The Story That Must Be Told – A Tribute To Our Mother
I just want to say hello and let you know what’s happening in my life. I got back from New York on March 9th, 2010. Unfortunately I wasn’t there for a vacation. My mother, Rafaela Gonzalez, died eight days after she found out that she had cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. On March 3rd, at 11:00 PM I received a call telling me she wasn’t doing well. Within ten minutes later she passed away. Needless to say it took me some time to recuperate. I was, unable to drive from the shocking news. I have done many funerals, but this one was the one that hurt the most. Even though I know she is in a better place, not having to suffer, I still miss her dearly. I want her back, I long to talk to her and I can’t. I still find myself crying when I am alone every day.
The good news is that she left in peace. For almost 52 years of my life I saw my mother full of fear. Always scared: if we went out, that we might get hurt. If it was too cold, that we would get sick. If we didn’t eat enough, that we would starve. If it was too late, that we shouldn’t go out. Just full of fear...but something remarkable happened to her:
When she knew she was facing death there was not even the slightest hint of fear in her. When the doctors told her eight days earlier, on February 24th, "You have full blown cancer in the liver which has spread to your heart," she showed no fear. When one of the four doctors tending to her asked her, “Do you understand what we have just relayed to you?” my mother replied, "Yes, but we all have to die of something. We are all here on borrowed time, and if this is the way that the Lord wants to take me home, I am ready. You do the best that you can for me, but the ultimate response comes from the Lord." When another doctor questioned her once again, my mother turned to my brother, Rafael, and said to him, "They think that one has to cry and scream and carry on when given news such as this, but that is not the way that it has to be."
One of the doctors present at that moment was her primary care physician, Dr. Michal Wall, a very kind and compassionate woman, who often called my brother and his wife, Nilsa, in the evening to find out how Mom was doing. While Dr. Wall treated my mother she realized that there was something that was different about our mom. She saw that it was my mother’s faith in Jesus that was the determining factor in her facing death.
Dr. Wall showed up at her funeral. What doctor does that? She said to my brother, Rafael, that it was an honor for her to have met and treated our mother and that she loved our mom. Wow!! She also said, "Whenever I saw "Rafaela Gonzalez" on my calendar I knew that this was going to be a good day, because here is this elderly woman coming into my office full of aches and pains, walking with a cane or walker, but always with a smile on her face, and even with a sense of humor."
When the other doctors wondered how it was that Mom could receive the news of her severe illness and impending death with such remarkable calmness Dr. Wall said that she explained to them that it was due to Mom's strong faith in God. She told them that Mom was not afraid of death because she knew that she was going to be with God. Wow!!
During her last few hours my brother Rafael, and his wife, Nilsa, stood by Mom's side. In the hospital as my brother read to Mom from the scriptures, two of her favorite Psalms, 91 and 103 Mom quoted the verses from memory. Then when he sang to her a favorite hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, in English; Mom in turn voiced the words of the song in Spanish. After this my mother then began to pray. She did not pray about herself, that the Lord would ease her pain and suffering, instead my mother began to pray for others, one name at a time...She prayed for us, her three sons; Juan, Rafael, and Alcides and our wives, Marilyn, Nilsa and Debora - that the Lord would bless our marriages and keep us together, and that we would always find strength in Him. She prayed for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren by name, including their husbands and one husband to be. She then prayed for other family members, and even her neighbors. One name after another she prayed. She prayed for her spiritual family in the church that she attended for over thirty years. She thanked the Lord for His many blessings. She praised Him and worshiped Him in the midst of and in spite of the pain and suffering that gripped her there in that hospital. There was NO FEAR whatsoever, only FAITH!!
She thanked the Lord for His many blessings. She praised Him and worshiped Him in the midst of, and in spite of the pain and suffering that seemed to tear at her insides. There is no doubt in our mind that only the Lord could be in control of this situation. The strength that my mother was demonstrating did not come from her, it came from the Lord about whom the apostle Paul quoted in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Verse 10 says, “…for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Even though the cancer was able to sap out all of Mom's energy for living. We are glad to say that it did not diminish her strong faith in her Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.
