Sunday, January 25, 2015

the sacred steps of life and death

“then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered 

them from their distress. He made the storm be still, 

and the waves of the sea were hushed.… the waters were quiet, 

and He brought them to their desired haven. 

let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works …” 

~ psalm 107:28-31

just a tiny step behind loving her family and Jesus, my mother-in-law loved the ocean.

she loved her toes in the sand and a good book in her hands. and that’s how we’d like to picture her as she passed this week from her earthly pain to her eternal place in heaven.

only two months from diagnosis to death – hard to understand, even harder to accept. but we are so thankful that God has been good and gracious in these final days. we praise Him for her life, her laughter and her great, great ability to love others well.

we adore our mom, wife, grandma, sister and friend … and trust that someday, because we share Jesus, we will share the beauty of His creation on the shores of heaven.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

i’m not sure i have a category in which to place these last days spent with marilyn in hospice. but if i did, i would call it the sacred. for to sit at her bedside in the final hours of her life, that’s exactly what it was. precious. a privilege ... pure and sacred.

to watch this woman who has been so much more than just a mother-in-law --- who, truly, has been a second mom. a woman who has molded my husband into the excellent man he is today. a woman who has always embraced and enjoyed her role as grandmother to my children. how grateful i am for the way she has poured into my life. and how grateful i was to be included in this family ... in their great moments of joy and in their great moments of grief.

and just as in life, these final days were that sweet blend of both. 

God – the giver of life -- the giver of all good gifts -- gave joy and grief. and as mom traveled closer to the gates of heaven, we moved back and forth between the laughter and tears.
and it was absolutely sacred.

tuesday was her best day. somehow she seemed more peaceful, settled, sure. we saw the fear leave her face. her smile was soft and her wit quick. karen, her dear friend, dad, and i, sat with mom discussing the details of her funeral service. she wanted it this way. she was able to offer input; shake her head, say yes or no, and share her requests. we read lyrics, listened to songs and suggested scripture. what a sweet, sweet time. morbid to discuss one’s with funeral with them? --  no, not at all. not morbid, but sacred.

the day ended with all of us gathered around her -- loving husband, sister, and children. words were spoken. prayers prayed. hands held. my sister-in-law, jen, brilliantly opened a bottle of champagne and we toasted mom. marilyn couldn’t manage a sip, but i wrapped her hand around that plastic cup and helped her hold it. she was able to lift it with us when jen declared, “to mom! to marilyn! cheers to her life… to her beautiful life!”

it was as sacred as any communion wine ever taken. 

sacred to see God’s glory shining in the life of His good and faithful servant.

sacred to hold the hand of a woman who has held us all in her arms, her prayers and in her heart.

sacred that He would grant grace and provide peace.

sacred that He would hold off death until relationships were restored and a stronger love resurrected.

sacred that He would hold us all in these final moments together.

the next day was harder.

wednesday the struggle of passing from this earth to eternity became more obvious to all of us. mom wasn’t really communicating any longer and with each passing hour we were losing her more and more. it's a heartbreaking place to be.

that evening, jen and i ran out to grab a quick bite to eat. jen, sleeping with her mom each night in hospice, hadn’t left marilyn's side since monday. when we returned we found rick in the chair next to his mom. both asleep and rick holding her hand. mother and son. when i saw the tears streaking his face, i knew i was seeing yet another kind of holding … another moment of sacred.

on that last night of marilyn’s life, her daughter, jen, curled up right by her side. she was there for the final breath of her mama. holding her. comforting her. mother and daughter. beautiful and heartbroken, and yes, so very sacred.

we celebrated mom's life yesterday in south carolina. (another service will be held next weekend in her hometown of oakmont, pennyslvania). our oldest children read scripture, rick, jen and i had the honor to speak about our mom. the music, the eulogy, the words, the friends who came --- all of it a testimony to the woman marilyn mcnatt was. all of it evidence of the godly life she lived. all of it pointing to her faith as a follower of Jesus -- and all of it, absolutely sacred.

i know my father-in-law, ron, wants to give a special thank you to the friends who have been reaching out and to those who celebrated marilyn with us on saturday. your words were so kind and encouraging. it is amazing to hear and see the people who were impacted by marilyn's life. i can't tell you how many people said to me, "she was an inspiration!" when i got up to speak, i asked people to raise their hands if they had ever been ministered to by marilyn --- hand after hand after hand was raised.

our family also wants to say a special thank you to pastor chris spires and robbie taylor from the first baptist church of murrells inlet. they not only did an outstanding job on yesterday's service, but also have been a constant source of encouragement and support for my in-laws throughout this journey.

last night, after the service and celebration of mom, our kids headed to the beach. it had been a rainy kind of day, but the sun came out just in time for a glorious sunset. my oldest, emily, said, "maybe one of the best i've ever seen on pawleys island!"

my photo-crazy kids captured these images ---

and in the click of their cameras over the water, and in the dance of their feet upon the shore, and in their laughter and in their love of this glorious ocean, is evidence of their grandmother's legacy and life.
i have no doubt, marilyn elliott mcnatt would have been so pleased.
she loved the ocean -- the demonstration of God's beauty and His power here ... and the hope and promise of what He has for us beyond the horizon.

---- the sacred steps of life which lead us into the loving arms of our Father in heaven.

“when we are on the beach we only see a small part of the ocean.
however, we know there is much more beyond the horizon. we
only see a small part of God’s great love, a few jewels of His great
riches, but we know there is much more beyond the horizon. 
the best is yet to come, when we see Jesus face-to-face.” ~ corrie ten boom


Heather said...

Beautiful Post.

cindy cancilla said...

Jody, a beautuful and raw testimony of a beautiful woman, a beautiful life. She was as perfect as they come, so glad she was your mother in law. Her love for you was special, trust me when I say. She always spoke so eloquently about you. Loved you so much! Rick and Jen, her special children, so loved by her. Her grandchildren, each and everyone if them the loves of her life and of course Ron, her husband for so many years. She really adored him. Thank you for your beautiful words, they fill my heart tonight as i read them. God Bless all of you and so grateful you had those sacred moments.

Paige said...

I am so sorry for your family's loss of such a special woman..such a beautiful testimony of her life shown in your writing. Hugs my sweet friend.

Kristy said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Your post and tribute was absolutely beautiful. What a legacy.

Sammy said...

Sounds like you were blessed to have her.

Marjorie Leto said...

Beautifully said, Jody. My life was richer for having known Marilyn. She has left her footprints on my heart. Marjorie

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