The Beginning Shall Remind Us of the End: No Longer Homeless

Today is my mother’s birthday,
but she’s not here to celebrate
by opening a flowery card
or looking calmly out a window.

If my mother were alive,
she’d be 114 years old,
and I am guessing neither of us
would be enjoying her birthday very much.

Mother, I would love to see you again
to take you shopping or to sit
in your sunny apartment with a pot of tea,
but it wouldn’t be the same at 114.

And I’m no prize either,
almost 20 years older than the last time
you saw me sitting by your deathbed.
Some days, I look worse than yesterday’s oatmeal.

It must have been frigid that morning
in the hour just before dawn
on your first December 1st
at the family farm a hundred miles north of Toronto
.

Happy Birthday, anyway. Happy Birthday to you.
~Billy Collins from “December 1”

December 1st is not my mother’s birthday but it was her death day thirteen years ago.

Yet it felt a bit like a birth.

The call came from the care center about 5:30 AM on the Monday after Thanksgiving on a frozen morning: the nurse gently said her breathing had changed, it wasn’t long now until she’d be gone.

My daughter and I quickly dressed and went out into bleak darkness to make the ten minute drive to where she lay. Mom had been wearily existing since a femur fracture 9 months earlier on a cruel April 1st morning. Everything changed for her at 87 years of being active at home. It was the beginning of the end for her, unable to care for herself at home.

These nine months had been her gestation time to transition to a new life. It occurred to me as I drove – she was about to be born in her long-awaited yet long-feared transition to death.

Her room was darkened except for the multicolored lights on the table top artificial Christmas tree I had brought her a few days earlier. It cast colorful shadows onto the walls and the white bedspread on her hospital bed. It even made her look like she had color to her cheeks where there actually was none.

There was no one home.

She had already left, flown away while we drove the few miles to come to her. There was no reaching her now. Her skin was cooling, her face hollowed by the lack of effort, her body stilled and sunken.

I could not weep at that point – it was time for her to leave us behind. She was so very tired, so very weary, so very ready for heaven. And I, weary too, felt much like yesterday’s oatmeal, something she actually very much loved during her life, cooking up a big batch a couple times a week, enough to last several days.

I knew, seeing what was left of her there in that bed, Mom was no longer settling for yesterday’s oatmeal and no longer homeless. I knew she now she was present for a feast, would never suffer insomnia again, would no longer be fearful of dying, that her cheeks would be forever full of color.

I knew she had a new beginning: the glory of rebirth thanks to her Savior who had gently taken her by the hand to a land where joy would never end.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Happy December 1st Birthday to you.

I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

God makes us happy as only children can be happy.
God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be –
in our sin, in our suffering and death.
We are no longer alone;
God is with us.
We are no longer homeless;
a bit of the eternal home itself has moved unto us. 
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away

~Albert Brumley

This year’s Barnstorming Advent theme “… the Beginning shall remind us of the End” is taken from the final lines in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees”

A book of beauty in words and photography, available to order here:


6 thoughts on “The Beginning Shall Remind Us of the End: No Longer Homeless

  1. … “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,” 1 Cor 2:9

    Praise be to God for this eternal hope and glory! Even in our darkest moments may we be able to hold this truth in our hearts!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post. It brought to mind my own mum, her December 3 birthday (she would have been 91), and her April 2 death ten years ago in Toronto. In your story I find elements of my own and I am thankful for the reminder, as I am also comforted knowing my mother now rejoices in God’s presence fully healed in body and soul, knowing the real truth and the grace thereof.

    I am certain you do not hear this enough – thank you so much for your daily posts that minister to the hearts of so many, mine included.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the most beautiful, realistic descriptions of death —
    death of a believer in our faith
    and in the end to our human Journey
    toward our final, eternal home.

    Thank you, dear Emily for re-living what must have been (and still is) a sad – but very beautiful –
    time in your life. You know exactly what I mean by that because your healing blog posts continue
    to attest to our common faith in Him in all that he taught and has given to us.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Lovely. Thank you for sharing your last moments with your mother.
    I will think about my father’s rebirth on February 18.
    In his last years, he often called friends on their birthday and sang them “Happy Birthday.”
    I have a recording of a voicemail of him singing “Happy Birthday” to one of our very good friends in 2020.
    It’s a treasure for him and for me.
    I’ll have to sing “Happy BIrthday” to my father on February 18, 2021.
    He will be one year in a place with no pain, and no COVID restrictions.

    Liked by 1 person

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