It was with deepest sorrow that our family announced the passing of my mother, Anne Hansen, on Sunday, July 25, 2010. She was 63 years old. We lost a beautiful wife, mother, Granny, and friend.
We are only two weeks removed from mom's passing. I can't even fathom right now where these past two weeks have gone. Such a whirlwind this has been.
When we found out that mom had taken a turn on the 23rd, we realized that it was of utmost importance to get back home as quickly as possible. In a flurry, we somehow managed to organize everything we needed to be able to load up our car and be on the road by about 7:00 pm on the 23rd. We drove a few hours and stopped for the night. We anxiously awaited the dreaded phone call that my mom had passed. The call didn't come. We made an early departure from our hotel on the 24th, fully expecting that we'd receive the call somewhere on our journey. We were not originally planning on driving all the way home on the Saturday. The call we were bracing ourselves for still wasn't coming. We kept driving for hours and still no call. When I'd spoken with my father on the Friday night, I told him not to worry about us. His place was with my mother and he should only contact us if he had to. Still, by 6:00 pm we had received no word from home. Although I'd said not to call, I was anxious for some word, so I called home. No news. We decided that we were close enough to push all the way through. After 17 hours of driving on that Saturday, we made it home at 10:45 pm. We made it in time. Mom passed away peacefully at 9:57 am on Sunday, surrounded by family.
Mom's passing has been overwhelmingly unbearable, particularly in the early days. I lost my mother and one of my best friends all at once. I am not sad for her. She was so ill for so long. My prayer for her in recent months was that she would pass from this life into the next so that she could be fully healed upon entering God's kingdom. I have faith that tells me that she has achieved this in her passing. I have faith that she has gone on to enjoy a reward so much greater than we could ever wrap our Earthly minds around.
If I "get" all of that, then why am I so sad??
I mourn now for the lost of the person that my mother was in my life. I long to pick up the phone to call her and talk to her. In reality, I've been unable to do that for many, many months as her illness progressed. I want to reach out and touch her, hug her, tell her I love her. Despite my faith that mom is in a better place, I have a huge gaping hole in my life that was once filled with her presence here in this life. That is the source of my grief - that she is physically missing from my life.
How do I know my mother is "ok"? Faith and Signs. Signs are everywhere - if you just open yourself to receiving them, they are present.
For me, the butterfly has been a symbol to me since we lost our son, Jeffrey, on 8/14/01. Next week will be 9 years since this most profound loss in my life. The butterfly has remained a strong symbol for me that he is there. He is watching over us. I believe that. Whenever I see a butterfly, it warms my heart because he is there.
As we were driving home, after several hours I had the realization that there were butterflies everywhere. I was so anxious about our journey and making it home on time that it took me a while to realize this. Yet there they were. Thousands of butterflies. There would be one or two here or there, and then further down the road there would be several amidst the wildflowers blooming on the roadside. I began to pay attention to this phenomenon and by the time our journey was complete, I am sure we had seen thousands. When it became apparent to me that they were out in full force, it encouraged me. I wasn't sure what we'd be coming home to, but I felt comforted that we were being surrounded and perhaps even protected as we made this journey home. I also felt sure that my mother was being watched over.
Mile after mile, we traveled the road that would lead us home. As the remaining miles dwindled, my anxiety grew. Somewhere in "The Middle of Nowhere", Ohio a scripture verse came into my mind. Not the actual verse - I am not that clever to have committed many scriptures to memory. In my head, I heard plain as day: Jeremiah 29:14. I heard it a few times before I thought I should really pick up my Bible and look up the verse. I could even have told you if this chapter and verse even existed. However, I opened up my Bible and this is what I found:
"I will be found by you," says the Lord. "I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land." (Jeremiah 29:14, NLT)
To me, this was a direct message telling me that my mother was going to be ok. This verse speaks to me in this way - My mother's suffering is recognized by God. My mother's bondage by this disease and suffering is going to be broken. She will be brought home to her Heavenly Father and be fully restored in His image. She will be taken from this world and brought to her eternal home where she will reside with Him and those who have gone before her for eternity.
My mother had a tremendous faith and love for the Lord. She suffered from cancer for over two and a half years and never once did she complain. She didn't. She only ever once said that it was an inconvenience. Surely it must have been. I can't even imagine if I had to walk in her shoes. How would I have dealt with the same situation?
My mother, to me, was never a "flashy" kind of person. Life was never about keeping up with the Jonses when I was growing up. She was likely the genetic reason for me being the more introverted person that I am. She loved her whole family and her friends. She faced her challenges head on. She faced them with strength and dignity (read Proverbs 31 and you'll get a glimpse into the person my mother was). At the visitation on Wednesday, July 28th, approximately 300 or more people filed past my mother's casket to pay their respects. In life, would she have expected such a turnout? Likely not. I believe my mother to have been the type of person who lived her life with a humble attitude, serving others without even realizing she was doing so. Her funeral followed on July 29th at Precious Blood Cathedral. This church is the largest in their city. My parents were married there. Many family weddings, baptisms and funerals have taken place in this church over the past several decades. The cathedral was packed for my mother's funeral. Packed. I didn't spent a lot of time looking around at who was there, but you could just feel it. I asked a friend who did tell me it was full. Packed. Would my mother have expected to pack a church for her final send-off? I don't believe she would have expected that. What an amazing tribute to my mother that so many people came to both the funeral home and the church to pay their respects. It speaks to my mother's character that so many would want to be there for her. It meant so much to our family.
My mother, in true "Anne" fashion, left a letter to us. It was written some 30 years ago, revised 26 years ago, and then again 12 years ago. She fully outlined all of her wishes for her funeral. We cried and we laughed as we read her letter. Through this letter, another sign was revealed to me. Mom outlined all of the music and readings that she desired for her funeral Mass. Amongst the readings listed: Jeremiah 29:11-14. (click the link to read the full text) I was absolutely floored when I read this in her letter. Truly a sign for me. My mother's wish was this: "It is something I want to leave you all with - a future of hope."
And so a new future has been unveiled for our family - one without this amazing woman in it. At least not until we meet again. Until then, for now I am sad because of this great loss. I rejoice that she is no longer suffering and has gone on to her great reward that will also be ours one day.