Well, finally I am an orphan, at the very advanced age of 74. My Aged Parent, my mother, died on Jan. 14, 2021. Anne Margaret Morrone Wells lived to be 101 10/12 (b. Mar. 8, 1919-d. Jan. 14, 2021). She fell only 53 days short of making it to 102. When she celebrated her 101st birthday in March of 2020, I probably would have bet that she would make it to 102. And I thought she had a puncher’s chance of going seriously beyond that. However, it was not to be. From about mid-October onward, we knew that things were trending downward, and that most likely she had only weeks or months. So it turned out. She lived only three more months after we began to see the handwriting on the wall.
In this column I want to mention various aspects of my mother’s life and death. Certain things come to mind. This will likely be disjointed. Something a little less disjointed is the obituary written by my sister Jill, to which I give a link below. Jill did a good job with it.
Jill had been praying that my mother would pass peacefully. This was a wise prayer, and God granted it. My mother died peacefully in her sleep. The hospice nurse pointed out my mother’s posture at her passing. Her limbs were relaxed and quiet. An excellent observation.
This reminds me of my father’s death. My father, not a Christian, had always wanted to die working. His preference was granted to him, in 1992. We found my father’s body at the place where he was smelting lead. By the posture of his limbs, I could tell he had died instantly without any pain at all. (I could tell that because I had done the same job my father was doing, and if he had experienced any pain, I knew his arms would have been drawn up to his chest. Instead his hands were in position to move the ingots of lead when they were finished being formed.) God let my father die working, and without pain. My mother died peacefully in her sleep.
When my mother was a young married woman, she suffered a long bout of depression. I was her first-born child. (Hey, that’s not why she was depressed! I hope.) But after that she suffered two miscarriages. This I think is what prompted her toward depression. What she did at this point was very intelligent, and showed an instinctive understanding of how reality is put together by God. What she did was to tell God, that if He would heal her from her depression, she would honor Him by her life from that point on.
She was thinking covenantally. (It wasn’t a word she was likely to use.) She believed in God. If He was there He could help her. In return it would only be fair that she try to honor Him. God honored her attempt at a covenant. He healed her depression, and He granted her three more children.
In her long life, she never really had to deal again with depression. She could get very discouraged for a brief time, but she was resilient and she bounced back quickly. She said that when troubles hit, one should indulge oneself only three days, then it was time to move on. This reminds me of Jesus Christ. He was in the tomb only three days, and on the third day He rose, a victor over death. My mother instinctively picked three days as the limit for being discouraged; after that it was time to get back to regular life.
My mother didn’t dwell on, or even think much about, her two miscarriages, the rest of her life. I think that means that if the God of the Bible exists, as I hope, that she had a very great and very wonderful surprise as she entered the afterlife. I think her two children lost to miscarriage were there to greet her. The joy of that meeting must have been astonishing. Such a meeting was not something she was counting on or even thinking about. I think she received it anyway.
In her last weeks she had many ups and downs. The Thanksgiving meal was wretched. She had no appetite and stayed at the table briefly. But for Christmas day, weeks later, she had a good appetite and was thinking clearly. At times during these last months she was thinking poorly and her speech was slurred. But when her grandchildren and great-grandchildren made their last visits, her thinking was good and her speech was clear. It seemed as if God was going out of His way to make sure she and the family had really good times together as the end was approaching.
For some days she hallucinated. What was she seeing? Bridge hands. She learned to play bridge at age 10 when her older sister Fran came back from college with a knowledge of the game. My mother loved the game immediately, and was a bridge player and fan of the game the rest of her life. My father played also. He used to say he didn’t want to play bridge with my mother as partner, because he couldn’t afford a divorce. (This was a joke, but with a healthy dollop of truth to it. It was better for both of them that they not pair up at the bridge table.) He didn’t say that because she was a bad player. She was a good player–often placed highly in scoring compared to others, even at her advanced age–but apparently was unorthodox in both bidding and playing. That is what we would expect of her–she was never really orthodox in how she lived.
When her days of hallucination stopped, she had no memory of having seen countless bridge hands that were not there.
My sister Jill theorizes that in heaven my mother will discover that of course everyone in heaven plays bridge.
In my blog post for March 14, 2019, when I celebrated my mother reaching age 100, I discussed three ways in which she surpassed many people in her thinking and behavior. I went into some depth there, and here I will only briefly note those three ways.
1/She understood that abortion is murder. She never faltered.
2/She understood that it was wrong to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
3/She had great generosity of spirit toward her in-laws. She would never have been even tempted to be jealous of the times her daughter spent with her in-laws rather than with our family.
Many people, Christians or non-Christians, could not match her thinking and behavior in those three categories. She was not a deep Bible-reading theologian, but she got some things very right–things which supposedly sophisticated people could get very wrong.
She kept her sense of humor. In these latter months, I would sometimes tease her that she was over the hill. “At least I’m not under it” was her refrain as often as I said my half of the cross-talk act.
Rather than try to squeeze all the “aspects” of my mother’s life and death that I want to talk about into one post, I will plan to go with part II next week. Meanwhile, Anne Wells, rest in peace.