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The Last Song of a Dying Loved One

Sedated and unable to speak in her last hours, an elderly mother still inspires her family through faith.

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My wife’s family and I gathered around my mother-in-law, Nereida, before she was taken off the ventilator and medicines keeping her alive. She had been a pillar of faith and the prayer warrior of the family. Life hadn’t been easy for Nereida. She buried four children, husband and grandson. Several years earlier she overcame cancer. Early each morning she would be on her knees praying. Late into the night she would listen to religious programs on her radio—always seeking to draw closer to God. During the pandemic, at age 87, she learned how to get on Facebook and watch her church services.

After a heart attack following surgery to remove a nodule from her right lung, she was sedated and unable to talk due to the ventilator. Most of the time she was unresponsive. But we knew that she was listening to our prayers, conversations and words.

As she lay on the bed intubated, machines monitoring her breathing and heart, I decided to play her favorite Christian song on my phone, Levanto Mis Manos (I Lift Up My Hands) by the Christian artist, Samuel Hernandez. It was the same song that I played in my car on the drive to the hospital for her surgery.

I placed the phone near her left ear so she could listen and selected the longest version of the song on YouTube. As the song played, my wife Elba slowly lifted her left hand and our niece, Jasmine, raised her right hand. The music and lyrics filled the room and our hearts:

I lift up my hands even though I don’t have the strength
I lift up my hands even though I have a thousand problems 

When I lift up my hands I begin to feel an anointing that makes me sing
When I lift up my hands I begin to feel fire 

When I lift up my hands my burdens are gone, new strength you give me 
All of this possible, all this is possible, when I lift up my hands

Slowly Nereida gained strength and began to move her head left and right. Her lips moved without sound as she sought to sing along. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She was singing her song for one last time. I said several times in Spanish to her, “Praise Your Lord.”

She worshipped God with all the strength she could muster. Our sadness turned into a joyful song. Light replaced darkness as if heaven had descended into the room. Several hours later, Elba and I watched her take her last breath. Even until the end, she taught us that in life and death, she belonged to the Lord.

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