As my mother neared the end of her time on earth, she became steadily more confused.
She had been a devout Christian all her life, but I had taken another spiritual path. We had talked about this often, she comfortable in her beliefs and I in mine. But, as her time grew shorter, she seemed to be searching.
When I would take my place by her bed and pick up her hand, she sometimes asked, “Will you be there when I wake up?”
I did not know how to answer, because it was not clear if she meant that she wondered whether I would still be in the room if she dozed off and came awake again; or, if she meant something deeper, like would I be there when she “woke up” on the other side of life?
Not wanting to make a promise I couldn’t keep, I would answer, “I hope so,” and leave it at that. But, her question worried me.
Even though she’d lived more than 90 years within a religion that teaches eternal life and the eventual rewards of Heaven, I sensed that my mother was beginning to doubt whether she would see those rewards.
Many years previously, I had explained my spiritual path to her, and how I believe that each of us is an individual Soul, an eternal spark of God, and that the most important part of each of is is not the body but that Soul.
“I don’t have a soul,” I had told her, “I am a soul.”
So, as Mom’s days on earth neared their close, I struggled with a way to help her feel more comfortable with the idea of passing over from one kind of life to another. Her question, “Will you be there when I wake up?” stayed with me. Why couldn’t I help her peacefully face the end of her life?
At home, the night before she closed her eyes for the last time, the answer came in the form of a short verse.
The next day, my sister and I sat with Mom as she drew her last breaths. My words had come too late to help her while she was still in a conscious state, but as I took my place beside her after she stopped breathing, I was able to recite those words:
We will walk together
Across that border
And I shall have your hand
We will be unafraid
For there will be great love
And wonderful light
You will be met by those who have gone before
They will enfold you
And show you your life
Like a map
Lain out at your feet
And you will know
Why you lived
And why you died
And who you must be from now on
I cannot say for sure whether Mom could hear those words, or whether they meant anything at all to her. I do know that, between the time that she stopped breathing and the time the nurse arrived to make her passing official, Mom’s eyes fluttered open for the briefest of moments, as if she were saying she’d heard.
Later, as we planned her funeral, my sister suggested that verse be included in the service, and so it was. Whether it comforted Mom on her way out, or whether it comforted others coming to mark her passing, I cannot say. But I know it comforted me, and I know that she woke up to a fine welcome on the other side of that border.