On February 21, 2018, a moment I dreaded since I was old enough to dread and had any idea how the world worked, arrived. My mother died.
Hilda Imogene Wangler was ninety-one years old. Even though this photograph was taken 16 years before I was born, this is how I remember mom. The prettiest Mom in the neighborhood, and always beside Dad. He passed in 2009.
I was pondering on New Year’s Eve what it means to enter 2019 without Mom.
Like a rock she held things down in a storm. She was a foundation of faith her children built their lives on, and her husband knew he could depend upon. In difficult times we always knew there was a place to go, a listening ear, and a human being on the planet who loved us deeply and unconditionally. I for one, tested the unconditional part, and the ice never cracked.
Even as her body weakened her mind remained sharp. She endured what might have been her greatest tests of faith in the final years, but never wavered in Whose or who she was. She gave thanks before every meal including her final one. There is a hole in the Wangler family.
Strangely though, as I mulled the issue of continuing life without her, I realized something I’ve been wrestling with: I wasn’t.
She’s gone. Then again she isn’t.
I hear her voice at every crossroad and feel her love at every question. There is a calm that comes when fear falls I cannot explain. I can see her listening eyes when I think about a problem. I can hear her praying voice when I pause in my own prayers. She’s definitely present even though she isn’t.
In these moments, she is not coming to me as a spirit or a ghost. Not once. Doesn’t happen. She doesn’t appear to me as a butterfly floating near at just the right moment or a rainbow appearing in the sky on rainy days. It’s much more real than that.
I don’t pray to her for she cannot answer and she does not intercede for me before the Father. Jesus does that. I don’t pray for her, she’s crossed the finish line and doesn’t need my prayers.
And yet, she comes and I am strangely comforted. This New Year’s Eve, I wondered where this comfort comes from, and I think I know.
It comes from the place of a million memories, countless conversations, and boundless love. The seeds she planted over 57 years have sprouted. I am amazed.
“And by faith Able still speaks even though dead.”
There you go. Now I know what that verse means.
Someday, when my physical voice is silent and my kids come to life’s thresholds without me, I want them to hear my voice, but I’m concerned about what they will hear?
Will they hear cynicism? Will they hear criticism? Will they hear my opinions about how wrong the world is? Will they hear me whine about the times life didn’t go my way? Will they remember listening eyes or condescending glares? Will they hear, “I told you so,” or “I love you so?” Will they hear a voice that directs them to the Father? Will they hear a voice of gratitude and humility, or pride and arrogance? What will they hear? Don’t get me wrong, I hear my Mother’s voice of correction and pause also, but I remember it as it was, full of grace and love. What will my children and grandchildren hear?
The truth is they will hear then what I say most now.
So, I’m asking God to help me do some serious planting in 2019. I think I need to pull up weeds and plant faith. My prayer is someday, hopefully a long time from now, one of my children will stand at a crossroad of faith or threshold of trial and hear my voice. In that moment, hopefully, by God’s grace, they will say to themselves, “That’s Dad’s faith talking.”
Though she is physically absent from this world, I do not enter 2019 without my Mother.
Hilda Wangler planted well. God give me grace to do the same.