The article below is written by a friend, mentor and “brother” in Jesus. I had the pleasure to meet Bernie’s mother before her passing and pray for her, with her and over her with our men’s faith group.
Letting Go! By: Bernie Long
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Matthew 16:24 -26
“Get behind Me, Satan! Matthew 16:23
I recently had to let go of my 99-year-old mother. She was a remarkable lady, a wonderful mother and a person of great faith. Her Catholic Christian faith was the foundation of her life and sustained her for almost 100 years, including 20 years of suffering.
After 50 years of marriage my mother let go of her husband. My mother was 79 years old at his passing. For the next 20 years my mother slowly but surely endured the slow and painful process of letting go of things in life that are seemingly precious but are nothing when viewed in the context of her eternal soul.
My mother suffered from a vertigo condition that robbed her of her balance. It began over 20 years ago with infrequent feelings of the room spinning and her feeling the loss of the ability to stand and walk without holding on. She would move station to station or hold on to someone’s arm. Slowly but surely it got worse and she had to accept that she had to let go of walking except for a few tortured steps of getting into the bathroom.
My mother had to let go for the most part of the precious gift of sight. She suffered from a severe case of glaucoma and later macular degeneration. Again, over a period of 20 plus years and numerous operations, she slowly but surely lost all her vision in one eye while retaining only a slight amount of vision in the other eye.
Over the last 6 -7 years of her life my mother had to let go of leaving her bedroom. She was still mentally sharp but was forced to live a life of being confined to one room. Not being able to read or watch television due to poor vision. She was in a room kept dark due to her sensitivity to light which bothered the little vision she had. She was at times bored and totally dependent on her family for care. She was well aware that her long decline in health was a challenge for us to care for her. She would say often “I know you have your own lives to lead and it is hard for you to keep coming over here all the time”. She wondered “why is God waiting so long to take me” “Has he forgotten I am down here”.
Through it all she was always resilient. She was grateful she was in her own home and not in a nursing home. She was grateful that she had a small amount of vision and that she was not in total darkness. She was always happy she could get into the bathroom and not have to endure the indignity of being diapered. She was so grateful for the gift of a keen mind that allowed her to continue to pray, think and continue to mother and grandmother her children and grandchildren.
Over the last several months of her life she had to take up her cross and endure even more of life’s things to let go of. She lost her ability to get into the bathroom even with help and had to be diapered. The first time I as her son changed her – we both cried. But she battled back announcing to me “ I have been thinking” ( a very common refrain). She decided that we should not refer to the need to change her diaper but let’s call it change her “bathing suit”.
Every day at 3 PM my mother would tune into EWTN and pray the Chaplet of Devine Mercy followed by a homily by Father Leo Clifford, followed by the rosary. She would always say – “don’t call me at three I am listening to my show”. The Devine Mercy Devotion “Jesus and I Trust In You” was so comforting to her and sustained her.
It would be nice to say that my mother at the very end was at peace but she was not. She was asked to take up her cross again and to effect say “Get Behind me Satan” to the very end. Only three things were important to my mother all her life – her faith, her family and her home. At the end she had to let go of family and home and fight and focus on only one thing – her faith.
In my mother’s last week’s she told me “the devil is fighting for my soul”. At times he seemed to be winning – she would say to me that “I am going to hell”. I would hold her hand and say that of all the people I had ever known I knew no one who had lived such a faith- filled life. I told her that God loved her so and soon she would be with Jesus and reach her eternal reward. She responded with a facial expression that I had never seen from her. She said, in a manner that was so unlike her because it was stern and serious, “you don’t know me – I have done some horrible sin and while I don’t remember it – God will not forgive me”. Oh I said I doubt you have committed such a sin but whatever it might be Jesus will forgive anything as long as you are sorry. You have gone to confession, you have received the sacrament of the sick, you should be at peace.
She looked at me and responded – “I am sorry for anything I have done – so you don’t think I have anything to worry about”? “No I do not” I said confidently. I asked her – You’re getting strong feelings that you will not be forgiven aren’t you? She nodded. I told her you know I think you are right about the devil fighting for your soul. I believe that is the voice of the devil. She responded – So I just have to trust you? No not just me but Jesus. Remember the whole Devine Mercy devotion is based on the phrase “Jesus I Trust in You”. He is more powerful than anything you are enduring. She took comfort in those words but still continued to be tempted by the evil one. She fought back with constant prayer until she was no longer coherent.
Her grandson Brian,(22 years old), came to visit her on the last day she was still coherent. He said to her “ Hi Granny how you doing? Are you hanging in there? My mother would always fawn over him and tell him how glad she was that he visited, call him “my sweet baby” and the like. She would love it when he would sit and talk to her. But his time she sternly said to him “I am dying Brian”. He attempted to tell her about his new job but she went right back to praying saying over and over “for the sake of his sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world”. She had now let go of her last earthly concern for her family and was focused only on her Lord.
My mother passed away with her whole family around her after receiving the Sacrament of the Sick. I firmly believe she is receiving her eternal reward.