I loved my Mom but our relationship was challenging. She was raised in a family where love was not expressed. She could be very negative and her comments had stung me over the years. I knew that she loved me fiercely but I will admit that I grieved for a more gracious expression of her love. My Mom could be really difficult.
As her health declined I prayed that her relationship with God would be clear to her and to her family. Last summer I journeyed to Ohio to visit her. A group of Christian friends in Texas told me they would pray that I could discuss salvation with my Mom. I thanked them for their concern but in my heart I felt they were naive. They did not know my Mom.
Fast forward a few days as I am sitting with my Mom. The conversation is mundane. Out of nowhere she dropped this bombshell.
"How can you be sure that you are going to heaven?"
You could have knocked me over with a feather and I immediately thought of those saints in Texas praying for exactly this moment. And I felt a bit of shame because I was the naive one who doubted the power of prayer. I shared the gospel with my Mom. She assured me that she had trusted Christ as her Savior. The next question was nearly as surprising.
"What if you trusted Christ but haven't lived it?"
Wow. What do you say to that? I chose to tell her the truth. That she was a child of God but she had forfeited a lot of joy by not walking more faithfully with Him. She had likely missed chances to serve and probably many blessings the Lord had desired her to experience. Still, there was a nagging question in my mind that I lacked the courage to address. I knew there were people who had hurt my Mom deeply and she showed no signs of forgiveness. I was fairly certain she would take that bitter anger to her grave.
But Mom took those comments about living for Jesus to heart. She chose to try to live for Him with the rest of her days. She told my niece that she had prayed more in the last year than she had in her whole life. She regularly asked me to pray for her and told me she was praying for me and especially for Joni as my bride battled breast cancer.
My Mom began to regularly tell me she loved me. That was something you didn't say in her family. You were just supposed to know it. A few weeks ago she told me she was sorry if she had hurt me with her words or actions. That was the first time I had heard those words from my Mom in 53 years. It was a powerful moment of grace and reconciliation between us. When I saw her last week she kissed me and said, "you don't know how much you mean to me." But she was wrong. I finally did.
But the real miracle happened in her last days. My niece asked Mom about a woman she had felt so much bitterness and hatred toward. When I was told about her response the words sent chills through me.
"Oh honey. That was in the past. I have forgiven her."
What irony that I have been writing about forgiveness and my Mom gave me a miracle of forgiveness as her final gift. Forgiveness can happen. It is never too late. For those who think they cannot forgive I will tell you that with God it is possible. I have witnessed a miracle to start the New Year. I am saddened that my Mom is gone but I am rejoicing in her victory. She was able to lay her burdens at the foot of the Cross and pass unencumbered into the presence of the Lord. I praise God that I have not lost my Mom. Nope. Now I know exactly where she is.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com