Letting Go: When a Parent Dies

[I like to run old posts sometimes for my newer readers. This one appeared in my blog in January of 2010. It’s one of my favorites.]

 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 she 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 through.

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 when sickness came, and they taught me to pray. When a teenaged boy broke my heart, mom’s hands caressed me and wiped away my tears. And when I grew older and moved from home, her hands welcomed me back with a hug.

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. She lay in a very deep sleep somewhere between Earth and Heaven. I picked up my mother’s 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. He always knows what we need. 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.

Mom lifted her left hand and reached out searching for mine. Our hands met. She held on tight. Then, just as I had laid her hand on top of the covers, my mother laid my hand down and let go. With her right hand, she grasped my cousin’s hand. Then she laid it on top of mine. Finally, Mom rested her hands on ours. She never awoke from her sleep, nor did she say 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 her 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, she 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.”

Mom has been gone for 15 years, but from the far side of the sea, I still feel her hand holding mine . . . and I feel God’s hands holding us both.

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1 Comment

Filed under Death, Desiring God, Faith, Fear; Hard Times, God's grace, God's Love, God's provision

One response to “Letting Go: When a Parent Dies

  1. Oh, Jean, what a special moment at such a difficult time! I’m blessed to still have my Mom, and each day is precious.

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