At the end of 1992, Mom and I were having races around the nursing home parking lot... and she always won, even in her electric wheelchair. Her laugh echoed across the concrete as she teased me for being a slowpoke. As the year drew to a close, she began to feel tingling sensations in her legs--for the first time in seven years.
As I fell asleep each night, my mind came alive with grand dreams of her pending liberation from that imprisoning hospital bed and the cold wheelchair. I imagined her and I moving into a home of our own before I yet became a teenager. I'd hug her, and she'd be able to fully hug me back.
What eternal hope! Think of how the disciples probably felt as they watched this revolutionary man stumping the religious rulers of their time. This was Him! He was going to liberate them from these political and religious oppressions and set up this fantastic home, the twelve of them helping him lead this amazing earthly kingdom. Nothing could defeat them now!
Back in the 20th century, reality quickly crushed my mighty hopes. On April 7, 1993, we received an urgent phone call in the middle of the night, saying that Mom had been rushed to the hospital, her fever so high that her skin was flushed bright red.
But she's getting well, I thought to myself, so this is just a little setback. She'll be out within a week. She's been in before, and if cancer and all those pneumonia scares didn't break her then, she isn't going to lose now.
Sunday, what seemed to be just another pneumonia scare proved to be worse. That sunny Easter morning, we had to go back to the hospital. The hospital rushed her over to ICU to keep a closer watch on her and put her on life support. Her labored breathing grew weaker and more desperate with each passing hour. Doctors tuned out my pleas to go in and see her; she'd be well in no time, they assured me.
By Wednesday, the fight proved too much. Now getting less than half the oxygen she needed, she gave her permission to remove the machine. Just after noon, she breathed her last.
Words can never express the devastation I felt (and periodically still do). There is such finality in the word "death". Any more chance you had to demonstrate love to that person is gone (at least until your own death). Comfort that she's free of that perpetual pain and can now dance freely only goes so far.
The devastation I felt on April 14, 1993, I see in those disciples. The one who was going to create this awesome new life was suddenly gone. It made no sense!!! All the while they watched, they hoped (and probably believed) He was going to blow away his enemies and emerge victorious... and alive. But He signed His life away, and now they were all alone, stuck with questions that had no answers.
A few years ago I dreamed she came back. I walked into her old nursing home room; she lay in her old bed with a goofy grin on her face.
"Mom, you--weren't you--What are you--?!"
"I'm back, Niki-honey. I'll never leave you again. I'm back."
I haven't felt happiness like I did at that moment... well, ever. I sobbed in my sleep. Soon after, I woke, my pillow drenched with my tears, realizing it hadn't happened. She's still gone, and nothing will change that.
But in that split second I believed she was here, I saw into the disciples' hearts on Easter morning. Once they realized it wasn't some sick trick and that He really walked among them once more, nothing could defeat their ecstatic happiness! He who was DEAD is ALIVE!!!
"Why do you seek the living among the dead? He's not here!"
How can I experience inexhaustible joy and inexpressible sorrow in the same instant? I don't know, but I do, even now.
I miss her with all my heart, but PRAISE GOD, He is ALIVE! He's not in that grave, and someday, PRAISE GOD, my dream of being with her, alive and well, will be fulfilled.