Nearly sixteen years ago, I gave birth to a baby girl. This was both precious and poignant, because this time I was giving birth without my mother. When I delivered our first child, my mom (then courageously battling breast cancer) was right there in the delivery room, feeding me ice chips, placing cool rags on my forehead, and literally breathing with me through the contractions. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through another baby now that she was gone.
But this birth had been almost easy -- our little princess seemed to pop out after just two pushes! It was almost as if someone had swooped down from heaven and placed her in my arms. We called our families to spread the news. Then they whisked her off to the nursery and wheeled me into the recovery room for a long winter’s nap.
As I was just waking up, still groggy, I remember hearing the hospital room door squeak open. I slowly turned to see who it was, and there stood my Dad! I have no idea how he managed to get there so fast, how many people he had to pay off at the airport to get him on the first flight out, but at a time when I was missing Mom and feeling very much alone, to have my Dad just magically appear at the hospital was about my favorite surprise ever. And I’ll never forget his first sentence: He said, “I knew where Susan (my mom) was going to be this morning, and I wanted to be here too.” As soon as he said that, I had no doubt that she was. I knew she had been there easing my labor and delivery, but this time from the other side of the veil.
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I came to understand my dad's sentence a little more deeply last week. My adorable Aunt Elen, full of unstoppable energy and always warm and wonderful, finally passed away. I was stunned. I honestly didn’t think the cancer would beat her. I saw her just a few weeks earlier, and she looked amazing! Gorgeous white hair, periwinkle jacket, sparkling eyes. She had battled breast cancer three separate times over the past 25 years.
She is the one who, having recently survived breast cancer herself, knew just what to do when my mom was diagnosed. She took her wig-shopping, prosthesis shopping, and offered tons of experienced advice. She came over and cleaned her house, made up a month’s worth of meals and stocked her freezer, was a bonafide angel.
So when I got word that her funeral was Thursday, I immediately started making arrangements to be there. It was at the worst possible time (what death is ever convenient?) —right in the middle of one of my watercolor classes. It took me hours to find, bribe, train and prep a substitute. But I felt this incredible pull — I just knew I had to be there!
I loved every minute of the funeral from the moment I walked in the door. It was wonderful seeing cousins, uncles, aunts and old friends I hadn’t seen for years and years. Familiar faces, long lost and beloved. The room where the family gathered was filled to overflowing with affection and deep respect.
Each one of her children spoke -- each painted a different aspect of her character, like brushstrokes on a painting, until the portrait felt complete. Each spoke with faith, courage, and powerful testimony. Having lost my own mother nearly 19 years ago, I could identify with the feeling of stepping up to that microphone and wanting -- needing -- to share three salient points: That Mother was an amazing and courageous saint. That sensing her cross the veil to the other side was a sacred experience. And that we will see her again.
As I drank in their words, I nodded. I knew. The feeling in the room was akin to exultant as we listened and celebrated a life well lived. And then it came back to me, that line my dad said to me when our baby girl was born: “I knew where Susan was going to be this morning, and I wanted to be here too.”
I remembered how much it meant to me to see my cousins at my mother’s funeral...especially the one who drove through the night from California. I wanted to be there for my cousins at their time of loss. I wanted to honor my wonderful aunt, pay my respects, and add my Amen. But I realized at that moment that yet another thought had driven me with an unconscious and unprecedented urgency: “I know where Susan (my mom) is going to be that morning, and I want to be there too.”
Silently, I let a question, a cry, leave my heart: “Are you here, Mom?” An unmistakable, warm and tingly flood came over me at that instant, and I knew that she was. Of COURSE she was at her wonderful sister’s funeral! And what if I had missed a chance to be with her?
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Today we went to church. I sat quietly in the back trying to keep the kids quiet. But I couldn’t help thinking of a wonderful Loved One who died over two thousand years ago, and lives! Someone we adore. And my heart formed a similar sentence: I know where the Savior is going to be this morning, and I want to be there too. Attending church with that frame of mind made a difference for me. I felt jubilant. I knew He was there for me. I felt His presence. And His love. And I was filled. What if I had missed that chance to be with Him?