Letting Go: When a Parent Dies

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.

Psalm 143:5


A busy street separated my neighborhood from Jefferson Elementary School. Every morning, Monday through Friday, moms walked their little ones to the street corner and held their hands until it was safe to cross. In the afternoon, when school let out, they came back to bring their children home again.

I remember the morning when mom grasped my hand, and I struggled to pull away. I was a big girl, or so I thought, and I didn’t need to hold her hand anymore. “Let go!” I demanded. “I can cross by myself.” Mom gave me a worried look and squeezed my hand even tighter. “Let go!” I said. I was surprised when Mom let my fingers slip out of hers. I looked both ways for oncoming traffic; then I skipped merrily across the street. When I got to the other side, I turned toward my mother and waved. I had done it! I had crossed the street without her, and we both knew that our hand-holding days were over.

Mom’s hands were always there for me. They rocked me to sleep, tied my shoes, made my meals and washed my clothes. They felt cool against my feverish forehead, and they taught me to pray. When I was a teenager and a boy broke my heart, mom’s hands caressed me and wiped away my tears. When I grew older and moved from home, her hands welcomed me back with a hug, and they hugged me when I went away again.

It wasn’t until many years later, when Mom lay dying in a hospital bed, that I noticed how old and wrinkled her hands had become. Those old hands had worked hard, protected, taught, supported and prayed. Now, they were cold and still. Mom was in a very deep sleep somewhere between Earth and Heaven. I picked up her left hand and held it in mine. “If you can hear me, Mom, squeeze my hand.” Nothing. I laid her hand on top of the covers and let go.

God’s timing is always perfect.
My cousin arrived just then. She sat on the right side of my mother’s bed and I on the left. We said nothing, just watched, waited and wondered when the end would come.

Suddenly, Mom lifted her left hand and reached out searching for mine. Our hands met, and Mom held on tight. Then, just as I had laid her hand on top of the covers, Mom laid my hand down and let go. With her right hand, she grasped my cousin’s hand. She laid it on top of mine, and then Mom rested her hands on ours. She never awoke from her sleep, nor did she utter a word, but the Lord had miraculously allowed her to connect with us one last time – with her hands.

That night, I sat with my mom, holding her hand and remembering all of our years together. I thought of that day on the street corner and of how hard it must have been for Mom to release my hand and let me go. As I sat at her bedside, I understood that I could cross the street by myself again – that I could go on in life without her. I let go of my mother’s hand for the last time, tenderly allowing her fingers to slip from mine. A few minutes later, Mom died. I imagine that she was on the other side of the street, waving to me before she walked on toward God.

There is a comforting passage of scripture in Psalm 139: “If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Even now, from the far side of the sea, I feel my mother’s hand holding mine . . . and I feel God’s hands holding us both.


Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for parents who watch over us in our youth and love us through our lives. When it is time to let them go to you, comfort us and hold us in the palms of your hands. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

The gifts of life and eternal life are precious in God’s sight, and so is the love shared between a mother and her child.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Letting Go: When a Parent Dies

  1. Hi Jean -Thank you for sharing this poignant story. I'm blessed my mother is still with me. Our moms hold a unique place in our hearts.Blessings,Susan 🙂

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