On a June day in 1983, my mother died. She had been sick for 20 years. She had a neurological disorder—multiple sclerosis—that finally caught up with her. Near the end, she had a hard time talking and eating. One day she aspirated some food and was rushed to a hospital. She suffered brain damage. A few days later, she was gone.
It was a Sunday afternoon when the call came from my dad. It was one of the few times in my life that I ever heard my father cry. I was 25 years old.
My mother was a woman of great faith, and she suffered many years with her illness without complaint. I mean that. I don’t ever remember hearing her complain. Her example was unforgettable to me.
I did remember, however, hearing her swear once. I thought my mom was a candidate for sainthood, so I was a bit surprised to hear her use off-color language. I said, “Mom!” And she said in reply, “Oh, shut up you holier-than-thou Mormon rascal!” I laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed. I am still laughing, all these years later.
We had a death in our ward this week, on Monday. The man was a quadriplegic like my mother, and I was amazed at how similar his death was to my mother’s. It was close to home. I saw him the day before he died, just like my mom.
My mom was not alert, but when I touched her, she opened her eyes and looked at me for a few moments. I told her that I loved her. She could not talk. I cannot prove it, but I believe she knew I was there. Human touch and heartfelt words are powerful things.
The same thing happened with Charlie. I sat on his bed. He responded when I touched him. He opened his eyes for a few moments and he looked at me. I told him that I loved him. Maybe it was my imagination, but I think he knew I was there, that I was bidding him farewell.
I know my mom was not perfect, but I know she was well prepared to meet her Heavenly Father when she died. Charlie had lots of concerns and regrets. He confided in me as his bishop. But I also know that he, too, was ready to meet his Father in Heaven. There was a great peace there when I was with him Sunday night. It felt like angels were present.
This has been on mind all week. I want to be better prepared to go when my time comes. Am I now? No. I have a lot of things to sort out. But I must live each day like it was my last. I don’t want to leave anything undone. I want to be square with every one and square with my Maker. That’s what I want to be.