A half hour into the date of February 27, 2015 my Mom walked into the arms of Jesus. A chapter of my life closed.
She’d been in and out of the hospital several times over the past few years, so when she was taken back there Sunday the 22nd everyone assumed she’d return home. She did, but for the last time under hospice care.
I talked with my youngest sister, Lora, Wednesday evening. They decided to try one more drug on her to see if her blood pressure would increase over night. She seemed to perk up just after they gave it to her. Everyone went home and assumed the best. I went to work Thursday and prayed while I drove.
By the time I received word of what had transpired over night hospice had called for a family meeting at noon. Mom had given the “Do not resuscitate order” and wanted to go home. Each of her five siblings had a chance to call and say their farewells.
When I called to get a report near the end of my work day mom was slipping fast. I was now grateful my obstinate former employer fired me so I could be home for Christmas two months ago. I sent a message to Lora that they read to Mom before she drifted off to sleep for the last time. In it I said she had a “Well done, good and faithful servant” waiting her soon. She smiled.
It took a day and a half to drive from Texas to Michigan. The solitude was a tonic. I relived some memories, soaked some tissues, checked facebook for comments, pictures and more memories from others.
When I stopped for the night the temperature was near zero. I found a notebook and filled three pages with thoughts I hoped to share at some point. I was at my brother Mike’s home in time for lunch. We ventured over to the farm house in the afternoon.
After supper we excused all but Mom’s children in attendance. Six out of seven of us sat around the dining table gathering our thoughts we wished to share with everyone at the funeral service. I was called on to give the talk. It was an extreme honor.
I set out the tiny recorder I bought for potential interviews for my writing life. It was a treat listening to the two hours where we did more laughing than talking. My first page of initial notes was the only change I made to my thoughts on Friday evening.
I recorded the talk I gave for Mom, but haven’t been able to figure out how to get it put on the blog here. So, I’ll transcribe what I said for y’all to enjoy. Yeah, there was a lot of laughter in Mom’s home church.
My mouth was so dry by the end of the talk it likely will come across better in writing anyway. Here goes:
Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Good Morning!
How would you like to have to endure that greeting to begin every one of your school days as a child growing up? That’s how Mom woke us up each morning.
This simple woman touched many lives deeply because of her heart of love and compassion.
You only get one time, one trip, one journey through this life. I know my life has been one incredible trip so far. I owe a lot of that to the woman we’re honoring here today.
If you don’t think our Mom had a sense of humor then you’re talking about a different Joan Webster. She made it her goal to get everyone she came in contact with to laugh.
I admit it, sometimes her humor was annoying. Like when I’d call from Texas and ask the standard question, “How do you feel?” Her standard response was always, “With my fingers.”
So I’d try again and get the same response. I finally realized I had two options. I could hang up and call someone else’s mom, or I could rephrase my question.
Pastor brought up already that you never wanted to approach her with the basic greeting, “Hi.” She’d always reply, “I take drugs, but I’m not high.”
And if you ever made the mistake of telling her you were planning on running to the store, or town, to get something, she’d tell you to take the car, it’s so much easier.
Then there was the time she told one of the grandkids she had a pain in the neck even though she no longer had a husband.
Her parents at one point bought forty acres in rural Michigan that they would later sell to her future in-laws. I don’t think anybody knew that was the arrangement God had in mind.
As she grew up as a girl there was this carrot-topped guy who grew up a half-mile down the road from her. There’s a picture of the two of them in a buggy as children.
When she discovered her classmates in California, where she moved to, were corresponding with men in the service, she began writing to Marvin in Germany. During that time he in his own quiet way proposed to her in a letter.
The story I got was, when she read that. Her Mom ran around the house saying, “She got her first proposal. She got her first proposal.”
I don’t know how many proposals she expected her eldest daughter to receive, but she took the first one.
Dad purchased a wedding ring at the Army PX. It had one bigger diamond surrounded by seven smaller ones. Over the course of time the seven small diamonds fell out. Mom realized they were each replaced by a child. Because the only verses I think my Dad ever applied in his life were the ones that say, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Since there’s only nine years between Greg and Lora it means Mom basically spent the first decade of her married life pregnant.
When I was driving here from the Dallas area I didn’t listen to the radio very much, but I did catch one song by Sidewalk Prophets. The lyrics that caught my ear were, “All I know is I’m not home yet. This is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus. This world is not my home.”
She knew she was ready to go and now she’s Home.
