Church of Christ
Mission USA

The Last …

(The Passing Of My Mother)

            After the gospel meeting we took off three days to take Tammy and her crew to Mount Rushmore for a little relaxation for us all which Sandy and I truly needed a break and escape.  But it was not to be relaxing at all.  Of course we wanted to see Mount Rushmore also but were not intending to go unless we had someone to go with us or at a time when we were passing by closer.  The meeting ended Tuesday night; Wednesday morning we left at about 7 a.m. for SD.  We drove 501 miles and set up in a campground near Custer, SD.  We spent just a few hours at Mount Rushmore and area.  Mommy seemed to be getting worse from the phone calls received at this point.  The doctor had said earlier that she could last from only days or to even a few years, but that seemed to be changing now.  Earlier mommy had requested to see all of her children one last time: 7 boys and one girl.  At this point we were 1,700 miles away. 

            Backing up to when we left Virginia in April, we went by Galax and stayed one night.  I knew then that this might be the last time I would get to see mommy alive.  Tuesday evening several were at mommy’s house visiting with us and mommy.  I was hoping they all would leave so Sandy and I could be alone with her for a little while, but they did not.  Several of us went out to eat before Sandy and I got on the road for TN.  After we ate I said my goodbyes to them quickly and leaving them at the restaurant I told Sandy I wanted to go back to mommy’s house.  We did and we had several minutes with her alone.  I never indicated that I thought it might be the last time I saw her, but when I got into the car I shed the goodbye tears.

            It was a tough decision to make, but as we left Custer, SD and headed east we considered the options very carefully.  Tammy and Michael checked flight schedules and cost.  For hours, while on the road, we thought about and discussed the options.  Our plans had been to work in Fairmont until the end of September.  All things considered, we decided it would be better to take the motor home (MH) rather than fly and then come back just for a few weeks and move the MH south for the winter.  We could not afford to do both.  As of now we pay for our move from work place to work place out of my salary.  Plus, depending on how long we needed to stay in Galax - that would take away from our work days in MN.  For many other reasons I know it was the best decision to take the MH.

            Having the decision finally made, we drove until 3:30 a.m. on Friday and slept to 7 a.m. and were back on the road.  We stopped by the campground we had lived in for the summer and picked up Michael’s car.  From that point Tammy and Michael drove their car.  One hour later they were having car trouble which took about 4 hours to fix.  I slept very little during this time.  Back on the road again we finally got out of MN and drove until 5:30 a.m. on Saturday and got up at 7 a.m.  We arrived at Galax at 7:30 p.m. that afternoon; we unhitched the car in a parking lot, left the MH and drove the car to the hospital.  Mommy had on the oxygen mask (which she had on the whole time to the end) and could not talk much, but she knew us and all who came by.  From Wednesday morning until Saturday evening we drove a little over 2,200 mile.

            Sunday morning we went by the hospital before going on to Bible study.  Mommy was in pain and not very cognizant.  I was close to her and told her who I was and that I loved her.  During this time she said: “It’s over.”  It reminded me of the words of our Lord in His last few hours: “It is finished” (John 19:30).  Because of that, all of mankind has the opportunity of eternal salvation.  Mommy realized her life was coming near the end.  I prayed that her passing would be soon and easy and most of all, that she was in a right relationship with God.  I prayed these things multitudes of times over the past few days.  Days earlier my sister Judy discussed spiritual matters with her.  Having a little rest, Sandy, Tammy, and I stayed with her Monday night.  We were with her at other times as well.  They moved mommy to the nursing home on Tuesday and Sandy and I stayed with her Thursday night and most of the day on Friday.  My oldest brother, Jerry stayed in the room some with us Thursday night and in the hall and his truck.  Many family members came and stayed much. My sister-in-law, Cathy, was very good with mommy and so was my sister Judy.  Judy stayed constantly in the hospital while mommy was there, sleeping when others were there at night in a separate room.  Mommy was never alone and someone was almost always holding her hand, often times two people.

