"After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven..." -Rev.4:1
It's been a month and a half since my Mother died. I knew the day she left I would write about the experience of watching her go—but it's taken this long to be able to do so. (Photo: Mom and Dad at the coast)
Holding my Mom's hand, helping her through the 'birthing process' of separating spirit from body, was both the most extraordinary and most difficult experience of my life.
But in order to fully tell of Mom's journey, I've got to back up about 10 months to my father's passing from this world, and what he told us he saw before he died.
Some background; both my mother and father have been faithful Christians, very involved in their church, doing Bible studies and devotions regularly... I—and my siblings—are blessed with a wonderful, heritage of faith.
Last June, my Dad—at 90 years-young—lay on a hospital bed in my parents' living room with 'aspirating pneumonia.' Hospice had been called in and we knew it wouldn't be long before he left us. In the dying process, he struggled with pain and "itching" in his feet, and my siblings and I would take turns massaging them.
During one of these times, my sister, Jill was rubbing his feet when he suddenly said, "Look out, Jill, when the door opens it'll hit you."
Jill was standing next to the living room wall—there was no door behind her... at least none that WE could see.
Jill quickly realized Dad must be talking about a doorway between this life and Heaven. She told him, "I can duck very fast, and move out of the way in time."
We are a family who believe in prayer, so my sister-in-law, Marie—who was visiting Dad—had requested prayer on my father's behalf from a friend of hers, Renea. This friend called Marie to see how Dad was doing, and Marie told her about 'the door.' Renea became silent.
When Marie asked her what was wrong, Renea told her, "Oh that's a prayer verification. When I was praying last night I saw a door, and Richard and the Lord were waiting behind it." (My brother, Richard—Marie's husband—had died in 2009)
About two days later, Dad was in his final hours and our wonderful Hospice nurse, Norita, was tending to him, when he again mentioned "the door," however he told her it was locked. From what I understand (I wasn't present at the time) something like the following conversation ensued...
"It's locked Mr. Frank? Well, do you have a key to the door?"
"No, I don't have keys for it."
Norita pretends to put something in my father's hand. "I brought a key, Mr. Frank, try this one."
A few minutes later Norita asks my dad if the key opened the door.
"No, it didn't fit."
She again pretends to put a key in my father's hand. "Well, I have lots of keys… here, try another!"
After a few more minutes... "Did that key fit, Mr. Frank?"
"Yeah... that one fit."
"OK well Mr. Frank, when you're ready, you go ahead and turn that key in the lock, open the door and walk through to Richard and Jesus."
It wasn't long after ‘til he did just that, and quietly passed away with my mother holding his hand sitting next to him. They had been married for 67 years.
After my father died, my mother—who had always wanted to experience living in "the valley" (Willamette Valley that is), as opposed to Central Oregon where my dad wanted to be—had made the decision to move to an assisted living facility near me.
By September, we found one for her with a very nice, spacious apartment and porch, and she settled in as much as an 86-year-old, grieving widow can. She especially enjoyed Bingo and times when the activity director would pull out his guitar and lead them in song. (Photo: Mom's one-and-only 'selfie')
I still have a voice mail recording of her (priceless now) when she called me during one of those times, singing our family's favorite song, with which she had taught each of us to harmonize; "You Are My Sunshine."
But Mom was suffering from Congestive Heart Failure much worse than she let on, I think. And she missed my father terribly.
One day in mid-February I noticed her fingers and toes had swollen up, and I brought her to the hospital—she would never return to her apartment.
Mom's Journey Through the ‘Door'
Mom was lucid and carrying on conversations with all her family who came to visit her in the hospital; it was Valentine's Day and we filled her room with flowers. My husband even smuggled in some chocolate covered strawberries for her.
Later that night she insisted we all go home and get some sleep and she'd see us the next day.
I was called back to the hospital at 5am that next morning. The nurse said he wanted to call me earlier, but my mother didn't want to wake us up.
Now as I entered her room I could see she was already beginning her journey home.
Several generations were represented as we gathered around my mom—I didn't want to let go of her hand.
We talked to her, and sang and sat on chairs and benches pulled up near... as she lay back, in her bed.
Then suddenly Mom sat up—staring straight in front of her with a look on her face of complete amazement and wonder.
We all stopped in mid-sentence, waiting to see what would happen next.
She slowly sank back into her bed for a while, and then without warning, she would struggle to sit up again, having that same expression.
This happened several times, and with each one, we would fall silent, waiting to see what she would do.
Once I was adjusting Mom's pillows so she could more easily sit up, and I told her, "There, now you can see the 'door' better." She got a big smile on her face and nodded 'yes.'
We were laughing a little about this when she again sat up looking straight ahead, and for the first time since this process had begun she spoke in a hoarse voice and said, "Say prayers!"
All of us jumped up grabbing each others' hands and hers, and began to pray... and sing... and pray some more.
Then she just lay back in her bed for a while.
The next phase of my mom's journey was much more strenuous for her; it was truly a separating of her spirit with her body, until it was finally over and she exhaled her last breath in peace.
The most accurate description is that it was very much like giving birth except you don't have the joyous result on this side of Heaven.
Or... this side of 'the door.'
I had wanted to ask my mom to somehow give me a sign that all was well, if she could, when she arrived in Heaven; but I never got the chance.
The next day my sister and I went to Mom's assisted living facility.
As we walked inside the front doors, there in the main room was the activity director with his guitar. It suddenly occurred to us what he was playing and singing—and there was the sign from my Mom...
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey..."
For now, I'll miss you Mom, Dad and Richard... but I know I'll see you all again.
And I know who will be on the other side of the 'door' when the Lord calls me home.