In memory of my mother (11/3/23 – 3/7/99), I am sharing a portion of a letter she wrote me. There is no date on it, but it was probably written a few years before her death. My mother wrote letters often, as this was still the major way of communicating other than a phone call. This predates e-mail, texting, video chat, FaceTime, and all forms of social media. My mom wrote letters in installments like a journal. She would sit and write a little bit about the day and then add onto the letter over the course of two or three days. Often, they were rambling notes, kind of similar to how she spoke.
If you have read much of my writing, you may see some resemblance to my mom’s. Although this was not written for a public audience, this gives you a little window into her thinking, her values, and her way of writing. She did write a book of her memoirs later in life.
When I pulled this letter out and read it, I became aware of how similar the final paragraph was to a quote of Billy Graham, who passed away recently at the age of 99. Reverend Graham said, “I’m prepared to die, in fact I’m looking forward to it–And when you’re prepared to die, you’re also prepared to live.” To quote from him again, “No parent is perfect; we all can look back and think of things we could’ve done to help our children be better prepared for adulthood. And sometimes it’s best to admit it to them and encourage them to learn from our mistakes.” That is just what my mother did.
Mom was so prepared to die, I don’t think it took her completely by surprise. But it was a complete shock to all of us kids as she seemed so healthy. Something that gave me insight into the fact that God had the date, March 7, 1999, in mind for mom’s home-going was this little nugget: When we were going through her apartment after her passing, I came across a day calendar on her kitchen counter. It was already turned to the current day, March 7. On the calendar was a Scripture as well as the following quote, a German proverb: “Those who live in the Lord never see each other for the last time.” Just a kind little reminder from our heavenly Father that I was going to see my mom again. My mother is more alive today than she ever was on earth!
If no sparrow falls to the ground without our Father knowing it (Matthew 10:29), how can it be possible that a human being passes away outside of His care? Indeed, I believe the day of my death has already been written in heaven, and like Billy Graham and my mother, I am looking forward to it. Not in a morbid way, oh no! For I am planning and hoping to live another couple of decades at least, God willing. I want to continue learning more and more of God’s nature and character and to make Him known to the best of my ability. I want to continue to love and influence my children, grandchildren, friends, and family. And I want to make my mom proud. As proud as I am of her.
A Letter From Mom
Wilma Faye Yohnke
Tonight at 9 o’clock I drove out to the small house where I am staying these two weeks. As Smoky, the big black dog, greeted me with low howls of complaint because I was so late, I realized how much I am missing in not having a pet to come home to in my apartment. I’ve been here only three nights and already I know how I am going to miss this secluded house and yard. It is hidden from Riverview Road by a short turn of a gravel road and many trees.
I feel as if I’m back in my childhood haven in the sandhills. This feels like “home.” The sound of silence with only the clock ticking is soothing and seems exactly what I need. Although déjà vu is very strong right now, I would not ask to be transported back in time…only if I could stay there. It’s strange to think of what heaven may be, but for me this would satisfy.
I have discovered two barn swallows’ nests in the small barn. One still has four fledgling baby birds. The mother screams and dives at me as I walk into the building.
Today I went into town and brought two friends out here for lunch. It was in the 90s today so they were glad to get out here where it seemed more refreshing than in town.
This evening at sunset I went to the barn to see if the baby birds go back to the nest for the night. They were there, four round heads peeking over the edge of the nest. Again, two grown birds scolded and swooped in front of the door. The other one must be the father or a friend. Tonight I took a flashlight to the barn. When I shone it on the birds’ nest, they all flew outside. They are so crowded in the nest one has to face a different direction so they can all fit in. The two adult birds are still hanging around to tell me I am trespassing.
This job is taking me back in time giving me strange feelings. After dark tonight, I washed my bedding from the town apartment and hung it on the clothesline out under the trees. Behind the pole fence, one of the horses shied and ran as he caught sight of me. Suddenly, I felt that my dad was watching me. It was a good sensation. A few days ago, I was bragging that I don’t like to talk about or think of past things. Who am I now? Bringing the past into the present was never my way of living or talking. There must be a reason for this—I may never find it.
As I think about many different things, while surrounded by this quietness, I tried to think of the biggest mistake I made while raising my family. I am saying that from early on we should talk to our children about death as the final goal of life. Instead, many of us avoided the topic. We encouraged you children to work hard, prepare yourselves for a life career, maintain your health, and earn all the money you could. Did we present the goal of heaven after death with the same zeal? Did we talk about death as God’s blessing or did we act as if it were a blighting curse? I know that we were guilty of saying nothing. If we gave it any thought, we left it to the CCD teachers or the parish priest. This was wrong. My parents passed onto us the feeling that we don’t talk about death in our everyday lives. We need to re-do this heritage.