I have now lived my life without a mom for as long as I lived my life with my mom.
My mother, Dorothy S. Plumb, died suddenly at the age of 58 on March 15, 1989. Twenty-five years ago this weekend. She had a valve replaced on her heart, a result of a weakened valve after having rheumatic fever as a child. The doctors told us it should be no problem, and they thought she did great through surgery. But that night after we left the hospital her blood pressure dropped, and human error didn’t catch it in time. We rushed back to the hospital but she had already gone.
The loss was of course layered, huge, deep for each one of us. She was an anchor to me and to many others as well. I still have those odd moments, twenty-some years later, where I almost move towards the phone to call her for a quick piece of advice. Or I feel a physical sensation of pain still because I realize that I can’t pick up the phone and call her. My own girls are pretty perceptive and to some degree recognize this loss in my life. One of them asked me a few days ago if I thought I would probably be gone before her wedding too (it was actually a bit comical as she didn’t know how to talk about death diplomatically so she used the gesture of running her finger across her neck with that grkkkk! sound. I got the picture).
While the loss at times still feels great, I love some of the special moments that surrounded her leaving this earth. Before the anaesthesiologist came to take her the morning of her surgery, she kissed my dad and my three sisters and I, and to me she said, “Sue, no matter what happens, I still want you to go to Japan.” I had been preparing to move here as a single missionary. Those words were gold to me in the months and even years that followed.
And then after she came out of recovery, she was conscious but couldn’t open her eyes. My sister and I were sitting by her bed. It was hard to see her all tubed up and all. So I told her I had recently memorized Psalm 139, and would she like me to recite it? She squeezed my hand yes. So I started in,
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me; you know when I sit down and when I rise up; you understand my thoughts from afar…” And I got down to verse 8: “Where can I go from your presence? Or where I can flee from your spirit? If I ascend to heaven, you are there...”
And these little tears came out of her closed eyes. I had to stop. All three of us were crying. We kissed her cheek, and left the room for my dad to take the final shift. And then we drove home, and got the call…
On her last day on earth, she commissioned me for Japan. And I commissioned her for heaven. What an amazing privilege. It was a long time before I could see it as that, but I know many do not get such an opportunity. It still comforts me, all these years later.
And she left us a letter. I decided tonight that I needed to read it again. She had written it in the hospital before her surgery. We shared parts of it at her funeral; it has encouraged and brought hope to various family and friends over the years. And even now, half a lifetime later, I read this letter and I am anchored again to truth and wisdom, and to the transcendent love of an amazing mom. Here is the last part:
March 13, 1989
…. Stay close to the Lord.
Follow your dreams.
Love and be loved (but love without thought of receiving back).
Be thankful – in all things — with your wills until your emotions catch up.
Make a close relationship with the Lord be your heart’s desire.
Girls, help your daddy in every way you can. You know it’s different for him than for all of you.
I do love you so much. I’ll be waiting for you.
Your honey and your mom.
Stay in the Scriptures. Jn. 14 has always been a favorite of mine. Let the Lord comfort you through it.