            The last few words I heard her say during these few days: Sunday morning “It’s over.”  One day when I came in Jerry told her I was there and she rose up some and said “O Perry” in a cheerful voice.  Late Thursday night I was holding her right hand and Sandy was on the other side of the bed.  Mommy raised her head a little, opened her eyes fairly wide and said to me “Go to bed.”  We all had a laugh over that and I told her I would later.  About 30 minutes after, like we have seen her do such things so many times in the past with children, she raised her right hand toward me like a cat’s claw and growled a little.  Again, we all had a laugh over that as well as she.  I think she was getting bored with us!  This shows her likeable personality and her prankster side.  A few hours later the nurses came in and turned her a little to the other side.  Mommy said: “I know one thing.”  One nurse said “What is that?”  Mommy said “I have some good nurses.”  The nurse said “It is because we have such a good patient.”  These are the last words I heard her speak that I could understand.  Often we sang spiritual songs to her.  Someone had asked her before if she wanted us to sing and she acknowledged that she did.  I don’t remember when it was, but a few spoonfuls of apple butter was her last food to help her take some medicine.  This brought back precious memories of our family and her sister and husband making apple butter, which she loved.

            Friday evening I was so tired, having been with her all night and most of the day, I went back to the MH (parked beside Dallas’ house) and went to bed.  At about 9:40 p.m. I heard a knock on the door and figured she had passed.  It was Dallas and he informed us that she had.  Sandy, Dallas, his son, Daniel, and I drove over to the nursing home.  Most of the family was on the outside and I greeted and hugged a few as I made my way in.  I admit I was trying to avoid as many as I could because I was in a hurry to get inside with the body.  The prior days I had mixed emotions, but had decided that I wanted to be with her when she passed, but it did not work out that way.  Judy, Cathy, and my niece Shannon was with her singing “O Come Angel Band,” and they did.  Shannon was holding her left hand when it happened, but they kept on singing with Cathy’s encouragement.  Judy and Cathy had promised that she would never be left alone and she was not.  Shannon, her mother Margaret, Sandy, and I stayed with the body until the funeral home worker came to receive it.  Later we went by her house; I looked at where she always sat in the living room and thought “her seat is empty, she will sorely be missed (cp. 1 Sam. 20:18).

            At some point earlier Shannon told mommy “Just look around at all the Sextons in the church because of you.”  Through the years she has talked with her children and encouraged them.  Along with the request to see all her children one last time was that which we all have heard so many times before: She wanted to see all her children in the church, but not all are.  For those, we also want to encourage them to become faithful Christians.  For those in the church we want to encourage growth and faithfulness and teach your children by example and word the grave seriousness of life and the hereafter!

            During our gospel meeting in MN, Michael having already brought some very good lessons that the whole world needs to hear and the singing was good, even though we were small in numbers; I had a very sobering thought: that which many preachers and I as well have said so many times before: “this could be the very last church service we will ever be able to attend.”  Though I had said it so many times before in trying to cause people to realize the severe seriousness of things; I have never had it to truly impact me as it did at that time.  I thought of the folks in Fairmont, whom we have been trying to reach with the saving truth, of mommy and of my family, and of the whole world.  Friends, brethren, and my family, someday it will be the last day, the last hour, the last worship service, the last invitation, and the last opportunity we will have to obey the gospel or to make things right with God for the erring child of God.  O what a terrible thought for these precious opportunities to be gone from us forever!  Today is the day of salvation, tomorrow may truly be too late.

            No one on earth knows, but we trust and have hope that she now is in a far, far, better place.  If that is so, what a glorious and happy reunion she had.  Again, I trust and believe her parents and most siblings and many other kin folks are there.  And far more than that; all the faithful throughout all the ages are there, in that glorious place waiting for our Lord’s return.  Let us all truly examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5) and be certain of our salvation.                        --Perry Sexton