I had thought saying goodbye would be the most painful part of letting someone you love go - but then a friend of mine shared with me that not having the opportunity to say goodbye would be far worse.
So looking back at the time we (my dad, my sons and I) had with my mum, I realised that we were lucky to have had multiple opportunities to say goodbye in different ways, and I'd like to share that in this post.
After 4 days in hospital, my mum's body started getting weaker faster. On Monday, August 24th, I knew I had to start telling her everything she needed to hear. That evening though, she was very tired and pretty unresponsive. The only response I received from her when I offered her water, or tried to start a conversation were grunts and mumbles to be quiet and to leave her alone.
I was devastated but with hope in my heart, I prayed by her bedside for 3 solid hours asking God for time with my mum.
A little after midnight, a miracle happened. My mum woke up from a long sleep, and she was the woman she was before she got ill. She had refused food and had stopped eating well for the last couple of days, but that night, her eyes lit up when I mentioned I had bought Thub Thim Krob for her. Although she had physical difficulties swallowing, she was filled with child-like joy when I fed her. And although she could only manage one spoonful, she asked for me to keep the rest aside, believing she could have more later.
God had heard my prayers, and He graciously gave me 2 wonderful hours with my mum. That night, we talked, confided, joked, laughed and made so much noise that brought two nurses into my mum's ward as they had thought I had friends over and was having a party. Boy, were they shocked to see my mum so alert and full of life! Thank goodness they came in, as I now have witnesses who also took photos to prove that night wasn't just a beautiful dream.
That night, I managed to tell my mum everything she needed to hear - about how she is so cherished and loved by her family; about the impact she has on our lives; about the legacy she will leave behind. And that conversation in the wee hours of Tuesday, August 25th was my mum's last conversation in her life, and I am so privileged that it was with me.
As I saw her getting tired after we had talked non-stop for 2 hours and it was already past 2 a.m. in the morning, I told her she could rest. When I wished her goodnight, I knew deep down, it was goodbye.
My mum's health took a nosedive the next day. She no longer spoke and could express her thoughts and feelings to us with just her eyes and mouth gestures, which drained her with every effort.
However, my mum surprised us all on the morning of Wednesday, August 26th when she called out to my dad in the most gentle and sweetest voice. As my dad rushed to her side, she gave him the most beautiful and loving smile.
That was the last word she said in her life.
Joshua wrote a song for my mum on Thursday evening, August 27th, and Caleb sang it to her on Friday morning, August 28th.
It wasn't completely original as it had many elements from Nat King Cole's "L-O-V-E", but the thought, emotions and love that emanate from from my 15- and 14-year-old were beyond belief. My mum would have loved it so much, just like she loved them and everything they did, unconditionally.
My mum left us on Saturday afternoon, August 29th, with my dad, my sons and I at her bedside assuring her she'd never be alone, and that we'd see her again in the heavenly kingdom of God.
On Sunday evening, August 30th, friends and family said their goodbyes to her during her wake service.
On Monday morning, August 31st, my dad, my sons and I said our goodbyes to my mum before she left home for the final time, with a song we unanimously agreed best describes who she is to us:
Only you can make all this world seem right, Only you can make the darkness bright, Only you and you alone, Can thrill me like you do, And fill my heart with love for only you...
Only you can make all this change in me, For it's true, you are my destiny, When you hold my hand, I understand the magic that you do, You're my dream come true, My one and only you...
Even though my mum is no longer physically with us, she will always hold a place in our hearts that no one else will ever fill.
Saying goodbye before she leaves home for the final time:
At my mum's wake service on Sunday, August 30th, Reverend Shearn Sya talked about the two silver linings of death as described in Isaiah 57:1-2.
Firstly, that death is not meaningless. Death is not merely a result of random acts occurring, nor is it the culmination of mysterious forces that we try to control. Death is entirely in the hands of God, the source of all life, and with God, no death is ever meaningless.
The second silver lining of death is entering into peace and finding rest. My mum was assured of her true home as a citizen of heaven when she put her faith in Jesus, and on Saturday, August 29th, she entered into peace and found rest from this world. She was finally free from all illness, and free from all other things that prevent true peace and rest in this world.
And that is why we should not despair - because what followers of Jesus experience after death is really what is ultimately good for them - an eternal life full of joy in God's presence.
Naturally, we, who remain, will experience the loss of their company, and we will grieve for that - but we do not grieve without hope. We grieve temporarily until we see them again in heaven.
And so with that, I will take comfort with the assurance that my mum, through her faith in Jesus, has entered into peace and has found rest - and this "Goodbye" is more of a "Till we meet again".
Isaiah 57:1-2 (New International Version)
"The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death."