Some of you are also wondering about the death of my Mom, Shirlee White, and her final spiritual condition. I’m so grateful for your interest.
It took be quite some time to write this after her death, over a year in fact. In asking the Holy Spirit why that was so since I had written the post about my Dad, Bob, and his death in the same week he died in 2011, the Spirit was clear.
In my anguish over her passing and the special intimacy I had with my Mom after my Dad’s death in December 2011, the finality of it all was a bitter pill to swallow. Especially since she was defiant to Christ even until the very last day of her earthly life it appears, Saturday January 28, 2017.
While we might never know until final eternity the spiritual condition of our departed loved ones, it aches to be reminded that a parent very likely might be in the torment of hell and headed to the eternal lake of fire.
After my Dad died, I made every effort to visit my Mom every other week in her home at Lake Wales, FL, an hour south of Orlando, where my parents had lived for the last 20+ years. They were precious times, but also filled with the pain of her missing my Dad, her husband of almost 60 years.
She would tearfully recount many of their times together along with the frustration now that all her so-called married couple friends abandoned her in the community. “It’s as if we both died,” she tearfully lamented.
Time to move in to help
Over time during my visits, I noticed the refrigerator was virtually barren, and she was becoming more unsteady on her feet. On a sunny hot day in May 2014, we agreed I would move in and help her to live out her final days. I was committed to never placing her in a home, or assisted living, as long as she agreed.
In the ensuing years there were maybe a half dozen women who would occasionally visit her and her beloved and constant companion, Sweetie Pie the dog. One lost woman in particular loved both she and the dog and made it a point to visit three or so times a week. This delightful gal also took care of the dog when I needed to make my trips to Orlando for business and ministry.
But there were several detractors in the retirement community who hated my overt faith. Her next door neighbor who for a few years visited daily eventually would contact the state and complain I was “abusing” my Mom for helping treat her many aliments with natural means that were working well.
My Mom was mortified and cried for a month at the reality that this woman would do such a thing. I relayed to her that although this was a despicable act in lieu of just calling me to discuss it, this was her dysfunctional way in loving my Mom. I encouraged her to reach out and connect as I would officiate a restoration. She ardently refused time after time. In the end, the woman never set foot inside our home there again. Such is the sin of irreconcilable humans headed for the lake of fire.
She and I would talk for hours on her couch, with Sweetie Pie on her lap, about her past, both the good times and bad. She was in agony over the refusal of my grown children to call on the phone with any consistency, or to respond faithfully to her gifts and cards. She eventually stopped sending them, and it made no difference anyway for they never were missed. We also had a small family to begin with and all but one distant niece were dead now.
We discussed the gross narcissism of the age and how even the old folks in the park here who knew better just talked about themselves…or interrupted to do so. These people had succumbed to the scheme of the enemy, the devil, I rightly told her. She and I knew we were from a different age when more civility and kindness were evident.
Her health declines further
Her bouts with declining health were rapidly increasing. When I moved in she was already eighty seven years old. There were two scary trips to the Lake Wales Hospital after a TIA, the mini-heart attack. Rehab followed, one lasting three whole months with twice daily visits along with the dog as the honored guest!
Her constant battle with stomach ailments over her life were now catching up to her big time. I bought Tums by a carload every week. The disappointment with our family and friends didn’t help at all in this. My natural remedies she finally agreed to use after the failure of western medicine slowed the rate of descent but descend it did all the same.
A joyous moment was her 90th birthday celebration in her home in June with a few neighbors. It was delightful and she had her favorite cake from Publix! But, alas, this too was short-lived.
She and I also had the last Thanksgiving meal that November at the kitchen table, a rarity. For she took all her meals in the last three years from the couch on a wooden TV tray.
In the last year, I evangelized her several times again. When my Dad had died there was a short window were she was seeking. I bought her the CS Lewis book A Grief Observed, which she liked tremendously. She took out Joel Osteen’s wildly best seller book at the time from the clubhouse library and declared “This man is not a Christian!” Strange how even pagans seem to know the basic doctrines of the Gospel.
The provocative question
About two months after my Dad’s death she asked me out of the blue one day this provocative question while we were on the couch.
“Do you think your father is in hell?”
I was stunned to say the least, and took a deep breath to ask the Father for the Spirit’s help. He answered immediately in my distress.
