My mother has been gone for ten years now, but I think about her all the time – maybe even more so at Easter.
And maybe that’s because she blessed us at the moment of her death with an inexplicable sign of the eternal life that is to come.
Born into a middle-class family in Jersey City, NJ., Joan Cummings (along with my dad), instilled in us an awe, appreciation and wonder considering the majesty and sacredness of Holy Week and Easter Sunday. If the doors of the church were open, we were there.
The week held a sacred rhythm – from the celebratory procession of Palm Sunday, the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday, the soberness of Good Friday – to the mighty celebration of Easter Sunday.
But the pomp and pageantry of this special season extends well beyond the aesthetics. I love the Easter lilies and all music – but even as a youngster, I was drawn to the miraculous story of the most remarkable morning that has ever dawned.
Jesus really did rise from the dead on that Sunday following His brutal and deadly crucifixion on Friday.
It really did happen. There were witnesses! Over 500 people saw Him at the same time. Countless others encountered Him before His ascension 40 days later.
Like many children, I was convicted of this truth as a young boy. Over the years, my belief has only strengthened.
But something else happened ten years ago that provided an additional glimpse of the glory to come.
Just eight days since her 80th birthday, my mother lay dying in a Texas hospice facility. It was the morning of January 12, 2012. She shared with a chaplain that she was ready to go and meet Jesus. They read the 23rd Psalm together. “It sounds like it’s time for you to enjoy those green pastures, Joan,” Danny Mize told her. She remarked how peaceful she felt. Later that afternoon, she slipped into a deep slumber. Her body was shutting down. The doctor and nurses advised it wouldn’t be long.
But then something happened. My mother, a normally quiet and reserved woman, opened her eyes and looked up. She smiled and then took her right arm and stretched it upward in dramatic fashion, as if reaching for someone else’s hand. Within just seconds, she was gone.
What and who did my mother see? Who was she reaching for?
I think I know. I know I know.
Beyond the pretty bonnets and bows, the chocolate bunnies and jellybeans, is the true meaning of Easter. Jesus Christ died for you and for me. But He didn’t only bleed and die. He also rose from the dead – reminding us that life with Him goes on and on and on in Glory.
When my father died five years later, I was holding his hand. I had hoped for a similar experience – but there was no such dramatic moment. He never opened his eyes or reached upward like my mother. His pulse simply slowed, and his breathing drew shallow. And then he was gone.
He was gone – but we knew where he went.
If you want to know with assurance what your eternal future holds – just hold onto Jesus.
That’s because “He is not here. He has risen” (Luke 24:6-7).
“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus told Martha. “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).
Photo from Shutterstock.