If there was one bit of information you would want to hear from your mom before she died what would it be? Would you want wisdom about how to live a meaningful life? Would you want to be told that you had been a faithful son or daughter? Would you want to know that some past misdeed had been forgiven? Would you want the combination to her safe?
For me, I would want to hear that my mom had placed her faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of her soul.
My mother died a couple weeks ago. She encountered a medical issue that required surgical treatment. The treatment led to complications. My mom never regained her ability to speak or move after the anesthesia wore off. The whole episode thrust my family into the world of physicians, intensive care nurses, respiratory therapists and, finally, hospice workers. It was excruciating to watch one of the most important people in my life waste away and die in a matter of twelve days.
My mom and I had discussed her faith several times before her final illness. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I discussed her faith in her presence. My mom was from a generation that did not like to discuss issues of faith.
Several years ago, my brother and I laid out the gospel to my mom. When we were done, we asked her what she thought. Her response? “I’m not like you guys. I believe what you believe; I just don’t like to talk about it.” The day before her recent surgery, she told me, “I have always figured my life was in God’s hands.” Indeed.
As my mom lay in a hospital bed unable to speak or open her eyes except for a few moments, we wondered what she could hear. Nurse after nurse at the ICU told us, “The hearing is the last thing to go. Keep on talking to her!” Even in the hospice center, as her connection to the earth faded, hospice workers urged us to keep speaking to her.
So, we did. We prayed for her. We prayed with her. We read scripture to her. We laid out God’s gospel. We told her she’d been a good mom. We asked for forgiveness for any of our wrongs toward her. We assured her that she had made it possible for us to get by in this life.
As we went through this, the statement, “The hearing is the last thing to go” echoed through my mind and heart. Could my mom hear us? Could she form a conviction in her heart that she needed the Lord’s salvation?
Jesus often ended his parables with the curious statement, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” The confused disciples asked him why he taught in parables. Jesus reminded them of Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the Israelites, “You will indeed hear but never understand…for this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear.” But Jesus said to those who believed in him, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Though my mom could not verbally respond, I take comfort knowing that some of the last words she heard were these words of Christ from chapter 14 of the Gospel of John:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”