Boxes were stacked everywhere. The fireplace needed a cleaning. Padding hid the piano. Yet when I looked around our new house on moving day, I knew we’d found the perfect home. There was a big master bedroom for Terry and me, separate bedrooms for the girls, and best of all, a guest room for my parents. Now we wouldn’t always have to travel to their house for visits. My whole life I’d felt safe and loved in Momma’s house. More than anything I wanted to make her feel that way in mine.
She’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis slowed her down. I wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be able to travel, so I wanted to get right to work decorating. Singing to myself, I sliced open a box. Just wait till I fix up the guest room, I thought.
The bed was delivered, one with a nice firm mattress, just like Momma liked. The wallpaper and curtains suited Momma to a tee. The window looked out on our front yard. Everything was ready. But when I called Daddy to arrange a visit, he didn’t think it was a good idea. “It’s the five-hour drive,” he said. “We just don’t think we can make it right now.”
Momma spent more and more time in the hospital. “The chances of her ever making the trip are slim,” my sister, Karen, warned from back home.
That didn’t stop me. I added a comfortable chair to the guest room, singing as I arranged it just so. God, let Momma see this room I’ve prepared for her, I asked. Just once.
The new chair gave me an idea. Momma was a big fan of the Marjorie Dean book series. I used to snuggle under my blankets as a child while Momma read volume after volume to me. She had been heartbroken when her set was destroyed in a flood. I’d replace them!
I scoured used bookstores and garage sales for early editions. Meantime, Karen investigated nursing homes for our momma. Daddy could no longer give her the round-the-clock care she needed.
“You don’t have many more to go,” Terry said as he watched me put my newly purchased Marjorie Dean, High School Freshman on the bookshelf. I nodded and ran my finger over the spines. Whenever we drove to Momma’s house for a visit, I brought a volume with me.
By the time we’d really settled into our new house, the Marjorie Dean set was long since complete. Karen called one afternoon and told me she’d found a place for Momma. I drove up to help with the move. The nursing home was immaculate, and the staff caring. Still, when I saw Momma’s room, I couldn’t help but think of the one I’d prepared for her.
By early afternoon, Daddy, Karen and I were together at the nursing home. The doctors told us Momma probably did not have much time left.
Karen took Daddy home for a few hours’ rest that evening. I settled in the chair beside Momma’s bed. The oxygen tank hissed behind me. Momma took a labored breath. “I’m right here, Momma,” I said.
How different this place was from the sunny room she had at my house. I imagined her sitting on the couch in the living room while the girls played piano. Terry would make a fire. Then before bed I would read to her from her brand-new Marjorie Dean collection.
God, she’ll never know the love I had waiting for her in that room, will she? I thought wearily. I had to accept it.
I jerked my head up. “Is someone there?” I craned my neck to see the door. No one had come in. I squirmed in my seat. Something was definitely different. The air had gotten thicker. It was as if a throng of people had suddenly crowded into Momma’s hospital room.
My mind’s playing tricks. I pulled my chair a little closer to Momma’s bed. She was sleeping peacefully, but I wanted to do something nice for her. “I’ll sing you a song,” I whispered. “I am standing on holy ground…”
What was the next line? It was so hard to concentrate. I had the strange sensation I was singing before an audience. I scooted even closer to Momma, as if I needed to make room. For what? “I am standing on holy ground,” I began again. I looked around. The words came.
“I am standing on holy ground,” I sang. “And I know there are angels all around!”
The air seemed to burst with joy, but not like any joy I had ever felt. This was joy I could almost touch. The joy of perfect love. The joy of heaven. Angels were all around me—I knew it! A host of angels had come for Momma. Was this what God had waiting for her? Momma’s home on earth paled in comparison!
I leaned close to her. “I love you, Momma,” I said. “And God loves you even more.” Momma took two last sharp breaths, then exhaled. The presence I had felt all around me faded.
On my way to get a nurse I remembered my prayer. I had asked God to give Momma a glimpse of my home. He had instead given me a glimpse of hers. God had prepared a place for Momma in heaven. A truly perfect place.