Claiming Her Reward

 

Note: This page was written by Bernadine's son, Bradley Ward after Bernadine had passed on to Glory.

By April and May of 2010, Mother's health had degraded to the point where she could no longer move about her apartment without assistance. This resulted in her spending most of every day in her recliner, then spending the nights in her bed.

Her breathing capabilities and energy level were also declining rapidly. By the last few weeks of her life she had to struggle to find the energy to talk, and it was very hard to understand what she was saying when she did talk. But as she had done throughout her life, she did not complain and continued to minister to the people around her. And she retained her sense of humor.

After her passing, the manager of the care givers at her assisted living facility (Dogwood Forest of Northpoint) told Camille of an exception that the Dogwood Forest management had allowed for Mother. It seems that the care givers were normally forbidden from spending extended lengths of time in a residents apartment visiting with the resident. This was because the care givers needed to take care of the other residents and could not afford the time to stop and visit with each one.

But management made an exception for Mother and allowed any of the care givers to stop and visit with her whenever they felt the need. This was because they had observed that when a care giver was having a bad day, or was depressed, or was under stress from health or other concerns in her private life, they would come in and talk to Mother. She would quietly listen to their issues and make comments from time to time. If asked, she would even offer her advice. Management noted that after even a short visit with Mother, the care giver would leave in a much more upbeat and positive spirit, which obviously allowed the care giver to provide much better care for the other residents. So even in her final days, Mother continued to bless the lives of those around her and give witness to her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

During these times Mother and I would even joke about her ministry to those around her. One night while I was visiting, I witnessed one of these interchanges with a care giver. After the care giver had left the room, I turned to Mother and said "Mother, you have GOT to stop being so nice to these people because if you don't, God is going to keep you on this earth forever!".

By the last few weeks of her life, Mother could no longer read at all, and so was unable to read the Bible each day as had been her custom throughout her life. So those around her would read passages of scripture to her.

After one of these scripture reading sessions with one of the Dogwood Forest care givers, Mother looked at the care giver when she had finished reading the scripture and quietly said in her weakened voice, "Now go do it!".

Mother kept her sense of humor up to the very last days of her life. Just a few days before she passed her hospice nurse was comforting her and was talking about Heaven, stating that there would be cats in Heaven, and that there would be birds in Heaven (two of Mother's passions in life). To this Mother replied in a voice that could barely be understood "I.....hope.... they....keep.....them.....separate!".

By the weekend of May 14th, Mother's healh had failed to the point where it was clear that she would only be locked in her poor worn out body for just a few more days. I was in Arizona that week on business and Margie was in Hattiesburg, MS where she lived. Camille put out a call to both Margie and I that we should return to their Mother's side as soon as possible.

Margie dropped what she was doing and drove to Alpharetta arriving around 2:30 am on Sunday morning, May 16th. I took the red-eye flight back from Phoenix that same night and arrived by Mother's side by 7 am the same morning. My oldest son Matthew, who was studying many hours of every day for his upcoming medical boards examination, dropped what he was doing and also drove to Alpharetta. So by Sunday afternoon Mother was surround by all members of her family except for Margie's husband Tim who was visiting his family in Kansas, and Margie's daughter Amy who was in her home in Austin, TX and unable to travel the signifcant distance to Atlanta. During that afternoon many words of love and affection were spoken, both by Mother her family, and myself. It was a marvelous time of closure and good bye, and ended with a subtle form of excitement about the wonders that Mother would soon be witnessing in the mansion that her Lord had prepared for her.

Margie and I remained by their Mother's bedside from that point onward. As it turns out, the time of closure on Sunday afternoon was to be the last time that Mother had the strength to speak.

Mother spent her last night on this earthly plane with Margie and I by her side, and at approximately 6:30 on Tuesday morning, May 18th, she passed on to Glory to claim her rewards in Heaven. It was a clear, beautiful morning with the birds she so loved chirping just outside her window. The first emotion I felt after I realized that she had passed was very similar to the emotions I similar to the emotions I feel when the Georgia Tech football team scores a touchdown. Mother had played the game of life well for 88 years and some 4 months and had made the final play to claim life everlasting!