As the phone rang at 5 a.m. I wondered if this was it — the expected, yet unwanted phone call. It was. At 91 years of age, my husband’s mom, Opal, went to bed last Sunday evening and simply awakened on the other side of the veil.
In her latter years, on two separate occasions, Opal lived with us, due to her declining physical and mental health. Dementia was taking it’s toll on her mind and it was difficult watching her daily fight to retain her memory. Often she would spend the entire day piecing together her genealogy and then writing it multiple times in an effort to preserve it. Throughout her quest she needed answers regarding who was still alive and to whom she belonged or had been married to and who her children, grandchildren and friends were. Some days she knew she was living with us and other days she was back in her own home wondering where her wonderful husband, Lloyd had gone. A sense of longing and sadness accompanied this disease and throughout her struggle I began to understand a unique truth.
You see, the memories concerning our relationships to parents, siblings, spouses, children and grandchildren are what make us who we are now. As Opal slowly lost those memories, she also lost her identity. Her place in life was established by who she knew and loved and by those who knew and loved her. Her “people” were the most important part of her life, and as the years went by and the ability to remember them faded — so did she.
There is a phrase found in the Old Testament when it speaks of the death of a patriarch or matriarch which says, “. . . and he was gathered to his people.” Although my understanding of heaven is limited, I gain immense peace as I imagine Jesus coming to Opal while she slept, gathering her in His loving arms and bringing her to all her loved ones who had gone before her. It surely had to have been an incredible reunion. For at long last she had found “her people”!
To God be the glory!