“This is your home. You can stay here until the angels bring you home.”
Until the angels bring you home. I thought about this statement often in the months to follow.
Those words were spoken by Carol, the Director of the Independent Living Community where my mother lived when we met with her after my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Carol was also an ordained minister and an associate pastor at my mother’s church.
Carol grasped my mother’s hands and looked directly into her eyes, “And we need to meet together, just you and me,” she said to her.
A few weeks later, on a blustery fall day, Carol knocked on my mother’s door. I excused myself and went to run errands to give them some privacy. When I got back, as I was unloading my bags from the car, I ran into Carol in the parking lot. She approached me and hugged me.
“Your mother said she is ready to tell the other residents about her diagnosis,” she said. “I will be announcing it at Bible study today. I will tell them your mother is transitioning to heaven.”
Transitioning. I tucked the word away to ponder later.
“And I wanted to let you know that I have asked her to be an angel in the Christmas program,” Carol continued.
That evening as I drove home, I began to think about Mom transitioning.
Carol had not said she was going to announce my mother was dying, or that she had terminal cancer and was only expected to live a few more weeks. She would tell them Mom was transitioning to heaven. I liked the positive vibe in her message.
I appreciated what Carol was doing by asking my mother to be an angel in the Christmas program. She was giving her something to look forward to, a purpose. Even though Carol and I both knew that, according to her doctor, she wasn’t expected to live that long.
Mom’s symptoms were gradually increasing, but in December she still managed surprisingly well. The night of the Christmas program, I escorted my mother down the elevator into the crowded community room. I helped her put on her angel wings and halo and find her seat up front with the rest of the angels. I sat in the front row.
Carol stood up front dressed in a long liturgical robe with intricate embroidery. The evening played out like the traditional Christmas pageants I had participated in as a child; except this time the players were senior citizens serious about portraying the Christmas message.
I was on the edge of my chair when Carol gestured toward the angel section and read the scripture, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14 (KJV).
Watching my mother smiling in her angel costume, I could envision that same chorus of angels taking her home. It then dawned on me that there was more behind Mom’s assignment as an angel. This was part of Carol helping my mother transition to heaven.
My caregiving took on a new light. It was about so much more than helping Mom manage her symptoms and meds; I needed to help her make the spiritual transition to heaven.
I would like to tell you that ten months later when the angels came to take my mother home, the heavens opened, and I saw the angel chorus just like the shepherds did the night Jesus was born. But that is not how it happened. In fact, I wasn’t even there.
My brother’s employer gave him the week off and told him to go be with his mother. Jim was there with my mother that morning while my daughter helped me drop my car off to be fixed. When I called for an update, Jim told me that nothing seemed imminent and to take my time. I was preparing breakfast with my daughter when he called back and said, “Mom’s aide said you better hurry.”
I jumped in my husband’s car and had to make a quick decision—back roads or highway? I chose the highway but was delayed by construction. As I let myself into my mother’s apartment, still panting from running up the stairs, I met my brother in the foyer. “I’m sorry Nance,” he said as he gave me a bear hug, “you missed it by six minutes.”
What did I find when I walked into my mother’s room?
Stillness. Quiet. Peace.
I looked around. No evidence of angels. So how do I know the angels escorted her to heaven? That, my friend, is a matter of faith. We must have faith to believe that the Bible is true. That the baby born in a manger is the Savior who died on the cross so that we, too, as flawed as we are (at least, as I am) are invited to join the angel chorus in heaven.
Since that day over two years ago, I have had plenty of time to ponder what it means to “transition to heaven.” I have decided not to wait until I have a terminal diagnosis to begin my transition. Now is the time to “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2 (NKJV)
I invite you, too, to begin your transition to heaven. This Christmas time as you sing, “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” or “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” think of your glorious future in heaven singing to your Lord and Savior Jesus as part of the angel chorus.
*Background image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy “Have a Mary Christmas: Be Blessed at the Feet of Jesus.”