“Well,” I seemed to recall, “no one knows for sure the final moments of a person’s life before they enter eternity forever.” She looked at me directly. “But I know this much for sure, Mom.”
I continued, “Dad knew everything he needed to do to repent and be saved from his countless sins and the wrath of God to come. He knew for certain that Jesus Christ was the way, the truth, and the life.”
She never replied. If I remember correctly, she just changed the subject.
The end begins to arrive
In the last few months, she complained bitterly about why she had to live so long, and that she didn’t feel well at all. I could tell she was giving up. The days stretched on too long for her. She hated to go to bed. She hated to get up. Even Sweetie Pie the dog lost some of her charm. She talked about dying. She told me not to give away all her assets to the poor.
Finally, the next January her complaints about her overall health increased dramatically. Her stomach bothered her night and day. Nothing seemed to assuage the constant and growing pain. Hospice came in the first week of the month and told me she only had thirty days left max.
I was in disbelief. She’s not that bad I protested. The hospice nurse was a pro and a tender-hearted Christian to boot. “Mr. White,” she quietly but firmly stated, “this is typical of cases like this. They decline rapidly when they seem fairly stable.”
Then the fateful night arrived, a Sunday night just a couple weeks later.
I could hear her alternatively moaning and talking in her bedroom. I crept closer and listened for a few minutes. I then asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital. “No,” she replied.
Finally, after another hour of this, around midnight, I asked her again how she was doing. “Do you want me to die?” she accused. I was shocked and demeaned by it all. I replied, “Mom, I’m going to call the EMT’s.”
In another hour she was on her way once again to the Lake Wales hospital. I had warned the EMT’s when they arrived she would act like nothing was wrong and to take her anyway. Mom didn’t disappoint me in this either. She was the consummate actress.
The tests and MRI at Lake Wales Hospital proved she had a blocked bowel obstruction. It was inoperable the nurses confided to me. The surgeon, who refused to call me for two days until I threatened his staff, finally called with the sixty minute deadline I gave him and said she was “in great health” and he could operate the next day.
I was incredulous. To say the least…
I knew quite a bit about the body, health, old age, and her chances. “With all due respect Doctor,” I declared vehemently, “she’s dying and she wouldn’t make it off the table. I have power of attorney, and we decline.” The nurses had agreed with me in secret this was the case.
The last conversation
So, at noon that Thursday, unbeknownst to me, my Mom and I had our last conversant talk.
“I just don’t feel good, Marc.”
“I know, Mom, and I am so sorry.
“You know where all the papers are, don’t you?”
“I do, Mom.”
I said goodbye and exited fully expecting to talk with her again. In the hall outside her hospital door were the apathetic men hired to carry her to the Sebring FL in-house hospice. I thought better of engaging their behavior. Just a job, just a job, they telegraphed by their behavior.
There were many conflicting thoughts on the way home. How long would she live? Would she repent and be saved? What else can I do? And on and on it went.
At four or so in that afternoon I made my first appearance at hospice there. I had taken Sweetie Pie to say hi to Mom. The wonderful nurse at my Mom’s station said she was already sedated since she had been “retching badly.” Again, I was stunned. My stomach was further upset.
Death is an ugly process. It’s supposed to be that way so we know this world is not our home. We are truly aliens and strangers passing through.
At the hospice
When I opened the huge door to her room, she was out cold in the bed with her head all the way to her left, along with a ugly grey vomit container next to her head. It was awful. Just awful. I put Sweetie on the bed, but she knew something was radically wrong as the dog looked quizzically at her constant companion for the last seven years.
The Spirit prompted me to take two pictures. One with Mom on the bed, and picture two with only the dog. I texted the first to my son, Nathan. He called soon, and said he was flying down the next morning Friday. What a God-send.
By mid-day Friday the 27th Nathan had arrived with his rental car. After some lunch and talk, he insisted he drive to the hospice which was an excellent idea. I was really shook up as you can well imagine.
When he and I entered her room, it appeared she was almost comatose. The nurse stated to talk to her plainly since many last stage people can still hear your voice. I dragged a chair to the edge of the bed, sat down and took her hand. Nathan was right behind me standing up.
When I spoke to Mom, her eyes opened just a tiny slit and she looked directly at me for only a few seconds. Yes, the hazel green eyes that had smiled at me since I was a little boy saw me one last time. Only a few months ago Mom had again declared on the couch I would always be her “little boy.”
