The last time my mother saw me I wore a hand-me-down red Kentucky t-shirt and blue running shorts.
This isn’t my normal garb, but these were the first items I found after I got the call.
In the early hours of a Tuesday morning, I was jolted awake by a phone call no one ever wants to receive. After taking a turn for the worse, my mother was asking for us—her kids.
We piled in our vehicle—my husband, brother and sister-in-law—and walked the bathed-in-blue hallways of the hospital to my mom’s room.
She had her moments of recovery that made me think she might make it through this one. But it was only hours later that she went into full organ failure.
What to say in those final moments?
In the mere minutes I had with her before she died, I tried to warm her cold hands with mine. The machines keeping her alive kept a steady tone—Beep. Beep. Beep. Air was forced in and out of her lungs, something she could no longer do on her own.
She couldn’t open her eyes, and the doctors told us she was totally unaware. But when we spoke, her heart monitor would spike.
She could hear us. But what do you say?
I could feel the silence weighing on me. I needed to say something. Everyone talks about last words and how important they are, but I didn’t have anything profound to say. All that I could express was thanks.
I thanked her for being my mother for 26 years as I wept by her bedside.
My brother was there, too, stroking her forehead and whispering in her ear, “It’s okay. You can relax now. Shh, just relax.”
In seconds, she let go, and the nurses silenced the machines before telling us, “She’s gone.”
It was my first very real, up-close-and-personal experience with death. My mom had been sick for a while, though. I had time to think about her dying and how I would handle it, but thankfulness was probably the last thing I thought I would feel.
But if you think about it, that may be the most natural thing a Christian can feel.
Even in the most mournful moments following my mom’s death, I knew, because God has called me into knowing His merciful plan, that I had so much to be thankful for.
As Christians, that hope we have in God’s coming Kingdom is priceless and something we can never lose. It is what keeps us grounded in unstable times.
When Scripture tells us to give thanks in everything, it doesn’t just mean in pleasant times (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Though that can be hard to wrap our minds around, it’s a vital lesson in thanksgiving.
The Bible doesn’t hide the fact that trials happen to us all, but how we handle those trials shape who we are and, ultimately, determines our happiness.
If we can be content and thankful when we experience pain or loss, then there won’t be a moment in life we can’t handle. Whatever state we are in, we must learn to be content (Philippians 4:11).
This kind of contentment, of course, can only come from our Heavenly Father. It’s not a natural human response to appreciate or love trials. When God’s Spirit lives in us, though, it’s a different story.
Difficult times help us count our blessings
Often, as was the case with me, it’s in the difficult times that you can truly see and count your innumerable blessings and draw closer to God.
You see, it’s when we are at our lowest that our hearts are moldable.
When Paul talks about God calling the weak of the world and not the high and mighty, it’s for a reason (1 Corinthians 1:26). Even David said it was when he was brought low that God helped him and worked with him (Psalm 116:6).
I find comfort in God’s plan of salvation, knowing that my mom and the entire world will know more than the pains of this physical life. They—we—will all know true peace when God’s way is the only way.
No, my mom won’t be sitting with us this Thanksgiving dinner or the many dinners to come, when our table is filled with children she never got to meet. She’s no longer here.
But instead of dwelling on the emptiness I could feel or the great sense of loss, I choose to thank God that I’m alive, that I’m healthy and, most importantly, that I will see my mother again. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed and reunited (1 Corinthians 15:52).
The last time my mother saw me, I wore a hand-me-down red Kentucky t-shirt and blue running shorts.
The next time we see each other, her pain and mine over losing her will be gone, and we will both be clothed in fine linen, white and clean (Revelation 19:8). There’s nothing I could be more thankful for than that.