Preparing to See the “Ivory Palaces”

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Saying goodbye to two of the hospice nursing team members as she “graduated” in March.

I sit in a hospice family room this afternoon, hearing the raspy breathing of my mother in the other room. We’ve already been through this once when back in January she was placed in hospice for palliative care because of uncontrollable seizure activity. After a two month stay, she improved enough to “graduate” to assisted living.

In one way this was a step-down from her earlier independent living, but it was two steps-up from hospice. She adjusted well, but the seizure activity began again, resulting in a nursing home placement for 10 days. She showed some improvement with rehab but with another round of seizure episodes, she was ready to return to hospice for tender loving care, almost exactly three months from her previous discharge.

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“Bunny” holding #31 of 32 great-grandkids

We were grateful for those three months. It allowed us to celebrate her 95th birthday (see Celebrating the Gift of Our Matriarch); she made new friends and caught up with a few old ones, who had moved from her retirement apartment to assisted living; and, she got to meet her newest great-grandchildren, my daughter’s twins. Additionally, she continued to serve the Lord through her witness of faith in church and community. I am on a rotation of ministers who go to the nursing homes, and though I usually accompany myself on the guitar when we sing hymns, she played the organ for me at assisted living while she was a resident. It was nice to have her play for me one last time.

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The “Proposal” recreated!

Mom was a music teacher. A graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa, her first teaching assignment was in Seymour Iowa, where she taught music. It was there she met my dad, who taught business classes in the high school. He joined the Navy in 1943, and they were soon married. She never taught school after that, having begun to raise a family of five, four daughters and a son. However, her music training was not wasted as she sang in church choirs and ensembles and played piano and organ in a several churches.

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Mom and “Chucky Baby” (not to be confused with Chucky’s baby)

Additionally, she supplemented the family income by giving private piano and voice lessons in our home for a number of years. Almost every day, I came home from elementary school to hear the sound of inexperienced pianists playing their scales and struggling through simple songs.

Her playing and singing, however, were exceptional. I remember lying under the baby grand piano while she played, watching the action of the pedal as it moved the dampers up and down and letting the melodies cascade down from the sound board onto my ears. There were other times when I listened from my room to her rehearsals with my sisters, who formed a gospel quartet and occasionally sang at the local V.A. hospital chapel services on Sunday mornings. She even accompanied me as a child, though never for public consumption as I recall. My earliest recollection was at age 5, singing the chorus of the ragtime love song, “O, You Beautiful Doll”:

Oh! you beautiful doll, You great big beautiful doll!
Let me put my arms about you,
I could never live without you;
Oh! you beautiful doll, You great big beautiful doll!
If you ever leave me how my heart will ache,
I want to hug you but I fear you’d break
Oh, oh, oh, oh, Oh, you beautiful doll!

I’m sure I would have been a YouTube sensation if it had been around in 1961.

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“Bunny” giving a great-granddaughter a piano lesson.

As my voice matured, she encouraged me to sing a few songs at church with her as my accompanist. One of those songs was on my mind as I awoke this morning after spending the night close to her bed at the hospice house – “Ivory Palaces.” Before singing it with her

I had never heard the song, but it became a favorite. The writer, Henry Barraclough, wrote this song after hearing a sermon on Psalm 45, a royal wedding song with a secondary application to the Messiah. As with most hymns, there is a progression – a story told. The song speaks of the glorious nature of Christ, but acknowledges the suffering He bore on the cross because of humanity’s sin. However, the new life in Christ brings salvation from sin’s bondage and leads to an everlasting presence before the Jesus Christ the Lord. The last stanza speaks of that ultimate hope and reward for the believer. These are the words to which I awoke and hope for my mother’s imminent awareness:

In garments glorious He will come,
To open wide the door;
And I shall enter my heav’nly home,
To dwell forevermore.
Out of the ivory palaces, Into a world of woe,
Only His great eternal love Made my Savior go.

And so life goes. We prepare for the death of our “great big beautiful doll” of a mother, for whom our hearts will ache when she leaves. However, we know that we will sing together with her again as we look forward to the fulfillment of our hope in Christ Jesus and His promise of eternal life.

Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.