I squeezed her hand one final time as I declared to her the love of God through Jesus Christ, that she was a terrible sinner and needed to repent. I hoped she would squeeze my hand back or make some sign that she had or would. None was forthcoming.
Nathan spoke to her briefly about his family’s love for her. I think I forgot to pray. Understandingly, I was very upset. We left a few minutes later. The visit was over in less than thirty minutes. We planned to come back on Saturday morning to see her again.
Friday night was a blur, but I think Nathan and I went out for a pizza. And I retired early as I recall. It took quite a while to get to sleep in the flood of memories.
The call and the long drive down
On Saturday morning, Nathan was helping me with some computer tech issues in my home office. The phone rang…and it was a local number.
“This is the hospice,” the woman stated very matter-of-fact. My heart was pounding.
“Your mother passed away about thirty minutes ago.”
I began to weep. “Can we come see her?”
“Yes, give us an hour or so.”
What followed was totally unexpected.
I began to wail out loud, and Nathan rushed to my side and held me. I would have fallen to the ground if he hadn’t done so.
This wailing went on for what seemed to be a few long minutes until there was nothing left. I can never ever remember crying so much, even at my Dad’s death. It was all so final.
On our drive down to see Mom, I called her friends and interested parties and told them she was gone. Her next door neighbor who refused to see her and had called the state on me seemed ambivalent at best with this sad news. I thought I might not be surprised at such an evil response…but I was. The term is depravity.
Nathan and I only spent a total of five minutes in the room with her. They had placed her in the middle of the bed with the covers up to her neck. She looked awful. Terrible. She was dead. I almost wish I hadn’t gone to see her.
Upon Nathan’s return home, there were the usual hundreds of details even though my Mom in her thoughtful style had pre-planned everything she could.
The memorial service and funeral
In a few weeks we had the same type memorial service in the community clubhouse like we had for my Dad five years earlier. This time only thirty people showed up, where we had over a hundred for Dad. “Happens all the time,” said my Christian friend nonchalantly who helped with the service. “The husband usually goes first, and the wife’s crowd is much smaller.”
Nathan and his wife, along with two of my grandchildren, had come down for the Saturday service and the Monday funeral.
As with my Dad, I used the same PowerPoint presentation, and talked about the real spirit world. And that I knew what my Mom would tell them if she were here: that the spirit world is real, Jesus is real, and the devil is real. You could hear a pin drop again like my Dad’s service.
I offered a time for comments. Several people stood up and eulogized her in a tender and memorable way. Mom’s next door neighbor had defiantly refused my gospel presentation to him over the years. He stood up and declared my Mom was “a good person” and loved God in “her own way.” He never spoke to me again with any casual conversation.
On Monday, we prepared to journey the two hours plus to the enormous veterans cemetery north of Tampa in the country. As with my Dad’s remains, I was forced to carry the urn with her ashes to the burial site. With my Dad five years earlier, my Mom didn’t prep me until it was time for the urn. She made me go into their closet and carry the urn to the car and to the burial site. My stomach was upset the whole time. It wasn’t much better this time.
At the burial service pavilion with my family, I gave a few words as did Nathan. But this time it was a totally lonely and barren ceremony. In no way could I declare an eternal victory over death for my Mom. Only the Lord knows.
Since that fateful day at the cemetery in early spring 2017, I now know the lonely finality of losing your last parent. Some are relieved when their parents die since the children suffered at their hands. Not so in the least with me.
My parents, with all their idiosyncrasies and foibles, were loving folks. Even as pagans, they gave me a foundation that helped me to meet the Lord later in life. For that I am forever grateful.
Are your parents still living? Do they allow, or even want, your fellowship? What are you waiting for then? You say you’re busy? Are you really a slave to Christ? It’s not about you…but them. Get cracking, dear saints.
My dear Lord Jesus has not told me if either of my parents were saved at the bitter end. I’m at peace with that now. They both knew the true truth, and all its love if received and brutal consequences if rejected.
And we who endure to the end can revel in the Almighty’s gracious goodness. His triumph through His Son in complete. Our toil for His kingdom is not in vain, and will be rewarded!
1 Corinthians 15:51-58 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Amen. Maranatha, Lord Jesus.
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Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
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Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Marc White, Director, Walk Worthy Ministries, www.WalkWorthy.org