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Absent From The Body

My Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just a few short months ago. Despite my aunt’s continual efforts to study up and get her to the best doctors, and even after a completely successful operation at Johns Hopkins, a short time later the cancer went to her liver.

Mom came to our house after that, to juice vegetables, to eat a raw food diet. In the end it didn’t cure her, but she never went through the uglier symptoms usually associated with liver failure – vomiting, and extreme pain. Her end was peaceful and with relatively little pain, which my aunt attributed to raw food and juicing.

Beyond bodily illness, psychologically and spiritually it was a great gift to have her there sitting at my table every day, reading the Word together, talking, laughing. It was healing for me, and I know for Mom as well, on a level beyond the physical. God brought us a closeness in those last weeks that I will always treasure.

In late October three of my cousins flew to North Carolina, where my aunt and uncle and Mom live. We loaded Mom into a padded and blanketed nest in the back of the van on a Thursday; she had been getting weaker in the past few days and couldn’t make the whole trip sitting up.

The visit in North Carolina was deep and rich and hilarious; to have a bunch of us together again after such a long time apart was healing, strengthening. It was over all too soon, and on Sunday and Monday my cousins said their goodbyes to us all, and especially to Mom.

After that she went downhill fast. On Tuesday hospice set up the mechanical bed.

Her passing the next day was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I had been playing guitar hymns for her that morning, and her breaths were getting more and more shallow, eyes half open and not looking at anything in particular. I called my aunt when her breathing changed, and told Mom that Jesus was going to come for her soon, that she needed to go with Him, that indescribable glory beyond anything she’d ever experienced was waiting for her.

My aunt and uncle arrived, and for the last twenty minutes of Mom’s life my aunt laid behind her on the bed, hugging her; my uncle stood directly behind his wife; my wife Sandra sat next to me and held Mom’s hand as I held Mom’s cheek and forehead with my hands and looked straight into her eyes. We prayed, sang hymns, and told her to go with Jesus when the time came. She had been breathing through her mouth for awhile, and her breaths weren’t going down into her lungs much anymore.

We were in the middle of singing “Jesus Loves Me” when Mom opened both of her blue eyes wide, and she looked above my head and past me. She held her gaze there, in wide-eyed wonder, for about twenty seconds, then closed them both shut and smiled a big smile. At that moment Sandra told my uncle, “Feel the goose bumps on her arms.”

Her body lived for less than a minute more, but I know she left her body with the blue-eyed wonder, that smile, and those goose bumps. I saw no fear, only amazement and joy in her eyes. She reveled in His glory, felt the thrill in her body, smiled like a lamb, and took His hand. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Joyce Marilyn Block: Sept 1, 1940 – Oct 21, 2009

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