1 John 3:2-3 (HCSB*)


*Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

26 thoughts on “Preparing to See the “Ivory Palaces”

  1. I know your hearts are heavy tonight. Mine is feeling heavy also as I ponder the loss of an extremely wonderful Christian woman who is the matriarch of this family. We have all looked up to her as an awesome example of a mother, aunt, grandmother, to this family. One of a kind, in our eyes. Think of all those wonderful friends and family she will have to say hello to! Love and prayers to all of you sitting by her side. We love you all and pray for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kathy. How blessed we have been as a family to have the living and supportive parents, who were industrious and yet fun loving. Oh, the laughter we experienced this side of heaven will certainly continue on the other side. Can’t wait to catch up with especially those story tellers like Digger and Don and Charlie and all the rest and hear some of their tales of glory.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Chuck for all you and Myra have done and been for Mom in IA. Her last years were rich with the feeling of where she came from…a Yankee! ; ) She was around so many great people in your small town. Please thank them as well because as I visited, I could feel the love and fellowship she had at your church as well as her friends and companions in each of her “homes” there in Creston…the IA folks are special sincere people. Thanks for the lovely tribute!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re up early (or have you not slept, Sister?). It has been our joy to have her with us in Iowa these past nine years, reconnecting with family here and making new friends. Love you!

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  3. Chuck (and family),
    We are sorry to hear about Bunny, but what a beautifully written tribute to your mom this is. My opinion is that Tate and Cassidy’s daughter Annie looks like Bunny. I think of Bunny each time I see Annie. I think that is a good thing. While we don’t know Bunny well, Mary and I know what a wonderful lady and mother and grandmother and even great grandmother she is. You are all in our prayers.

    Jim and Mary Carow

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks, Jim and Mary. It is fun to see how genetic traits and personality traits pass down the generations. There is a healthy dose of my mom’s genes being revealed in her posterity. Thanks for your caring comments and prayers.

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  5. Chuck, this was beautiful. “Ivory Palaces” is one of my favorites having learned from my Dad (Myra’s cousin – first cousin once removed – and a Church of Christ minister – retired) many years ago. Thanks for sharing. I so look forward to your posts – even save them to revisit later. Have a good day. Meg Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2015 01:17:44 +0000 To: megtissue@hotmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Meg. It’s good to hear from you again. I hoped that our previous email messages got you in touch with Myra’s half-sister for your genealogical requests. I’ll let Myra know you stopped by.

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  6. What a beautiful essay, thank you for sharing it with us. Your mother is such a dear lady and I’m glad I was allowed to know her. I have a fond memory of the time my mother and I invited yourself, Myra, and Grace over to my house for dinner not long after it was remodeled. I enjoyed hearing your mother’s stories and spending time with her that day. I was fortunate enough to hear her play piano at Crest Baptist on a couple of occasions as the worship team performed classic hymns and I could tell she as having a lot of fun. God bless you and your family, and Grace as you struggle through this rough time. (P.S. I’m not familiar with “Ivory Palaces”, but I do know “Oh You Beautiful Doll” believe it or not lol)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Darrell, for your kind words and remembrances. We are grateful that she has had such an impact in people’s lives even when it has been toward the end of her life. Thanks to you and your mother for being so gracious to include her.

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  7. Thanks so much for sharing such a beautiful, loving tribute to your mom. She has certainly blessed my life and I thank God for the wonderful times that we had with her. Our love and prayers are with you and all of the family during this transition time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for your kind words, Rene. Mom is languishing, but we are still having moments of fellowship with her that are sweet and special… just a foretaste of what is to come. God bless!

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  9. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Beneath Your Feet | Rural Iowa Pastor

  10. Sorry for your loss. You were so fortunate of having such a wonderful mother. I love the proposal photo. What a precious memory to have. Thanks for stopping by.

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    • Thanks, Cris. I can see how from the thread of comments you would assume that she has passed. However, as of August 17, 2015, my mother continues on with us. While we have had several cues that death was imminent, one of my sisters just returned home after being here for three weeks, thinking she was coming for Mom’s death. Her grandmother name is “Bunny,” so we have joked about her being the “Energizer Bunny” which keeps going and going. Thanks for your kind words!

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