When people say they’ve had an out of body experience what do you think they mean? I’ve always thought it meant an experience where they actually saw themselves outside of their own bodies, like in a dream or vision. I’ve learned over time out of body experiences though often quite unusual can also be just unexpected situations. It’s safe to say I experienced one the other day while visiting my father and his family. The unexpected definitely occurred and it was only my intention to give comfort to (what then I called extended) family after the loss of their mother. With all things considered, we are a part of an eerie club, one that no one applied for membership. Club inevitable…of deceased parents.
A bit of background for you, my parents divorced when I was eight and my father would go on to eventually remarry. Like many children, I loathed my stepmother for a myriad of reasons as a child, but once I became more mature I realized many of those reasons were silly. I would learn to put issues aside and see that my stepmother wasn’t all that bad and her family inclusive of her mother (that just passed away) treated me with such kindness. I began trying to find ways to put the past aside and find valid connections and through Christ, we overcame a lot of situations and ill feelings to where I could actually say I generally liked and even loved her. The progression of our relationship lead to more than a mutual respect but a love that I can truly say I worked hard on purpose to develop. Out of this, her family became my family and endearing family titles were traded as expressions of the relationship. When I had my daughter she was there and in the formidable years of her life she was a great grandmother to her as if I were her real daughter. However, over the years there were some major blows that would peel away the relationship’s progression and later affect the integrity of everything we’d accomplished.
Seemingly in a matter of time, that love became hurt and grew to hate. Over time I would work on my emotions trying to represent my Christ-like nature as best I could but it grew ever difficult. Every time I’d make it close enough for it to matter something else would occur and grow yet another weed to choke out the love that would blossom the rose. Until most recently while my mother was in the hospital, she expressed her desire (as she had many times prior) for me not to hang onto unresolved issues. Asked me to either resolve them or just give them to God and allow God to mend the broken hearts, hurt feelings, and wounded relationships. I knew if I’d do it for anyone I would do it for my mother and my daughter who suffered in the balance having lost the closeness she was once had with my stepmother and probably all of her family as well.
I went from frequently visiting and including my father’s marital family in every aspect of my life to slowly but surely only including my father and never visiting them unless it was Christmas. By this time I was ok or so I thought, I had mastered the ability to be cordial and not ugly. I would complain at home or on the car ride for the ugliness that I would receive always knowing in my “knower” that something would occur negatively (and it ALWAYS did). Now standing a more mature thirty-something in Christ I’ve grown to understand a bit more that I cannot ask for forgiveness if I myself don’t extend that same grace in return. With that in mind and part of my mother’s “last wishes”, I knew once she did pass even my level of casual cordialness had to be kicked up a notch.
Recently, having a conversation with my father, I learned of his wife’s mother (the woman I have in many times past and still loving refer to as grandma) being on hospice in their home. I began seeking inner strength to plan a visit (if I did) to make my peace with her as she’d been nothing but kind to myself and my daughter. Within merely a few hours on that very same day, my father called yet again and I learned of her passing. It was at that very moment I resolved to go visit and just be a help in any way that I could. I knew what that felt like all too well, to not extend myself. Unbeknownst to me, a door was opened that I wouldn’t know until much later for another of my mother’s final wishes to be met.
I finally make it to my father’s house two days later with a fruit tray, some granola, and a sympathetic heart. God took those ingredients and made something amazing and if I wasn’t present to authenticate the experience myself it would’ve been unbelievable. As I announced my leave we exchanged hugs as we concluded laughs and swapped old stories over tea and granola my stepmother’s sister (once called my aunt affectionately) stood up and just began esteeming me in a way that was almost too much for me to accept. She told me she loved me and that she was so glad I’d come to be with them during this time. She also spoke of my being one of her favorite people and her long admiration for the person I was and had become along with my accomplishments as a mother and a woman. She then also asked if I noticed I didn’t call and ask if it was ok to come by like in times past but that like true family I just drove the hour to come and see about them, because that’s what real family does they don’t schedule or ask permission to be family it’s just something that you do.
I just wept because it was so unexpected but something I knew was genuine because of the genuine and compassionate person she’d always been towards myself and my mother. As she held me seemingly like a mother would her grown child and rubbed my hair, I then feel another body coming toward to hug me and it was my stepmother. The one who I hadn’t had a good relationship with for years she then agreed with what was said and continued to say how she loved me and she still only viewed me as her daughter. She also began along with her sister just to praise God openly (an experience I’d never witnessed from her) and they just openly thanked God for bringing their niece/daughter home. My aunt then said how she was so sick and nervous and how my being there had calmed her in a way she couldn’t believe to the point where she could eat and felt much better even after shedding a couple tears. Also reminded me that I am loved, accepted by them, and needed in their family. As I continued to weep at the words I was hearing and taking in all that was happening my own father sat distant just watching and also praising God.
I knew for him it hadn’t been easy being married to a woman who didn’t get along with his children and over time may appear to have driven a wedge that he had no clue how to dismantle. I thought on how awkward things must have been for him and how he probably had to take stands for both of us to show where his loyalty lied. As they continued sharing kind words and openly thanking God I then openly shared my mother’s request for me to move forward in forgiveness and they began to thank her for sharing me with them. At this point, I was seemingly drowning in my own tears and thanking God because I knew it was only Christ that could do something like this. My father then joined this circle and hugged us all and praised God. It was just an epic time, as I think back on it now it’s just all so unbelievable that it occurred. I imagine my mother smiling down on me and all of them really as it was her constant prayer that her children received the best and God’s favor with everyone. My thoughts immediately wished that my youngest brother and only son to my mother was present and that he too could be esteemed in a such a way that healed some of his wounds as he has many. I shared that he too needed to hear this and I remain confident in the God I serve that one day he absolutely will but that particular day God reserved and knew that my soul needed healing.