On the Death of my Mother

Cruciger hymnIt was the call I was dreading.  The hospice nurse phoned during chapel at the seminary with the news: “Your mother has 24-48 hours to live.”  At 95, my mother had been in decline for about six months, and in rather severe decline for almost 3 ½ weeks, from just before Christmas.  So out I went to Town and Country Healthcare, where she lived the last six years of her life, with my wife joining me soon after.  The nurses had placed her into a special room for the situation, and there she lay.

The death rattle was overwhelming.  O, Adam!  O, Eve!  What have you wrought?  What inheritance have you bequeathed to us?  What end have you destined for us?  There was no greater testimony to the desire of a human being to hold onto life and to the inevitability of death, as I watched the bitter struggle between the two.

My mother’s quest for life was valiant, and we went home after 6+ hours of keeping watch.  The (second) call came at 2 a.m.  Coraine M. Voelz had gone to be with Christ.  I went out immediately to Town and Country and was alone with her remains until the undertaker came.  In death, everything is so still.  But—

But, we are not as those who have no hope!  With the promise of the Resurrection, my mother’s stillness had a dynamic quality that I had never felt before.  As she lay unmoving, the promise of her baptism—June 17, 1917—spoke loudly, as it were, declaring: “This is NOT the end.  Those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, and just as he is risen from the dead, so they, too, shall rise!”  The hymn verse came back to me:“…Can the head, Rise and leave his members dead?”  In the midst of death, all I could think of was Resurrection—indeed, my friend and colleague Jim Brauer, emeritus professor at Concordia Seminary, is truly right: “The death of one’s mother, like nothing else, causes one to think of Resurrection.”—but not because I wanted Resurrection to be the case, but because our Lord has declared that it is so: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.  He who believes in me, even if he dies, he shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall surely never die” (John 11: 25, 26).

It always comes down to promise.  Promise is the very foundation of the Christian life and hope.  That’s why I’m a Lutheran.  And that’s why we sang Easter hymns at my mother’s funeral.

 

Editor’s Note: In the last six months, three New Testament professors At Concordia Seminary lost a parent. Each has written a devotional piece reflecting on that loss and hope in Christ.

Related posts

To Shepherd the Sheep

To Shepherd the Sheep


To Shepherd the Sheep

The physical, spiritual, and emotional rush of Holy Week is behind us now.  It remains for me the best week of the year, every year, and having the privilege of serving a congregational vacancy afforded me one more time the absolute delight of direct participation in the delivery of the story...

NAILED! Moral Injury: A Response from the Cross of Christ for the Combat Veteran

NAILED! Moral Injury: A Response from the Cross of Christ for the Combat Veteran


NAILED! Moral Injury: A Response from the Cross of Christ for the Combat Veteran

Dr. Richard “Rick” Marrs interviews Rev. Dr. Mark Schreiber about his book NAILED! Moral Injury: A Response from the Cross of Christ for the Combat Veteran for ConcordiaTheology.org.

ICYMI: Podcast with Robert Kolb on Lutheranism

ICYMI: Podcast with Robert Kolb on Lutheranism


ICYMI: Podcast with Robert Kolb on Lutheranism

Dr. Robert Kolb, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary, discusses Lutheranism with a couple of confessional Baptists on the podcast, London Lyceum.  Listen to it here: https://londonlyceum.buzzsprout.com/412714/9809832-lutheranism-with-robert-kolb

4 Comments

  1. Matthew E Thompson March 29, 2013
    Reply

    My deepest sympathies, Jim.

  2. Gary Bauch March 29, 2013
    Reply

    Thank you, Dr. Voelz, for a beautiful description of the hope that turns mourning to joy for those who cling to the Christ who alone can say, “I am the resurrection and the life…” May that hope sustain you and yours in your grief and loss!

    The longer I am in ministry, the more funerals I am privileged to officiate at, the more meaningful are Paul’s words in Romans 6:3-5. Living in baptismal grace, dying and rising with Christ every day, is a priceless treasure.

  3. John Schultz March 30, 2013
    Reply

    Reading this sitting at my dying father’s bedside as we wait and live in the Easter reality. All I can say is Amen and Amen! Jesus lives! The victory’s won! God’s peace be with you.

  4. Rev. Don Ray March 31, 2013
    Reply

    What a sublime reflection and witness; thank you and God bless you, and God’s peace to you, in Christ, Prof. Voelz.

Leave a comment