Remember Easter 2020? The world had just shut down. Community Easter egg hunts were canceled. Churches were closed. Little girls had nowhere to wear their pretty ruffled dresses and Easter bonnets. People were terrified of this new virus that only a few weeks before had been named a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and family gatherings were canceled.
Two weeks before the shutdown, my mother, who was diagnosed with brain cancer seven months before, had a drastic change in her condition. She had been getting around with minimal help --baking, researching on the internet, working on jigsaw puzzles, and even attending a Bible study and yoga class. Within a day she plummeted into severe pain and weakness. She came down with shingles, and the stress was too much for her.
At that point, I became her primary caregiver and hired aides to cover a twelve-hour shift each night. My sisters and brother were planning to come with their families at different intervals to share in her care, but her apartment building had to follow the New York State guidelines and banned visitors. Fortunately, I was considered a caregiver, so I continued to come and care for my mother every day.
As anyone knows who has been the caregiver for a cancer patient, the road is a bumpy one with unpredictable ups and downs plateauing at lower and lower levels.
The week leading up to Resurrection Sunday was typical in that way. My mother fluctuated between intense pain and extreme weakness as her hospice nurse adjusted her meds, trying to find the right balance.
Also, that week, I discovered a couple of med errors, and I had headaches dealing with my mother’s insurance company and home health agency.
And I’m sure you all remember Governor Cuomo’s briefings at noon every day. All his pep talks and appeals to be “New York tough.” My mother insisted on watching him every single day. But the daily count of covid cases and deaths led to more anxiety for her. I considered it a good day when Mom dozed off before his broadcast.
Yet, in this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, the message of the resurrection came alive to me.
As I binged watched church services with my mother on zoom on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, between labored bathroom breaks, snack and med breaks, I realized how soon the promise of the resurrection was becoming a reality in my mother’s life.
“. . . I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25 ESV).
Was it really so simple? My mother’s body was quickly heading towards death, but she was a believer – she embraced Jesus, who he was, his death and resurrection, so she was promised the precious gift of eternal life.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV).
I began to focus on the blessings that lay just around the corner for her--no more pain! No more tears! No more struggles!
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:4 (ESV)
I realized that my job as a caregiver was so much more than making sure she was safe and fed and medicated, so much more than overseeing her physical care. My most important job was to help prepare her for meeting Jesus face to face.
I took a black marker and wrote the beginning of my mother’s favorite Bible verse, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” in large letters and hung it on the wall across from my mother’s recliner. This became the first of many Bible verses and inspirational quotes my siblings and I would post in her view.
I pulled out my mother’s Senior’s Devotional Bible that my brother had given her and marked all the devotions about heaven, making plans to read one to her each day.
Then I picked up the phone and dialed Kathy,* the deacon from my mother’s church who was the leader of my mother’s Bible study. I apologized for bothering her and explained my concerns about helping my mother transition to heaven.
“This is no bother,” she said. “This is my passion. This is what God has called me to do.” And she scheduled an appointment to visit my mother.
I hope Easter 2022 will offer you a chance to worship with your church and to spend cherished time with your friends and family. But mostly, I hope the promise of the resurrection will be alive in your heart.
*Name has been changed
**Background photo by Jeffrey Jacobs of Pixabay