The call came early Sunday morning from the nursing home. Mom wasn’t doing well. As her children, we discussed whether we should take turns sitting by her side so we could be with her until she passed. I said I could leave now and spend the day. I quickly packed a bag and hurried out the door to travel from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids.
As I write, sitting by her bedside, Mom lies sleeping, struggling for breath. I look down at the bag I’ve brought with me and set by my feet. It must weigh at least 10 pounds. In my hurry to leave, I grabbed a Bible, a hymn book, my favorite devotional, a book to read, and some CDs featuring quiet hymns. Was I thinking I needed to pack a lifetime of spirituality into a handbag and a few hours?
I recall a family camping trip we took in 1962 across country—from Michigan to Washington State. My mom was responsible for packing for seven people and three weeks on the road. She successfully packed for everyone else, but realized after we left home that she had forgotten about herself. Our family pictures of that vacation show her in the same clothes every day. Packing can be such a disappointment if you do it wrong.
As I glance at the bag that I so hurriedly put together earlier this morning, I know none of it is really needed today. God has prepared my mom for this journey to heaven since her birth. He didn’t plan hastily and without care.
He deliberately placed her in a family with a strong Christian heritage. He generously gave her his faithfulness. He replenished his forgiveness as needed and clothed her with peace, love, and hope. He blessed her with his Word on her heart—and she blessed us with his song on her lips. No disappointment with the planning for this trip! She has been packed and ready for this journey for a lifetime.
My mind wanders as I imagine myself standing a few feet behind her as I would at a store as she waited for the cashier to give her a total. Only this time, after 97 years, I picture her at an imaginary ticket booth where she asks for “One ticket to heaven, please. It’s been reserved for me.”
I patiently watch as she digs into her little embroidered change purse and lays out the exact change. She always paid in exact change. I peek over her shoulder to see what she has meticulously counted out on the counter. “This was a gift,” she says, pushing it forward confidently. The coins spell out G R A C E—all that she ever needed in this life and the next.