Picture of Janet


Walking Mother to the Gate

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“You are a good woman,” Mother whispers as I lean close. 

“Why are you telling me this,” I say to her, not quite teary, because I am determined to truly celebrate her’s and my very long relationship, the team she and I have been through 55 years of joy and heartbreak and everyday life.

(She and I have lived together, either in her house or mine for that many years. It counts as the longest relationship I have ever had. This is not a situation for everyone. But it was God’s plan for she and I.)

“I want you to know that’s what I think about you, when I go through the Pearly Gates”, she answers.

Pearly Gates is her euphemism for Heaven, which is way better than the other times when she expresses doubt there is even such a thing and thinks somehow she is going to be aware she’s in the ground with worms until.. well, forever or .. back in tune with God, when Jesus returns. 

I am glad for this repeated comment, because it will sooth me when the gates open up for her.  But that’s after I take a moment to feel a bit guilty for resenting how much toilet paper she has stuffed in every pocket these last few months. Everytime I’ve just cussed away when I would unload the washing machine and find wads of shredded paper and lint. 

(She’s always had a thing about toilet paper and Kleenex taking every opportunity to kype it wherever she fines it, be it the doctor’s office or a friend’s house. Full disclosure. She also stole packets and packets of fake sugars from every restaurant she ever went into. And entire candy dishes of sweets no matter whose house she’s visiting or what party she was attending.)

There are a few other things I feel momentarily guilty about, but remind myself, with full knowledge from the Holy Spirit these last weeks, that I shouldn’t be surprised, the best we can do is never good  enough because, duh, we are human.

I am also selfishly glad this refrain has taken the place of the other one that was on repeat until these last few weeks. This one:”Do you even remember how to flirt. You need a man, especially when I am gone!”

Her pups around her, I take a seat in the gray chair (Mother NEVER liked gray things) that I installed in her new room, the one in our new house.  We moved here 4 months ago.  It hadn’t escaped me that my Mother’s death would be the christening for this new home of ours. If things go the way I pray they do, she will pass on to Paradise in the bed that looks out onto a new neighborhood full of hopeful people, most who are just starting their adult journey. 

Middle son and I talked about this. He knew I was thinking of Jake and Silent Bob and our other home.  Both John and Josh knew that this all white, airy new place had lifted a weight off my shoulders. That and it made it possible for me to shed 45 years of stuff that I was way to sentimental about. 

“It’s part of living, this dying thing,” is what I think I said to John. True things are true. And the truth of Doris Azilee Jones is that almost 92 years, with your mind mostly in tact, your fingernails painted red, rings on each hand, no memory of the only 8 years of that 92 of bad health, and a life full of family, is about the best one can ask for. I am determined to celebrate. There are other things not so good that could christen a home. The cycle of life is inevitable. Besides, I know in whom I trust. 

“How come you have no doubts,” she asks me. She’s opened her eyes a bit, coughs a little, I wonder if she read my thoughts. “I have talked to God all my life and I know he loves me, but I am still scared.”

I know what she is saying. I think it would be foolish to not admit to that cold sweat in the middle of the night when you wonder, well, really, I am going to have to die one day. 

“It’s not that I don’t have doubts. Everyone does,” I say as I think about what part of my faith is doubt and what part isn’t. 

“Mother, there are things that we can’t know on this side. There are things that are confusing. I don’t know how to imagine Paradise (I actually say Pearly Gates here, for her). But I do know this..”

I have her full attention and she’s listening with that lucidity that seems impossible since she’s not eaten hardly anything for a month. She weighs a little bit more than 80 pounds. 

“Mother, for all that I don’t know or doubt or understand, I do know the miracles God had given me in this life. I cannot deny them. I cannot deny how the Holy Spirit guides me and does so with increasingly clarity. I can’t discount the peace that can come over me where there should be nothing but chaos.” 

I am mentally recounting the miracles God has performed, living again each one, and the love that is behind the years of them, from my Creator. The peace and security of it all flows over me like warm sunshine. 

I look at Mother, and she is nodding, and we are both basking in the light of faith. She closes her eyes and says.”Thank you for talking to me about God,” and I know she too is remembering a faithfulness that moves doubt to things true.  

Mother and I aren’t quite finished with talking, but almost. Figuring out when we are going to get to the gates is turning out to be a harder road. She’s that tough. But we are closer every day. 

