A Tribute to My Mom

Nana Varee Juarbe . . . Mom
Began her journey ~ May 2, 1949
Danced into Heaven ~ September 10, 2014

I shared this at my mom's memorial service last Saturday. It was hard to know what to say. As if a few words could capture all that's in my heart for my mother. I suppose I will be paying tribute to her as long as I have words. But for now . . .

There are times when I am at a loss for words. Today is not one of those times. Today I have more words than I can number overflowing from a heart of gratitude and memories. Memories from before my time captured in some of the photos of Mom that were shared this afternoon, all the way through this morning when Jeff and I walked along the beach right beside the spot where we sat with Mom less than three weeks ago. 

And there aren’t enough words or time to express the deep love I have experienced from the hand of God through literally hundreds of people.

This is my mom’s last gift to me. People.

Mom loved people with abandon. So many people. Sometimes I thought TOO many people. There were no strangers with my mom and many times when we were out in public I quietly wished to myself that we could just be anonymous. Did she really have to talk to everyone like they were a dear friend? And whenever we talked she would speak of people that had no faces in my mind as if they were a family relative I just hadn’t had the chance to meet yet.

Over the last week, I have met many of Mom’s people. And you have overwhelmed me and my family with your love. In the absence of being able to communicate with my mom, you have held and comforted my heart with your kindness. And in a wonderful, mysterious way I have felt my dear mother’s love through you. A line in one of my favorite songs says, “Life with you is half as hard and twice as good.” Because of you, the pain and heartache that came with the last week of Mom’s life were half as hard and the joy and laughter and beauty twice as good. Thank you for living it with me.

On Mom’s last night, I prayed “God, please take her. Why is she still here?" The wait and struggle seemed pointless. 

God spoke to my heart and said, "It’s not just about her. It’s about every life she continues to touch from her dying bed through prayers, and visits, and Facebook messages. It’s about you and every song of worship you sing with your family surrounding her. It’s about all the work I am doing through her to continue to touch lives, and I will take her when her work is done here.

Death is hideous. And as we walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Mom, I longed for the day when we could mock death and say, “Where is your sting? Where is your victory?” Mom led us to the threshold of Heaven in her last hours, and we waited there with her in that painful, beautiful, sacred, holy place. And I learned the Gospel. 

This morning I read the story of Lazarus. When Jesus came to Lazarus’ tomb, He wept. And some saw Him weeping and said “Look how much He loved him.” But others questioned. They asked if Jesus could make a blind man see, why didn’t He keep Lazarus from dying. They wanted a miracle.

I have been both those people. I know some of you have too. I felt God’s presence at Mom’s side and knew how much He loved her. Yet He has the power to heal and still does. So why didn’t He heal Mom? Why did she die?

Jesus’ response to both groups of people was this:

He went to the tomb and told them to take away the stone. And He said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” Then He lifted up His eyes and gave thanks. And cried out with a loud voice saying, “Lazarus, come out!”

And Lazarus was resurrected from the dead. They got their miracle.

As Mom took her last breath, she crossed the threshold from this life to eternity. If you prayed a prayer for my mom, you got your miracle too. Mom is not dead. He resurrected her . . . just like Lazarus, and she is alive with Jesus in Heaven.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

The day I longed for has come . . . Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory?

Thank you God. Thank you, Mom’s people. Thank you, Mom. I love you.