If you’re anything like me, you believe the promise of salvation in the Scriptures and you are not afraid of death. One day we believers will be alive in Christ Jesus, forever. Amen.
The Darkness Before The Dawn
The darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is December 21. The day of the year with the least hours of daylight.
December 21st is also the day my mother passed from this life into bodily death. I believe her soul is with God because she believed with all her heart that Jesus, the Son of God, was her Savior.
My mother suffered a LOT of pain in the years leading to her death. She slipped on the floor of a shower at a campground and hit her head on the shower tiles. For the rest of her life, she was never the same.
One cold February day, I called to say, “Happy birthday!” My dad said that when he took her to town for a birthday dessert, she was completely unaware that one shoe was missing… even though it was freezing cold outside and she was standing on sharp gravel.
Wow. She didn’t know she was missing a shoe – and she was standing on cold, sharp gravel.
Diabetic Neuropathy? Dementia? As far as I know, yes and yes. Anything else? I don’t know for sure.
There are countless other examples of my mother’s suffering at the hands of pain in her last years. Toward the end, she also fell frequently. My dad was not in any shape to help her up, I’m afraid. (Dad had his own trouble with falling.)
Numerous times she was transported to the hospital – so much so, that she finally had a Do Not Resuscitate order in place.
I lived on the opposite end of our continent, and since flights were not cheap, travel was infrequent, so phone calls were my lifeline.
Hello And Goodbye
When our son was 15 months old, we flew to Washington for a family reunion at my in-laws. Since we had come all this way, we decided to drive to Oregon to do the deed – say goodbye to my mother while she was still living.
My mother had very little hair and had worn a wig for decades. Maybelline made her eyebrows. In the hospital room, she was wigless and bald. Her eyebrows were nearly nonexistent. She was still beautiful.
She held Simon and talked with me for a while. Even though I knew it would be the last time I’d see her alive, it was hard to think of what to say.
One thing I did know: I really wanted a picture of her holding her grandson. She let me wash her face and re-draw her eyebrows. (Not exactly my forte.) I took my last pictures of my mother that day.
That was in July 2002.
Once hospice began that fall, I knew it was a race with time. Time and death. So much left to learn. Stop the clock!
It’s ME… Anna…Your Daughter
I called my mother once to sing her a hymn I knew she liked. “Beautiful Savior.” Not something I do every day. Or ever. I just got up my courage, called her (reminded her who I was), and sang it to her.
On another day, I asked my mother for her secret to the best potato salad in the world – hers. Oh, how I wish I had written it down or even recorded her! I also thought I would recall all her tips on how to make a fall-apart roast. I was wrong. Hers was the best.
One of the most touching phone calls we had was in the fall of 2002. I think that was when we found out about Simon’s asthma. My mother knew who I was that day, and she offered to pray with me for my son. Thanks, Ma! It was the first and only time she ever did that, and it touched my heart.
In her last week, I sent flowers to my mother. I had the florist write on the card:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
The florist delivered them, and Dad read my mother the card. Fred Richardson spoke God’s Word to his wife! Yeah! There is power in the Word!
Rest in the peace of the Lord, Helen Jean Richardson.
February 3, AD 1934 – December 21, AD 2002
One true blessing of my mother’s hospice care was her caregiver. The young woman was bold in the Lord. She did not back down with her witness – not even in the face of Fred J. Richardson, Sr., my father, the atheist. Her bold witness led Christian family members to follow suit.
What did we have to lose? (A dad, a brother, a grandpa – forever.)
I made my dad a Christmas card and wrote out the children’s song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and added “even Grandpa – even Simon,” noting that no matter our ages, we can all become a child of God. Dad was 77 years old.
Dad put that card in a drawer. Didn’t want to see it.
As you would expect, he took it very hard when my mother, his wife Helen, died. Suddenly he was alone. Over 41 years together, and then nothing. The end.
For several days after the funeral, Dad went to visit his only son. Fred Jr.
When he returned home, my sister, Tessie, loved on him and took care of Dad. She became his full-time caregiver. God bless Tessie.
Happy New-Birth Day!
On January 14th, we got a phone call with the best news: The stronghold had been broken, and Dad believed again in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
He knew he was a sinner and had no part in heaven on his own, but that Jesus died and rose again to save (even) my dad from his sins and eternal damnation! Fred J. Richardson, Sr. was BORN AGAIN at age 77! Hallelujah!
I just HAD to visit my new Brother in Christ – my dad! Simon and I flew to Seattle and I drove my sister Beth’s van to Oregon.
My Aunt Helen, Beth, my niece Susie, Susie’s daughter Natalie, Simon, and I all went down to greet Dad one last time. Uncle Charlie and Aunt Pat drove down to see him, too.
It was good to go as a big group to hug Dad and let him hug and kiss his grandson and great-granddaughter.
While I was on the plane, I wrote out some things I wanted to thank him for. I didn’t want him to die without knowing I was grateful. Yes, we knew he was dying.
Beth had a chance to cook for Dad. He wanted Creamed Peas, Pearl Onions, and New Potatoes. He got it!
Beth also got the chance to sit with Dad and watch videos of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson – and laugh, laugh, LAUGH with Dad! What a gift!
Two of my dad’s siblings, his sister-in-law, three of his daughters, a son-in-law, three grandsons, and a great-granddaughter were all in the room when Dad asked if we could “have a word of prayer.” Could we ever!
Someone took the Christmas card I sent and taped it to the wall of Dad’s bedroom. Pointing to the picture on the card, my nephew asked, “Grandpa, who is that?”
His grandpa, my dad, Fred J. Richardson answered, “That’s my Lord!”
Take That, Fear!
There was a time when my biggest fear was that my dad would not go to heaven – that he would die an unbeliever and spend eternity in hell, separated from God. One of the teens in our Youth Group in Mississippi asked me what my biggest fear was, and I told them. It felt awful to say it out loud, but it was true.
Well, since God has taken away my biggest fear, what else can there possibly be to fear? God softened the heart of a man who’d been bitterly angry with Him for decades.
Dad had always rejected any talk of Jesus. On rare occasions, he went to church with us, especially if it was the first Sunday of the month. (Potluck!)
He read the Bible – several times. He just didn’t think God was right in letting him be so hurt in life. Over and over.
I am forever grateful that Dad’s heart was softened after all, and that I will see him again one day in heaven!
Dad’s last words to me were, “Thank God for Simon!”
I do. Simon is a true miracle of his own – another Tale of a Sonrise Life!
Rest in the peace of the Lord, Frederick Johnston Richardson, Sr.
June 14, AD 1925 – January 24, AD 2003