This Easter I knelt beside my mother’s bed and sorrowfully listened to her bless me as she bade me farewell. She was convinced she would not live to see another day. She spoke so woefully, it was surreal.
We had placed a day-bed on the balcony for her so she could get some sun as she lay down. On that bright and quiet day, as I knelt beside her, I could feel a light breeze on my bare arms. It was a quiet afternoon, typical of Sunday, but without the sounds of the children playing outside as they had just settled down for lunch. Only moments before I had sent up a lunch tray to mum which had been sent back untouched. She’d had no appetite for a long while and had been slowly wasting away.
Her voice broke as she gave me her last instructions. She spoke in a whisper and I couldn’t help thinking that even the day had hushed to hear her words. The calm around me belied the turmoil within. With unshed tears glistening in my eyes, I felt my heart constrict as grief beckoned to me. As I gazed into mum’s small bright eyes sitting like jewels in her now thin face, I saw fear but I also saw resignation as those jewels pleaded with me to be strong. I knew that it could not end this way and I shut grief out of my mind, out of my heart. It was another battle in this war we had been in for a long time and it was one I was unprepared for. I searched my mind for help, wondering if I should call anyone, then quickly remembered the One who promised that He would fight for me. The battle was His and although I wasn’t, He was prepared, and on the Sunday that we all celebrate His own victory over death, He whispered hope to my weary soul.
Christ’s victory on the cross had been graciously passed on to me. Yes, for in Christ we are victorious and more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) and ‘where o death is your sting?’(1 Corinthians 15:55-57). So on that Easter Sunday, as I knelt by mum’s bed, I wept silent tears, not of grief but of sadness that my dear mother should have had to bear such darkness of the soul. For it is a dark and lonely place where the soul that wrestles with death lingers. My strong mama, my support and encouragement, was weak for a moment and needed my strength. There was no room for grief.
There is no denying that mum is a shadow of her former self. Her skin is darker than it has ever been and there are new wrinkles forming everyday as she seems to fade away. When we look at pictures we took over a year ago, we find very little resemblance to the mum we see now but because we see her every day, we do not have the same shock we see on the faces of her visitors who find the changes in her quite shocking and terrifying.
Cancer is a thief that surely comes ‘to steal, kill and destroy’ (John 10:10). We have fought against its mission to kill my mama for about twenty months now. Every day brings with it new aches, new doubts and new challenges. Just when we are over the lack of appetite, we suffer ascites and water collects so fast it presses on her stomach, leaving no room for food. When we drain the water, there are new pains from the injections on her stomach. Then there is the chemotherapy and all its nasty side effects as well as her shedding skin from a gross lack of protein in her body, which means we need kabiven, a protein administered intravenously. It’s milky white and she hates the smell which comes out in her sweat. There is really nothing wrong with it, its soya, I think, and whatever other pharmaceuticals have been put in it. Drip, drip, drip, it goes and if it’s not kabiven going in then its blood. The blood which gave us such a fright the first time is now welcome because it is such a great benefit to her body.
Blood! Leviticus 17:11 reminds us that ‘life is in the blood’ and we have watched her skin colour turn from ashy grey to brown in a matter of hours as we receive new blood into mum’s body. Blood donation was never something I thought of until my mother needed blood. I was actually privileged to be her first donor. She was terrified when we first went in for blood. Well, we all were. I remember her saying she didn’t want a witch’s blood in her body and she wanted to know the donor. Luckily, she and I share the same blood group and my blood was quickly screened, so she readily accepted it which is how I became her first donor. But was I really? Strangers before me, without knowing to whom their blood would go! Watching the dark red blood flow into mum’s veins, I thought of the so many people who willingly give their own blood for the benefit of people unknown to them and sent heartfelt thanks to the LORD for them. I resolved that I too would donate blood as soon as I could…then the enormity of blood hit me. Jesus gave His blood first! He had to die! How else could we be set free, forgiven and healed?
In Luke 22:20, He said, “this cup is the new covenant of my blood, which is poured out for you.” Not rationed into pints or units, like the blood we so gratefully receive in the hospital, but poured out! Poured out! It was enough and was not given sparingly. The LORD does not speak careless words and for our family in this trying season, it is important that the Blood is enough! There is no more annual sacrifice required of me because Christ poured out His blood “once and for all.” (Hebrews 7:27) the Perfect Sacrifice. His blood doesn’t need to be screened or cross-matched before we can receive it. All we need to do is to accept that it was a free gift and believe in the power of the blood of Jesus, to cleanse, to forgive, to sanctify, to reconcile us to God. That is the same blood that opened the mouth of the grave and the grave could not hold our LORD, our Healer!
In Exodus, the Angel of Death passed over the homes of the LORD’s people because they had the blood of the sacrifice on their door posts. By the blood of the Lamb they overcame, and by the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11). This Easter Sunday, as I knelt by my mother’s bed and listened to her speak what she believed were her final words, I knew where our strength would come from. As I thought of the power of the Blood of Jesus, I knew how I would encourage her. I am thankful for the poured blood of Christ, and for His power over death, and I am thankful that my mother has accepted that the blood was for her victory. I am thankful that she lives, as indeed she should, as a witness to the One who came that she “might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)