When I found out my mother was dying of cancer I was terrified. For 26 years she had watched over me when I was sick (and that was a lot of the time) and encouraged, not with words but a silent expectation that I would do what was necessary to get back on my feet, brush myself off and carry on without complaint. The thought of trying to do it without her made me weak in the knees – literally shaking in my shoes.
Then I wondered, does she know she’s dying? And if not, how do I tell her?
“Julie, am I going to die?” I really have no memory of my response but what followed is as clear as if it happened yesterday.
She told me to get her bible – the new one in large print that I had bought her the previous summer for her 68th birthday. Between the pages was a scrap of paper – torn piece of envelope, it looked like, with 3 bible references written in her looping, cursive script – obviously tagged to get her get through the paralyzing grief that followed my brother’s fatal car accident only one year earlier.
You see, her bible was the sanctum where my mother found solace and peace and strength and endurance and patience and whatever else she needed to live (not just survive) through life’s challenges. That is one battle-skill she passed on to me.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10
That warm January afternoon my mother had me to read Isaiah 41:10. She must have known my fear (mothers don’t miss much and mine didn’t miss anything). I read it again and again as she asked, until the morphine quieted her pain and her consciousness.
Looking back, I know now that she had me read the passage more for my benefit than hers.
My mother passed away on June 14th 1988.
As a child growing up in Barbados, it was customary to learn bible verses in school – religious knowledge being a fundamental part of education for life.
We dutifully memorized the words in sing-song recitation, barely understanding their significance. But that was alright because as life began to put you through the wringer, the value and power of the verses became obvious – even essential.
Over the years, looking to bible verses for strength and courage has become second nature.
In this post, I share those related to the anxiety and fear that threaten when I am so seriously ill. They are the essential main course for sides of anti-depressants and sleeping aids.
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