I had the privilege of seeing son Andrew being born. I understand now why they call it labour. It is an experience that I, as a man, will never understand. It was hard work. I thought of Andrew being born as I saw my mother-in-law dying. As some of you know by now, mum had a bad fall on Tuesday night. She lapsed into unconsciousness soon after the fall. The doctors said that the damage was bad. We went ahead with an operation to relieve the pressure on the brain. She never regained consciousness.
At some point we were told that all that was keeping her going was noradrenaline.
Noradrenaline normally produces effects such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilation of pupils, dilation of air passages in the lungs and narrowing of blood vessels in non-essential organs. This enables the body to perform well in stressful situations. (https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/medicines/100001496.html)
We believed in the ability of God to heal and do great miracles. We were open to all that God wanted to do up till the end. But we also believed that we should not artificially keep the body going when life has essentially ceased. Indeed increasing doses of noradrenaline would cause further damage to the body. And so we decided to stop the noradrenaline. That was Thursday.
Mum passed on on Saturday morning. We were prepared for her to go on Thursday itself. But she always had a strong will. She would go when she was good and ready and not before. Between Thursday and Saturday, two key things also happened. Kelly, son-in-law, had the time to get back from Switzerland to bid her goodbye. And I had the privilege of baptising her. My apologies to my Baptist friends. There was no way I could baptise her by immersion. Somehow I thought Jesus would understand. But I knew that mum was a follower of Jesus.
I witnessed mum’s conversion. Dad, who had held out for so many years, agreed to follow Jesus last year. We went over to St Andrew’s Community Hospital to tell mum. At once she was agreeable to following Jesus. Like many of her generation she didn’t want to go against her husband’s will. But once dad accepted Christ she embraced Him readily. In fact mum had been asking Belinda, my sister-in-law, when she was going to be baptised, just prior to her fall. In the presence of Christ and the angels, and her daughters, I baptised her in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The water glistened on her forehead, a forehead marked by post-op sutures.
Those who have gone down this road will know the scene: many monitors with numbers in various colours, lines moving across the screen in various patterns like screen savers, and the beeps, long and short corresponding to various levels of urgency. We sat with mum glancing at the monitors that sought to summarise her life. We prayed for her. We told her not to worry, that Jesus would take care of her and her family. While all this was going on, the thought struck me — this reminds me of Andrew’s birth. It was hard work, Mum laboured, and in a moment that God had dictated, she died and was born to a life in the direct presence of God.
During her wake, I spoke from the following passage from 2 Corinthians:
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-4 NIV)
Mum’s body was already wearing out before her fall. We may never know why she fell. But her fall expedited the universal physical entropy of all human bodies. It also expedited her journey to God.
When a sudden death happens, the fact registers in our heads but it will take time for the reality to sink into our hearts. One thing we do know for sure — mum has traded in a broken body in anticipation of a perfect body suited for the new heaven and the new earth. And so while we grieve, our hearts are at peace.
I will miss mum. I had great joy regaling her with old Hokkien ditties from Penang and seeing her laugh. Growing old is not for wimps. Her life was getting increasingly harder as time took its toll on mind and body. That is why it felt so good to see her laugh. I will miss mum.