And now I am happy all the day.

I am grateful for hymns. Grateful that they are such a huge part of my internal jukebox. I am grateful for the message this morning about the death of Jesus, and for my pastor who quoted “At the Cross.”

At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away – 
It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day.

I am grateful for a car ride with Dad and Dwight and Sam, to reminisce about Mom and memories of a year ago.

I am grateful for an email from Danny with his kind words of love and his fun memories of Aunt Grace that blessed us yesterday as we rode back from Wichita.

I am grateful for Mom’s best friend, Delores, who sent us cards this week, knowing we would be re-living and remembering last year.

I am grateful for the opportunity to see Adam swim one more time and feel the pride of being the Aunt of the really good-looking leader on the Hutch High swim team who cut time in all of his events.

I am grateful for the joy the K-96 “honking tree” gives me, and I am grateful for a brother who sacrificed so much time to take its picture and create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece for us.

I am grateful that Aunt Drula is doing okay, is home, and that Aunt Ivol is there to take care of her for awhile.

I am grateful for January sunrises. Yesterday morning and again this morning, I was able to see the magnificent beauty of God’s artistry in the early morning. I walked outside and my first thought was, “Mom chose the most beautiful time of the year to meet Jesus.” My thoughts traveled back to one year ago today, when we were greeted by that beautiful pink and orange sunrise on the 9th floor apartment and began the day of Mom’s final steps. I wrote this in the middle of the night, not knowing that this would be the day:

One Foot in Front of the Other.

Written Jan 26, 2013 3:01am

 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

But it was such a good day on Thursday morning.  

After having slept so soundly through the night, Mom awoke to a beautiful sunrise peeking through the blinds in this 9th floor apartment. From the bedroom, I brought out two shirts as possibilities for dressing – Marlene chose the brighter of the two, a bright orange striped pullover that came from the Et Cetera Shop. When I showed Mom what she was going to be wearing for the day, she had the best grin on her face, as if to say, “That’s the one I wanted to wear all along!” We visited with her, she indicated that she would like some ice water on a sponge, and she even faintly requested some yogurt. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her request – she hadn’t eaten anything of substance for days – and so I began offering her small bites of strawberry yogurt from a great-granddaughter’s pink baby spoon. She surprised us all by eating almost a third of the small container!  Her eyes were bright and focused, she had her glasses on to see pictures from Katrina and recognized pictures of her great granddaughter Parker singing in the children’s choir, she silently interacted with Ron and Pam, Marlene, Dad, and I – it was such a good start to the day.

And then about mid-morning, she fell asleep. And we haven’t seen “Mom” since. It is like she has been walking with us down this final path, and that morning, she looked back and said, “Okay, I have to go now and finish my walk alone. Don’t worry about me. Jesus is holding my hand the rest of the way.”

We are observers of her journey now – not participants.

Friday…Uncle Willard, Larry Thornburg, and my cousin Dan Ferguson led us in a time of prayer and singing “Amazing Grace” and “It is Well with My Soul” around Mom’s bed. One more memory and opportunity for the Holy Spirit to move in this cramped apartment.

Friday…Steve arrived. All is well. Mom’s oldest has come home to say “goodbye.” Instead of the concern and discussion about when and if he might be able to make the trip, we are all feeling one less burden and a sense that Mom can let go now. And it’s a feeling of relief – Steve is home, the family is complete.

Friday…Mom’s breathing is very shallow now. She will take 20-30 second pauses that make me stop typing to look up and silently beg, “Come on, Mom, BREATHE. You can do it.” How many more breaths will she take? How many more steps are there?

Each Step I Take

Each step I take my Savior goes before me,
And with His loving hand He leads the way,
And with each breath I whisper “I adore Thee;”
Oh, what joy to walk with Him each day.

I trust in God, no matter come what may,
For life eternal in His hand,
He holds the key that opens up the way,
That will lead me to the promised land.

