In the fall of 1997, my parents were in a car accident. My mother spent a couple of months in the hospital, never able to return to her earthly home.
My husband and I had planned to go on a cruise to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. We were going to cancel it.
However, my mother was insistent that we go. In fact, she was so insistent she told everyone from family to friends to her doctor that we “had to go on that cruise.”
As Mother’s condition continued to deteriorate I was doubtful it was the right thing. However, she continued to insist. When I asked her doctor, he said, “It seems pretty important to her. Maybe she wants you to go and take pictures to add to both your memories.”
So, on October 12, 1997, my husband and I set out on our maiden voyage.
It was described by some of the seasoned cruise staff as the worst turbulence they had experienced in years of sailing.
As soon as we left port, the ship began to toss and turn and tilt from side to side. Everyone held on to anything they could find in an effort to regain stability.
Finally, we decided we might fare better if we went up on deck and tried to visually equilibrate with the horizon. It seemed to work.
As we stared into the heavens, the sea seemed calm. In fact, it was no different, but our focus was different.
Now that God had our attention, He outdid Himself with artistry.
He painted one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. We spent some time on deck, just admiring His Work before we went back inside to attempt supper. My husband took a picture of me with the sun going down behind me.
Later that evening, we received the call that my mother had passed into Glory earlier. I was stunned. At that time, my only comfort was that I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that I was where she wanted me to be. But I did not know why.
Weeks later, God revealed the first clue. My nephew had been present at the hospital at the time of my mother’s death. He had been asked to step out of my mother’s room for the nurses to care for her. He had done so.
Before the nurses came in, my mother quietly left for Glory. He was concerned that had he remained, she might have remained.
I assured him that my mother, being the lady she was, would never have left while he was there. She would have considered it rude!
And besides, I wrote him, I believed God’s Glory came and filled her room. It was a private, intimate moment, just for God and my mother to share.
I stopped in mid-sentence and thought, “Wow Lord, it must have been been wonderful to see Your Glory!” At that moment, I heard Him say in my spirit, “You did. Your Mother and I arranged it!”
Suddenly I thought of the sunset. I asked my husband when he had taken that picture. He replied that it was easy to remember, since it was just before we went inside for supper. The sunset occurred at the very time of my mother’s death!
I now knew with absolute certainty that I had been sent to that place in time to have a front row seat to His Glory! But God had more to reveal.
While I was reflecting on the wonder of the time of the sunset, God brought to mind a memory from the past.
As I was studying the pictures of the sunset … for just a moment, I moved back in time to high school. In my English class, we received points for every poem we memorized. Mother loved poetry and eagerly helped me select poems to memorize.
We both searched through books of poetry. As I remembered, it seemed I could still hear her voice, her words spoken with enthusiasm.
“Why don’t you memorize this one? I just love this one. It’s got such a good message. It would be a good one to remember always.”
So I memorized “Crossing the Bar” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson … without knowing that God had planted seeds… and that many years from that moment, those seeds would sprout into a beautiful sunset on a turbulent ocean, within moments of my Mother’s ascension into Glory.
God allowed me to remember that poem with a new understanding.
Sunset and evening star,
and one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
The bar is that point in the water when the currents are stirred up the most by the force of the waters from the sea and the movement from closer the land colliding. We had indeed been present at the crossing of the bar! God and my mother arranged it.
“A person may plan his own journey, but The Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning!” Psalm 30:5
When the sun sets in one place, it rises in another. And now you know why I love the beauty of sunsets!