5 Months Ago…

Five months ago today I said goodbye to my mother at Memorial Hospital in Springfield, IL. She passed peacefully into the arms of Jesus.

It had been a moment that I had prayed about for several years as I watched my mother’s health decline, and then exponentially degrade over the last 2-3 years. I prayed for her healing, but I also knew that this moment would come, where she would pass from this life and into the presence of the King of Kings, and He would make her whole.

My heart was broken in December as we were gathered around her bed in ICU, but I had been prepared emotionally and mentally for her death for a long time.

It seems odd to say I was “prepared,” but when you see something coming, you begin to prepare yourself.  I know my mother suffered on a daily basis and I longed for the suffering to cease. The only way for it to cease would be to be in the face-to-face presence of Jesus.

What I wasn’t prepared for was this cloud, this feeling of melancholy, and the weight of life on my shoulders. I can’t seem to shake it. The cloud has followed me for the last 5 months.

Tuesday, May 13th

Church Directory Photo (1982)
Church Directory Photo (1982)

Last night I was leaving church from a class I had been attending. I turned the radio off and was in a “spirit of prayer” (in other words – thinking, praying, reflecting, praying, wondering, praying, being silent). My mother came to mind and I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “The reason you have been feeling despondent for the last 5 months, is with the death of your mother, the chapter of your childhood has now closed.”

It’s true.

While I had been emotionally prepared for her passing for quite a while, even at the age of 48 (gonna be 49 in less than 2 weeks), you are always a child in the presence of your mother.

That presence is gone, which is a normal passage of life, I know, but I hadn’t realized it in quite this way before.

Good Memories

I have plenty of great memories of being the son of Susan Niccolls.

Every Friday night my mother would make popcorn, my sister and I would spread the old quilt out on the floor in front of the TV, pop the caps of the glass bottles of Pepsi, and watch Love American Style, Laugh-In, Bob Newhart, The Brady Bunch, Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family, and the Carol Burnett Show. We did this for years.

I remember in my early teens my mother grabbing a couple of fishing poles (I don’t know where she got them), driving by the bait shop on Wabash Ave., and buying a handful of white marabou jigs (how she knew to buy those I don’t know). We drove out to Lake Springfield, pulled alongside the road, and began fishing under the Steel Bridge. We began casting under the bridge. Three hours later my mom and I walked back to the car with about 70 crappie. Not bad for a first day of fishing.

At the airport before I left for Africa
At the airport before I left for Africa

Mom took me to my first Cardinals baseball game. I got to see greats such as Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ted Simmons, Ozzie Smith, and even got to see Bob Forsch pitch a no-hitter.

Mom got me to church, youth group, church camp, Bible Bowl, and different church events. She was there to help guide my sister and I as we accepted Christ in the mid-70’s.

There is no greater cheerleader than your mother when you tell her you believe God is leading you to Bible college, as you walk across the stage and graduate, and as she drives you to Capital Airport to see you off to Zaire, Africa for 3 months.

I remember introducing my girlfriend to my mother for the first time. She told me, “I like her. She’s cute!” Over the next several months, Traci and my mother grew closer, and my mother asked me, “Is she the one?” About 26 years ago I got down on my knee in my mother’s living room (my mother was not at home), and I asked Traci to marry me. My mother was thrilled to welcome Traci as her daughter and her friend.

Being Grandma
Being Grandma

I watched my mother become a grandmother to my sister’s children, and then to mine. Being a grandmother was perfect for her.

My mother became “Mom” to groups of high schoolers as they passed through Southside Christian Church, as well as to groups of girls who would come over to her home for Bible studies. She was always “Mom” to all my friends.

As I left for Africa with my family in 1996, my number one supporter was my mother. She hated to see us leave, but she couldn’t have been more proud of us. Six months later, as we arrived back home from Africa, lost, defeated, and beat up, there was no one who loved us more than her. She didn’t judge us. She listened and loved us and let us know it was going to be okay.

I’m not sure I was always the best son, but I know she was always the best mother.

She forgave, had a short memory of my indiscretions, filled me with courage, hope, love, belief, and gave her all to my sister and I, as well as my wife and the five grandkids.

Closing The Chapter

Maybe now that I realize what has taken place, the melancholy cloud will lift. I believe it will.

Till this point, there has always been a generation ahead of me. When I was young, there were as many as 3 generations ahead of me. Time has removed them all.

My sister and I are moving into that slot – the oldest generation for our family. I’m not really excited about it, and thus, my childhood is nothing but a memory.

There’s no one I can reach out to call “Mom,” and she cannot call me “son.”

That’s fine.

I’m okay with that.

I have my memories of my childhood. I can always go back and read that chapter.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Mom, at home, always with a smile.
Mom, at home, always with a smile.

The answer is obvious. I move on. I make sure I lead my family with the example that was before me.

That is my only choice.

Yes, I miss my mother, but it’s time for the sun to shine, the clouds to part, for melancholy to be replaced by joy.

She would have expected it, and my wife and kids deserve nothing less.

I don’t want to sound like I have been this gloomy, depressed blob unable to function. I have functioned, but life is more than functioning.

We write several books throughout our lives. Some books are short; others long. Every book has its chapters. By God’s grace, the next chapter of this particular book will be just as extraordinary.

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