Chorus:
Each step I take I know that He will guide me;
To higher ground He ever leads me on.
Until some day the last step will be taken.
Each step I take just leads me closer home.

Mom, one foot in front of the other. Just a few more steps…

~~~~~

At 5:42 pm that evening, Heaven’s gates opened and Mom was finally home.

Image

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant.

Written Jan 27, 2013 6:21pm

I just knew when I got up yesterday morning that it was going to be the day. Mom’s color had changed. Her breathing was shallow and seemed to take more effort than she had left in her. She didn’t move in her bed any longer. She just slept. 
 
I held her very warm hand in mine and there was no gentle squeeze returned. As my brother Dwight put it, “She is shrinking before our eyes.”
 
We attempted to have a “normal” day, if that is what you call this vigil. Leftovers for lunch. Dad went to the drug store for coffee and ordered donuts for church. Angela took a walk to the Et Cetera Shop. Dwight was at the apartment all day while Marlene went to a swim meet. Sam and I went for a long walk and bought potatoes for dinner. Steve went to the motel and took a nap in the afternoon. Aunt Ivol and Uncle Fred stopped by for a visit. And none of us were really in the apartment at the same time. Until 5:00 p.m. 
 
Returning from our walks, Angela, Sam, and I were in the kitchen getting potatoes in the oven and broccoli cheddar soup on the stove for dinner.
 
Dwight and Angela went to Mom’s bedside to check on her, Dad and I joining them a few minutes later. Marlene was talking to her sister on the phone, and Sam and Steve were visiting in the kitchen. 
 
We weren’t at her bed very long when we realized she was at the end of her long walk home. Everyone gathered around the bed, “My Jesus I Love Thee” was playing, and we watched her last few gasps, as “I Surrender All” began to fill the room. Her husband of 62 years was holding her hand and her family surrounded her as the gates of Heaven opened wide to welcome her home. What a horrible, touching, unforgettable, priceless moment. 
 
“I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
 
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now…
 
…All to Jesus I surrender;
 at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
 
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.”
 
A few minutes later, we were standing in the living room waiting for the mortuary to arrive, many tears shed and hugs given. Angela looked down on the floor and picked up a quarter that was shining up at her. She held it in her hand, feeling that it wasn’t a quarter at all but a silver coin with an angel on one side and the words, “Someone is watching over you” on the other side. The living room is small. We have all lived in this room for over a week now. And that coin just happened to appear at that moment? 
 
I choose to believe that was no coincidence. Mom was still being Mom, and I believe it was God’s way of letting us know she is okay, and we will be okay, too.
 
Mom spent her life pointing the way to Jesus. Mom impacted more people than we will ever know. When all was said and done, Mom fought the good fight. She finished the race, and she will be absolutely beautiful wearing that crown. 
 
Well done, Grace Johnson Ferguson. We are blessed to have known you.

~~~~~

I am grateful for CaringBridge, for Michelle who gave me the idea to create Mom’s page, and for all of the people who wrote words of encouragement and support on the website during those two weeks last January.  It has been comforting to re-read the entries in the last few days. Crying is healing and necessary and I am grateful that God gave us that capability to let out our sorrow and pain.

And finally, I am grateful for my Dad’s story yesterday afternoon about his flowers. Ever since Mom passed away, he has continued to buy that small bouquet of flowers each week and places them on the little white table. I saw his arrangement on Friday evening – a little bunch of pink, white and lavendar crysanthemums and carnations that were so pretty. Dad had gotten them a week earlier and hadn’t been very impressed with them. They weren’t “spectacular” by any means and according to him, were pretty ordinary. And then, Friday morning, two days ago, he came out of the bedroom to get ready to leave for work, and it was like the flowers had decided to burst with beauty. They were full and lovely. It’s like they were prepared to celebrate the 1st anniversary of Mom’s homecoming with us. Happy anniversary, Mom.

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