Before I left Texas I tweeted–Yes, on my phone while I was driving, even though I know that’s wrong–Heaven is our home with an eternal hello.
I don’t know how many of you noticed, but there’s about a two year gap between Greg and Deb. It’s not because of any lack of effort by Marvin. There actually was another egg impregnated by him that she miscarried. I wonder if Jesus handed her an infant, of if she got to hug the adult version of that child.
(I wanted to suggest that my writer’s imagination thinks perhaps she held the infant, then as she closed her eyes a lifetime of memories filled her thoughts. Then as she opened her eyes she embraced the adult she now fully knew)
I asked her once why she named me Wade. It’s an interesting story actually. Fifty four years ago she carried this bundle of joy in her womb for ten months. She said, “As close as she could tell it was as close as they could come to ‘Wait’.”
I was due to be born in February. She said she’d go to bed every night and start to get a few cramps and wondered if this would be the night they’d go to the hospital.
You know when I was finally born…March 21st, the first day of Spring. Now that I live in Texas I figured it out. I never have liked winter. Since I had to drive back into snow for this I realize she getting back at me.
Of course us kids were never perfect little angels, as much as we’d like to think we were. We’d leave the door open like anyone else. To which she’d give the basic parental response, “Were you born in the barn or what?”
To which we’d reply, “No, but Jesus was and you’re always telling us we’re supposed to become more like Him.”
Yeah, she knew we had her on that one. Yes, we did drive her to a clinical nervous breakdown.
Coming through high school she knew she wasn’t exactly college material. She said many of her teachers passed her with D’s just to move her on to the next grade. Being the first born of six kids she did know she was good at taking care of babies and children. So, she took all the home ec classes she could and later got involved with Child Evangelism Fellowship to introduce as many kids to Jesus as she could.
I wonder how many people were waiting for her when she got into heaven to thank her for introducing them to Him.
She liked to mentor a lot. One day a neighbor family had a son get married to a gal who didn’t know how to bake, so Mom went over there and taught her how to bake bread. The next day Mom goes over there and the gal was making raised doughnuts. She asked Mom, “Did I do good on these?”
Mom said, “I haven’t even made those. You did great.” So Mom came home and had to make raised doughnuts after that.
I’ll never forget the time–I think it was when her birthday fell on a Sunday–the people at Croton Community Church gave her a plaque to thank her for all she did there. It says, “Only one life t’will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
She got involved in the Foster Grandmother Program to help young women who she realized didn’t have mothers who taught them how to bake and do other housekeeping tasks. It also brought in a bit of an income, but because it was government sponsored she wasn’t allowed to bring Jesus up in their conversations. I don’t have that restriction on me now.
Jesus was the ultimate reason she helped others. She responded like Jesus did in meeting a need to open the door to see your spiritual need. That’s the way God works. He knew the relationship with people was broken by sin in the Garden of Eden. That’s why He ultimately came to earth as the man, Jesus, who died on the cross to be our replacement for sin’s penalty.
We’re called to pass this news on to others the best we can. Mom did that well. She stepped in to fill a gap just as Jesus stepped in to fill our gap with God. Because we can’t reach God’s level of perfection on our own efforts. This is the only way we can be adopted into God’s spiritual family, but He leaves that last step up to us.
So for any of you who want to see Joan again you must admit your weakness and inability to reach God on your own efforts and accept Jesus’ death on the cross as being what needed to be done for you and that His resurrection from the dead was proof He overcame the ultimate enemy.
So, if any of you are here without a personal relationship with God I invite you to do that right now. Please bow your heads with me.
Dear Heavenly Father, we come to You now remembering a remarkable woman who gave her life to You by living for others. I pray You will open our hearts now and help those of us who don’t have that relationship she had with You that they’ll take Your gift right now.
If you feel that tug on your heart then just say this simple prayer in your heart. “God, I know I can never reach Your level on my own. I thank You for coming down and being my substitute. I take that now so I can have that same relationship with You that Joan did.
I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen
We didn’t have many traditions, but there is one we developed as children. Growing up on the farm we’d get sweaty from haying and Mom would take us swimming. One time she voiced that she didn’t feel we appreciated her effort enough. So, us siblings developed a ritual as we were leaving Sandy Beach. (We’ll see if we can pull this off) One of us would call out, “One, two three.”
(everyone yelled out) THANK YOU MOM!
I thank you, Mom for the incredible woman that you were. Thank You, God for giving us Joan as our Mom.
I’ll see you later. Wade