Mother and I don’t have any words left unsaid, no places we wished we’d visited, no resentments built up or issues that need to be reconciled. The truth is that for her, on this earth I am everything. She has yet to forget my name. Not because her memory is perfect, but we have been that intwined. Her neural pathways have “Jan” running through so many of them, I am her person until the gates open up. She knows it and so do I.

Yesterday morning I went into her room around 7am. Gave her a hug, kissed her forehead. She opened her eyes and looked at me for a minute and said” I could care less”. I said “What”?.. She said “ your t-shirt says ‘guess what day it is’. 

The only day that matters now is the one where you wait for me, we will be in Jesus’ presence along with your Gloria, my Jake, your Jack, my Silent Bob, and all those who have gone before and after. Whatever that looks like be it Pearly Gates, Paradise or a new heaven and earth, if there is sugar packets and red fingernails, I won’t be the least bit surprised.

For a more accurate understanding of the “Pearly Gates”, check out N.T. Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope

22 Responses

  1. This made me tear several times as I read you travels down the winding road to the Pearly Gates with your Mother. She is in the best place right now with you speaking love and of eternity right into her heart and soul.
    Well done, servant daughter, you have been blessed and she was so blessed to have had you .

  2. Lovely, Janet. What a faithful, dedicated, loving daughter!! Extra gems in your pearly crown for sure!

  3. A testament to you and your love for mom and your family. Let there be a moment of brightness to ascend to the one above. My love and fun memories of being with”MOM”, and her love of chocolates, Coke , and Popeye’s chicken. ❤️

  4. Thank you for sharing this soul touching story. I think about your mom a lot and wonder how she is doing and how you are doing. Sending my love to you both.

  5. Doris is correct. You are a good woman. I pray that her leaving will be a simple as stepping out of one house and arriving home to where your favorites are and celebrating with them.

  6. Janet,
    I love your essays on your life. You inspire me to hold fast to my faith when life moments present themselves.
    I’ve recently lost a dear friend in Christ of over 40 years and I miss her so much but know she is happy and in the best place back with her family.
    I didn’t know that you had moved! Where are you now? Still in NW Houston, I hope!
    Take care of your family as you always have. I wish you and your mother well. What a wonderful bond you share!
    Patricia Franklin

  7. Beautiful, Janet. What a blessing it is to have the chance to walk with your mother on this final journey. As my mother was approaching those gates, she said to me, “You know, there really is a peace that passes all understanding.” Love.

  8. I have several thoughts of your mom that always make me smile even though my eyes are full right now. You were there for her for so many years but most importantly you were there when she needed you most, her final journey. Losing Mom is tough. Much Love,

  9. Your mom is correct – you are a good woman, but of course, you are your mother’s daughter! Hugs as you go through this journey.

  10. Give her a big hug for me.Great story. I showed my aunt Faye your story about the blinking Lincoln and I thought she was going to hurt herself Laughing!
    Love you both. Dowell

  11. I remember when we sat together in choir one time. You and I sniffled, choked up and cried through many songs. But eventually, we could sing again.

    Thank you for your transparency. You let us see you, and that is a gift I treasure.

  12. Thank you! God be with you and the entire family as you walk your mom to the pearly gates! What a blessing! I do have fond memories of your mom. You are an amazing daughter! The finest tribute a parent can have! Prayers up!

  13. This is such a hard part of life.I don’t have a way with words like you do. Just know that you are a good woman and an inspiration to me. I love you and your mom. Sending a big hug to you both.

  14. You have been so blessed to have such a close relationship with your mother for so many years. I know that you have a strong faith to help you heal. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Janet.

  15. What cherished moments you are spending by your mother’s side as you talk about heaven with her. Beautiful, Janet. May your mother be filled with unsurpassed peace as she awaits to hear her beloved Savior call her home.

  16. What a beautiful relationship you have with your mother. My prayers are with you and your mom and family. ❤️

  17. dear janet, my condolences with the passing away of your dear mother. no one else could have expressed a daughter’s feeling toward her mother better than you. the institution of a seven-day mourning at home (with visits) named shiv’ah or shivve is a healing experience.

  18. Our stories are amazingly similar. Similar in ages and life events. She also worried aboute being alone after she was gone 🙂 her faith was strong, I reminded her I wouldn’t be, I have God. I thank God for giving me her, and for giving me the strength ability to care for her in spite of my own struggles. It was an honor and a privilege to have her living with me and for mw to care for her the last 15 years of her life.

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