My mother died last week, on May 21st.
Many of you knew Marillyn Hinman. She lived in Wilmington the past 46 years, working at the College, GTE, and selling Real Estate.
Her husband Dale, my dad, died 35 years ago. He worked at Ferno before becoming a realtor, and was very active in the community, serving on the Wilmington City Council and once was President of the Lions Club.
Mom had been plagued with vascular dementia for the last three years, and probably longer. During that time Mom lost her ability to drive, to live independently, to walk, and finally even to have a conversation.
Near the end, she may answer “yes” or “no” to questions asked, sometimes correctly and sometimes not. When we prayed and said “amen” she would typically repeat “amen”, and almost always told us “love you too”, in response to our saying “we love you Mom” when kissing her goodbye.
Beyond that, there has been very little recent verbal communication.
A couple of years ago, as the disease progressed, Mom developed a peculiar behavior. She would obsess on repeating something over and over again, sometimes with every breath saying the same thing. Yet when someone responded to her, she wouldn’t realize she’d been calling out.
For instance, she’d repeat “help me”, but when asking what she needed help with, she’d reply, “I don’t need any help”. Her repetitive exclamations including things like, “play Phase 10”, “chocolate ice cream”, “movie Dave”, and “Baby Avery” (her most recent great-grandchild).
We came to accept this as part of the condition, and simply worked around it.
Mom came from a family, a generation, and a church heritage where expressing love and openly discussing one’s faith wasn’t common. I always knew I was loved, but Mom wasn’t overtly demonstrative in showing it.
(The story goes of a man who told his wife he loved her on their wedding day, but never after. Years later, his wife asked if he still loved her. He replied, “I told you once I loved you and if that ever changes, I’ll let you know.” That’s sort of how my mother was.)
Regarding church, I remember Dad saying you “shouldn’t wear religion on your sleeve”, explaining that it “was personal, just between you and God”.
Hence, since it wasn’t discussed, we’ve wondered for years if Mom really had a relationship with God. She said she prayed for us daily, but the only prayers we ever heard growing up were the “now I lay me down to sleep” and “God is great … thank you for this food” type recitations.
She faithfully attended church, but retained the misconception that Heaven is reserved for people good enough to get in.
On numerous occasions we explained that God’s accepting us wasn’t based on religious merit, but entirely on Jesus forgiving the unrighteousness of those who asked Him to.
(You see, God never intended to make it hard to become a believer in Jesus. Yes, it will cost us our lives to make Him Lord, but it’s a gift given and not a reward earned. Romans 10:9 is a fabulous scripture, saying: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
That truly is the only key needed to unlock God’s forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life.)
Can I tell you what happened on Easter this year, just a month prior to Mom’s passing? I’d been telling her that Easter was coming up, and asked her, “what day is today?” when I visited her that afternoon. She hadn’t been talking at all, and I was just trying to initiate some communication.
I was really surprised that she answered me, saying, “Palm Sunday”. I told her, “Wow Mom, that’s really close. Palm Sunday was last week. Today is Easter.” Then I asked, “what does Easter mean to you Mom?” If she answered at all, I anticipated something like “Easter egg hunt” or “ham dinner”. Instead … get this … she said four words: “resurrection of the Christ”. I could hardly believe it. I thought to myself, “Praise God, she’s got it.”
Thereafter, with no prompting, she began saying “everlasting life”, “everlasting life”, repeated aloud with every breath taken.
So, there I was, holding Mom’s hand, having prayed innumerable times previously for God to “show Mom the depth of your love and commitment”, as she was declaring her understanding of the gospel message and acceptance of it.
I was thrilled. Mom put all my concerns about her spiritual condition to rest. She was saved, no doubt about it.
I’m grateful for the Wilmington Community, the prayers for us in this time of grief, and the opportunity to share about this moving experience.
Thank you. There is so much comfort knowing that Mom is in a better place now, where there is no infirmity, no dementia, and no suffering.
As stated by the Apostle John in Revelation 21:3,4:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man,
and He will live with them.
They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them as their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain,
for the former things have passed away.”
Dave Hinman is Pastoral Elder at Dove Church Wilmington. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.