(Originally published December 6, 2012. Minor editing here.)
She died in her room–alone.
She had sent Dad, who sat with her daily in the nursing home, off to lunch. She died while he was gone.
Mom died alone.
I was saddened by her death—and angry because she died alone. I had wanted to be with her as she had been with me at my birth, through my childhood and all my life.
But she was in Louisiana and I was in Florida.
She had suffered long and hard—nine surgeries in six years for cancer of the tongue and jaw. Her gentle and beautiful face was gradually disfigured as they tried to save her life by cutting away jawbone and bits of tongue. She had a lot of radiation. She suffered gallantly, faithfully.
A Painful Question
About a year before her death, I was with her in the hospital—her 150 pounds depleted to a mere 75, her abdomen pierced for feeding directly into her stomach.
Sadly, she said, “Son, I don’t know what I’ve to God to deserve this.” That was the only complaint I ever heard from her during that terrible illness.
I told her, “Mom, you didn’t do anything to deserve this. I don’t know why you are going through this, but I want you to know something. Your faith and courage have touched the hearts of doctors and nurses — and our own relatives as well. They marvel at your strength and your faith in God.”
She thought a bit and then said, “Then it’s all right.”
Her favorite hymn was “That Old Rugged Cross.”
Her funeral Mass was at our home parish, St. John the Evangelist in Henry, La. She was buried in a tomb long before prepared for her and Dad.
We went home and I still stewed over her dying alone. My brother had told me, “She didn’t die alone,” and I sort of took that with a grain of salt since he hadn’t been to church in years.
A Blessed Consolation
After her death and before her funeral I had gone to the nursing home and stood by her bed and prayed for her.
But, back home in Florida about a month later, I had a dream. I was standing at the foot of her nursing home bed and, with their backs to me, stood Jesus on her right and Mary on her left. They reached out to her and she shook her head “no.” Jesus said, “He will be all right.” She smiled and the three disappeared. She had hesitated, I feel sure, because of Dad.
No, she did not die alone!
That dream gave me both comfort and joy.
I’m convinced our Lord gave me that dream—to comfort me and to help others who may hear or read about it.