Remembering my mother, Mary Ellen Townsend Harris, 1911-2016
There are so many stories I could tell, and will no doubt in time to come, about my mother who went to her eternal reward at mid-day today, July 26. Her passing brought a sigh of relief because her body had been breaking down while her spirit thrived. It also brought a deep sense of loss to me. She gave me life, guided my development of values and my openness to hear God’s call to ministry over sixty years ago. She experienced many challenges yet was never given to defeat. She walked in faith with her Lord and sought the guidance of his Spirit in her decisions and actions. Most of all, she was a genuine, honest, authentic person who inspired others to their best possibilities.
So yesterday, July 25, Mom went to the emergency room, suffering with the effects of a body that had grown tired over the span of 105 years. As on other occasions, she was admitted and treatment measures were begun, but this time it was to no avail. Just a few hours later she surrendered herself, body, mind, and spirit to God and he took her home.
During the first few hours following her death I felt as though I had fallen into a deep vacuum that simply shut me down for a while. I sat in a chair and closed my eyes, alone with memories and thoughts. For a time it was just the Lord, some classical music, and me.
God’s grace filled the sudden void and Mom’s garden of life, faith and energy began to bud like flowers in my mind. After five score and five yeas, she is not here. She has gone mysteriously into that realm where she was preceded by her parents, siblings, husband, a son and her daughter. She has gone where I can’t yet follow, into a realm of blessedness God has reserved for her. In the wake of her passage I feel deep gratitude that her suffering of recent months have now been resolved in healing.
I’m missing her already. Last night I sat with her in the hospital where she was ravaged with pain and confusion. She reached to her left wrist and wanted to pull out the IV feed. I took her hand gently in mine and held it. She looked at me with weakened, questioning eyes.
“It’s stinging me.” She frowned.
“I know…but it’s also feeding you.”
I called the nurse who put a sleeve over the IV. Mom looked at me with an expression of resignation. “Thanks!”
Her hand went limp as she closed her eyes and disappeared into an inner process of surrendering her life-giving breath to her Lord and Savior.
Those were our last words together. When I left for home she was breathing shallowly with an expression of peace somehow shining through the veil of suffering and disorientation.
As I ponder further, I remember some other words she spoke recently that will linger much longer. I took a photo of her and asked what she would like to say to the people on Facebook. Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Sit up straight, and don’t let anything get you down.”
She did that for 105 years, and those words will linger longest!