When troubled, discouraged, even depressed, by negative events in my teenage life, my always cup-half-full mother would sometimes offer, “Just remember, above the clouds the sun is always shining.” At the time it seemed too fanciful for my reality. Yet, it was her artistic way of addressing my darkened perspective that was in need of change.
In later years of adulthood I would recall the wisdom of those words while preparing to take off in a plane under an overcast ceiling. After a seemingly long wait on the runway, I would finally lift up, away from the ground, soon breaking through the gloomy clouds into glorious sunlight and bright blue skies. Yes, my day would take on a whole new perspective! Hope. Mom, of course, was right.
As my mother advanced into her waning years, often with a smile, she would make hand motions like a bird flying. With her extended hands overlapping (palms down, right and left thumbs flapping like wings) she would gradually soar upward as in flight.
While listening to one of her favorite hymns, “I’ll Fly Away, Mom would often make that familiar motion. To her it was a symbol of the promise given her by God, to one who’s faith was in Jesus Christ. It gave her hope-filled perspective. Indeed it was her ever-increasing longing as the weight and wear of each day reduced her strength. But not so her song! One glad day she would fly away.
Mid summer, eight months past my mother’s 100th birthday, that “glad day” finally came. While skies outside were overcast with intermittent rain showers watering the earth, she let go of her gathered loved ones, and yielding her soul, breathed her last breath – her life over.
I was not present with Mom when she died, but earlier at her bedside had given her my final goodbye-kiss and prayer. It was just as many other precious times throughout the years. This time my decision was to be present with my own about-to-leave family, overlapped by my justarriving-extended family. We were all gathered at the place Mom most loved; the place where she most wanted to be – the Camp at the Lake. “My real home” she would lovingly call it. She often expressed that it gave her great joy knowing that someone in her family was actually out there enjoying it, even if she could not.
On our final full day of a week’s stay out there, we were packing and cleaning up. The following morning we would be leaving early for the long drive back to Maine. Outwardly I was conflicted as to were a loving son should be at such a time. Inwardly though, it seemed right for me to be exactly where my loving mother would want me to be, especially when the anticipated call might come. That afternoon, it did. My nephew informed me that, while he and family were there with her, Mom passed away.
After interrupting the lively camp activity to let everyone know the news, I deeply desired to just go out on the front porch of the camp to process this surreal, sorrowful yet special moment, alone. So I went out and sat down in Mom’s old porch rocking chair. Over the years she had rocked there peacefully for hours, alone. From that advantage, through familiar tree branches with afternoon backlit cover, would be the treasured view of the sparkling lake below. Perfect!
But the pall of overhead cloud-cover, overwhelmed and dulled my mind. What I had hoped for, obviously was not going to happen – not perfect! Frustration, discouragement, and perhaps depression settled in, joining with looming grief. Rather than restful: “being” with eyes and heart open, I was restless: “doing” with eyes and heart closed. I picked up my cell phone, and intently began texting those wanting to know about my mother. I was the cup-half-empty son.
A dear friend and neighbor over years of shared lake life, knew better for me. While leaving, she and her husband came out on the porch to express final sentiments to me and for Mom, who was integral to their own family at the Lake. But upon finding me head down, fixated on my phone, she paused… With strong insistence of voice, she said that this time should be time solely for me and no other. Then with gentle firmness of hand, directed me to hand her my phone, and placed it just out of reach, because it was best for me to contact others later. I reluctantly conceded. Then moments after, something quite unexpected and unforgettably extraordinary, happened.
The rain clouds overhead briefly parted, and a ray of sunlight gloriously broke through. It shone directly on our side of the lake, on our camp, on our porch, and on my upturned face. “Are you seeing this!?”, breathed my friend. “I am!” I whispered, still looking upward. Then, as briefly as it appeared the cloud’s portal closed, and the beam of sunlight disappeared.
Just remember, above the clouds the sun is always shining. Those words of my mother immediately came to mind. My perspective changed, and with it came Hope.
A Divinely orchestrated event? I believe so. Rather than merely a coincidence, I consider it a heavenly confirmation. Better perspective renews Hope! The Lord’s hand surely was right with my mother when she passed away. As was promised, she departed from her old earthly home, right on schedule, to arrive at her new heavenly one. “I’ll fly away” became Mom’s swan song.
Photo by Petr Ganaj.