The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


May 28, 2008

Making a life transition

I spent two days with my mother in Iowa over the weekend. I've written before about her being in a care center under hospice care now. She slept much of the time I was there, though we did have a few minutes of conversation here and there. I could barely hear her when she spoke. But I'm sure she knew I was there with her as she slept. I hope that presence was assuring to her. In any case, it was important time for me—to pray and to reflect on Mom's life.

It was when I read Psalm 23 and said the Lord's Prayer that she became most animated. She repeated both of them quietly and very slowly with me. It made me realize the importance of all that memorization we did back when I was in confirmation class. Mom surely did it when she was young too,albeit in Norwegian! But these Scripture passages and prayers go deep. Even when her dementia has robbed her of many other abilities and memories, the language of faith is still there for her.

How important that is to all life transitions—but particularly to this final transition as she seems to be moving slowly but surely from life to New Life.

The hospice social worker told me that Mom was responding well to music therapy—where a woman from a nearby city comes with her harp to play a variety of music for Mom. Mom always has loved music so this too speaks to her. Hearing this called to mind a story we ran in The Lutheran in 2006: "A gentle cradle of sound."   Music and the language of faith. How important such things can be as we engage the holy work of life transitions.

Mom's eyes don't permit her to see much at all anymore. But my sister and I had hung pictures of our children and of my grandchildren on her walls. She can see they are there, even though she can't see details; and she speaks of being surrounded by a family that loves her. Another bit of grace for her as she moves into what appears to be her final journey. Mom, I am so glad all of these things still reach you—those and our hugs and "I love you's."

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