nothing like two years ago, and then something terrifying happened. Something I won’t mention. And I ran to the church, but nobody helped. Some even yelled at me. They think I’m unstable and mad, and I won’t say that Bipolar Disorder doesn’t exist. Anyway, I’ve made closure with my family and my parents are with me. I’m taking a vacation soon, and I’m back on medication that is keeping me alive. I’ve had people attack me left, right and center here, making me out to be worse than I am. I guess I deserved it, because some of my pieces sound very real. I should have never talked about death or things that I haven’t seen. But I wrote to survive. And yeah, I used language, lashed back, removed followers who kept coming at me, who said their ink is pure while mine is acidly lyrical, who called me things best not mentioned, who took a few lines from my poetry with my permission and then created a cento about a murderer; but doing what I did made me hate myself all the more. But in one sense, I’m glad I’m not a power blogger. My biggest problem right now is smoking, and yes, for a while it was pornography. But I quit the latter somehow. And so, I’m leaving behind a few things that I don’t even like and I’m walking away for a while. I have no idea what the future holds. I guess I’m just thankful for each breath. Thanks for listening.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mitchteemley says:

        Thanks so much for pouring out your heart, Nitin. Sorry to hear about your struggles, both internal (bipolar is common in my extended family) and external (I honor your courage in following Jesus in a culture that frowns upon it). You are young and have quite a journey ahead. I’ve learned that God’s timeline and patience stretch far longer than ours; change and healing happen, but always in concert with personal growth, which doesn’t happen instantly. I’ve written two series of posts about my own struggles (below); they’re not identical to yours, but there are parallels. I’ll be praying for you on your journey!
        https://mitchteemley.com/2015/02/24/revolutionize-your-spiritual-life-part-1/
        https://mitchteemley.com/2017/03/10/my-epic-of-anxiety/

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      • Nitin says:

        I have one question though Mitch. I guess I’ll have to share. When I was restored, the lights in my room would flicker even though they were off. I thought it was an electrical circuit problem. Then I was poked in the side at five in the morning, and I was terrified. Finally I saw something that nobody should see, and I ran to the church, but the problem is that they’re cessationists. They called me a dreamer and yelled at me. And I guess I soon just gave up. But my affection was dying. I know that as Christians we say that these things are trivial. But what if they’re true? What if nothing has ceased, and the offices exist. I don’t believe that there are apostles, but I’m not sure about the other offices. I’ve seen people gnash teeth and pounce on me and throw me into a mental institution. And it happens only when there is religious affection. It’s not happening now that I’m away from God and writing things that I hate. How am I to fight that sort of thing? I just hope I don’t die soon. But I have no help when it comes to this sort of thing. I know this probably sounds absurd to you, but it did happen Mitch. And it’s terrifying. So please pray. I need some help.

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      • mitchteemley says:

        Nitin, I don’t know if what you saw was from God (I do believe in miracles) or something else, and I don’t know what you mean by “something nobody should see;” do you mean something evil or demonic? I do know that Scriptural truths are powerful, and would encourage you to memorize and meditate upon those Bible verses that speak to your heart. Is the church you mention of a particular denomination? Is there a different church you can go to?

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      • Nitin says:

        So, this is what happened. It’s like the realm between this world and the next split open and something came and said something to me. I don’t know what was said, but I shrank back in horror and after that I lost my mind. I walked out at four in the morning, in the rain and walked to the church, not even telling my family, or locking the door. All the reformed churches here are cessationists and don’t believe in this. And there are only three. The Methodist churches don’t preach the gospel, and the Pentecostal churches are full of hysteria and the prosperity gospel. Back then I thought it was from God, but why would God want to terrify a person who is drawing nearer to him. And I don’t think any man can see God and live. And there are also these blasphemous thoughts. It’s some oppression that I just don’t know how to fight. I know this sounds crazy, but it is the truth. And all this happens only when there is affection. So, I really don’t know what to do anymore. Which is why I just feel like giving up.

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      • Nitin says:

        That was four months ago. I started writing again days after the incident. Initially using a pseudonym, but later coming back and using my real name. I wasn’t living with my parents for sometime. But I have been now for many months. My mother still attends the church, and my father is not a Christian. But my mother does believe in the prosperity gospel and when I went to her two years ago, she gnashed her teeth. My father was extremely abusive, and I did rebel when I was seventeen. That led to my parents separating. And when I went and preached to him, he pounced and threw me into the institution. After that I became mad at everybody including God. I finally became aggressive and left home, and stayed in two different houses, until I came back home to my parents. Then all this happened and so now I write, whenever I’m frustrated and just keep quiet at home. There were times when I’m still irritable, but I’ve learned to use art as an outlet. I don’t know what else to do now. Hopefully I’ll get a few answers when I take the vacation. I’ll agree that my life is a mess.

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      • mitchteemley says:

        Nitin, even if I could give you all the answers you need (which I can’t), this would not be the best place for it. I suggest you put aside, for now at least, whatever it was you saw and heard, and ask God to show you in his own time what it was (“God is not a god of disorder, but of peace” ~1 Corinthians 14:33). Meanwhile, just seek to grow in faith, read, memorize and meditate upon his word (get it into your heart), pray, and don’t worry about whether everyone agrees on doctrine; find others you can simply worship with (if possible).

        Liked by 1 person

  48. Nitin says:

    Thank you Mitch. That really means a lot. All I need is for that love to return and stay. There is no way I can resist the people in power without it. It’s impossible. Just yesterday there was a riot of sorts near my apartment. And I will read what you’ve written.

    Liked by 1 person

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