Her last words to my brother, Rafael were, "I've had a long life. God has been good to me. I've seen my children and grandchildren grow up. I've been richly blessed in so many ways. I am ready to go with my Lord. I have no regrets." A few hours later, at 11:10 PM, after telling her she loved her, our dear mother passed away in my sister-in-law Nilsa's arms. My mother told my brother Ray the night before, "Nilsa has been so very good to me. She is the daughter that I never had. Take good care of her." She had always wanted to have a daughter.
On March 3rd, when Mom was being rushed to emergency, Dr. Wall quickly rushed to my family’s side. Things were getting worse for Mom, faster than anticipated. As my brother Ray’s eyes were filled with tears Dr. Wall held his hand and told him that she was very sorry that there was nothing that could be done to make Mom better, and then she said, "I want you to know that it was an honor to have met and treated your mother. She is a woman of faith and I can see that in her family as well." A few days later the good doctor joined us at Mom's funeral where she consoled one of Ray’s daughters, and again stated what an honor it was to have been Mom's doctor. Dr. Michal Wall had suffered the death of her father from cancer on the same day that she gave us the news regarding Mom, and yet here she was, in the midst of her own grief, comforting us!
Before my mother died my eldest brother Juan said:
I never told anyone nor my wife Marilyn…but I had the weight of
past and present guilt in my heart…at times I felt as if I were a
curse in mom’s life…rather than a blessing…and it was too
heavy for me to bear…my heart was racing in emergency mode
…I was in desperate need to ask my mom for forgiveness for all
my past and present sufferings, problems, heart aches, sleepless
nights, worries, misunderstandings, arrogance, stupidity, f
oolishness, changes, etc… I had caused with my life…into her life.
I repeatedly kept saying to mom:“mom I love you…I love you
with all my heart”.....”I love you too my son”…she replied.
I leaned over a little closer over her foot rest…I said: “mom
I have something to ask you.” She asked “what is it? I said:
“mom can you forgive me for all the wrong I have ever done
in my life…” She leaned towards me…and before I could
finish…she responded in an almost whispering voice:
“My son a mother never holds a grudge against her
children…and if God has forgiven me…who am I to hold
a grudge against anyone.”
Her response blew me away…it was as if it were the Lord speaking
through mom and forgiving me. Suddenly…Matthew 6:12 became
ever so real to me…12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our
debtors. Immediately the overwhelming weight upon my mind,
heart, life and soul lifted off of my shoulders…at that moment the
Lord set me free through mom’s words and heart of forgiveness.
Yes’ I have been a professing Christian since 1978 and I knew
the Lord had forgiven me…but, I never knew how to forgive
myself…so I carried un-confessed guilt against someone close to
my heart…taken for granted…in this case; my precious mom.
I went to the side of her bed and I couldn’t stop kissing
her enough…I caressed her head and combed her hair
with my fingers…kissed her face, eyes, arms and hands repeatedly…I kept saying: “I love you mom…I love
you with all my heart”….She responded: “I love you
too…then turned her face and kissed my face.
She kept praying for everyone by name, and blessing us!”
I said: “mom I’m praying for you…She replied: “thank you
my son…I’m waiting on the Lord”
Then she asked me to rub her back…so Marilyn..Nilsa and I took turns rubbing her back…until she fell asleep for a few minutes.
Yes…I was being strong for my mom, but within the depths of my heart I was torn to see her suffering from this terminal
disease called cancer. Ididn’t want her to hear me weeping as I rubbed her back.
Little did I know that her words would ring true …and
this would be my very last kiss from her lips upon my face.
We will never forget our beloved mother. None of us ever will. As our dear mother taught us so many things throughout her life of 73 years that will remain with us always. In the end she taught us and others around her a most important lesson – how to die – FULL of FAITH, READY to MEET GOD, giving GLORY and HONOR to the LORD JESUS CHRIST for her life here on earth, and for the LIFE EVERLASTING that is found only in Him (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). "Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." (Revelation 14:13).
I have learned in all of this to NEVER EVER TAKE EACH OTHER FOR GRANTED. APPRECIATE THOSE THAT YOU HAVE AROUND YOU WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE. DO NOT WAIT TO SHOW THEM YOU CARE. APPRECIATE THAT WIFE, APPRECIATE THAT HUSBAND, APPRECIATE EACH OTHER.
Words are not enough to thank all of you for your prayers and concern for us and for Mom.
May God's will be done in your lives as well.
Encouragingly Yours (1 Thessalonians 5:11), Al, Rafael & Juan Moreno