Thanks to the providence of God, and wise planning by my brother Kevin, I was able to tell mom one last time how much her life and love meant to me and my family last weekend. Just days later she was transported from earthly life into eternal life.
By God's grace and mercy mom passed peacefully while at rest on 9.24.16. The years of struggling with dementia were finally over and she was ready for the next step of growth - the birthright and deathright each of us will one day face.
Virginia (from the latin virgo means "maid, virgin") was an outstanding women in every way; beautiful to look at, hard-working in her passion for public service and yet always compassionate, loving and forgiving toward those closest to her. She was a pure reflection of the love of God which I have come to know over the last four decades.
How fitting was the familiar message of the Lord's Parable of the Ten Virgins delivered this Sunday morning at Paradise Church in N. Phoenix (Matt. 25:1-13).
Virginia was always be counted among the five wise virgins in the parable because her lamp was always full of oil - always available to give of herself no matter what the need.
As my brother and I sat with mom last Sunday in her small room at Cenoma House, a small nursing home in Twin Falls, ID, we both sensed she was entering a new realm of consciousness beyond this world.
After hours of talking to mom, reading and even singing a few songs to her, I left hopeful she would give us a sign that we had truly connected with her, but in my heart I was unsure. Was it already too late to express my deepest feelings of gratitude toward mom?
Thankfully, the next morning when I visited she recognized me and reached out immediately. We hugged and as I looked into her eyes I believe she understood this would be our final goodbye, but also that our love would go on forever, although her time on earth was nearing an end.
As I gently kissed her and whispered "Thank you mom" she smiled with her beautiful eyes as if to say "you're welcome son". I believe she needed to hear us tell her how much we loved her one last time in recognition of her life well-lived before her spirit would be at rest.
Yes, it was the benevolent providence of God which allowed me to witness the awesome majesty of mom's nearing death experience. I felt a strong sense of relaxation, peace, letting go and of the end of her struggle - like I was seeing God's grace unfold rather than a tragedy.
I believe the last bond a dying person has to bodily life is love - and my love for mom was forever sealed with a kiss - not a "goodbye" kiss but rather "see you later" kiss.
When we face circumstances which we cannot change, the circumstances change us. Mom's life and death has forever changed me - inspiring me to be the best parent, grandparent, friend and brother I can possibly be by the grace of God. This, I believe, is what dying has to do with living.
A beloved's death reminds us that our time on earth is limited - which adds urgency to fully living in each moment.
What lives on of mom is not engraved on a headstone, but what she engraved in the hearts and minds of all the lives she touched.
"We honor the dead by living their values," writes Eric Greiten in Resilience.
"Death is a mirror by which all of life is reflected," writes Kathleen Dowling Singh in The Grace in Dying.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain," wrote the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21.
Thank you mom for making space for grace in your life! May your love live on through me...until we are once again reunited in eternity.
A TRIBUTE TO DAD A Lover of the Law
In 2003 my step-dad, H. Keith Byram passed away
at age 78, leaving behind a wife of nearly
fifty years, (my mom) Virginia.
Keith was a man who loved defending the law,
having served in the Navy, as a police officer,
a Special Agent and ultimately as a Judge.
For the first 20 years of my life I found
myself at odds with Kieth often, rebellious youth
that I was. Keith stood for the strong moral
values that characterizes "The Greatest Generation"
as a confused child of the 60's, I felt like it
was my calling to challenge and "Question
Authority" as the bumper sticker put it.
Keith was a man's man, standing 6'6" with a
booming voice he could put the fear of
God in me. Yet during the height of my
rebellion in 1967, after I fled home for the
Haight-Ashbury scene, it was Keith who flew
from our home in LA to SF to beg me to come home.
But in my foolish pride, I refused his offer and
have regretted it ever since.
Finally, in 1973, my life finally began to come
into focus when I became a Christian. Suddenly
it was I who thirsted for strong moral values and,
like the Prodigal Son, felt compelled to return home
to beg forgiveness for my bull-headed rebellion.
Keith was a gentle giant of a man, whose love for
the law has since inspired me to study both man's
and God's laws, which Scripture tell us is the
pathway to true liberty. I will miss Keith more than words can explain and look forward to
growing closer to him in eternity.
My mom is an overcomer, who has recently
renewed her faith in Christ in the process of
grieving her loss of Keith -- her loving life partner.
Thankfully, today she is surrounded by family and
many new friends in her new home of Twin Falls, ID
-- which is an answer to my prayers this past year.
The moral of this short tribute to H. Keith Byram:
-Children, love your parents, obey your parents
today and you shall have a good, long life.
-Wifes stand by you husband, even if your children rebel.
-Christians keep on praying for your family and
friends, for God loves them and wants His best for them
even more that you do.