The Ascension into Heaven – God Touching a Family at a Precise Moment
By Marlene Sommer
This is a tribute to my dear mother-in-law, Sally Sommer, who died on April 19, 1990. Believe these coincidences are planned by God to happen at a precise moment and know they are messages from heaven. It was revealed that Sally, our special mother, was indeed in heaven where she is destined to be.
At my daughter’s fourth birthday party, I noticed that my mother-in-law was not eating any food or snacks. When I offered some hors d’oeuvres she mentioned she was having a little digestive problem. Months later when she went in for gallbladder surgery, the surgeon came out with a very somber look as he explained to the children that their mother had a rare gallbladder cancer and would only have 6 –8 weeks to live. What a tremendous blow! Our lives took a complete turn in a moment’s notice. You can only imagine how hard that hit my wonderful mother-in-law and how it devastated her children. Once the reality of her unfortunate plight set in, she was the ultimate model of class and grace despite her terrible circumstances. Always still a mother… strong, non-complaining, and loving. Amazingly, her wit and sense of humor followed her to the end.
Eight years earlier her husband, Andy, had also died from cancer within two months of his diagnosis. He never knew, as any of us ever do, that his life would be taken so soon. But this was different, totally different. The family exhausted all options of alternative treatment and succumbed to making their mother’s time left as comfortable as possible. Sally’s house became a bee hive with her kids and their spouses and grandchildren coming and going around the clock. Dale’s wife at that time, registered nurse Nancy Heckler Sommer (who later also passed away from cancer at only 42yrs. of age), took a leave with the threat of losing her job to care for her mother-in-law. I will never forget witnessing the continual loving care and compassion she so tenderly exhibited to another human being. Watching her was like seeing Mother Teresa herself at work. She never left the house for the entire seven weeks that she cared for her mother-in-law.
With Nancy as the trained caregiver, she instructed the siblings on how to give palliative care during their beloved mother’s last weeks. I was so impressed with the love and care all of her six children gave; every single one did their part. Their example was a testimony to their parents. All of the family was in this together and they spent every day attending to the mother they loved so much. The daughters-in-law, Nancy and Julie, cared for Sally as if she were their own mother. My husband, Steve, slept on the floor at night beside his mother, feeding her ice chips and assisting Nancy. All of her children performed numerous devoted gestures for their mother. To this day, I still regret I didn’t do more as I was pregnant and extremely ill with a child I miscarried several months later. I had two young children to care for so my husband could be where he needed to be. I learned first hand life lessons on love and compassion that would never be forgotten.
It was like a revolving door at her household. Friends stopped, priests came, and lots of delicious food was delivered to the family. That was the highlight of the day – we found that homemade apple pie can indeed lift a spirit even a little bit in hard times. We had the most tearful moments of our lives and also those moments of extreme laughter that come with deeply emotional family crises.
Many incredible “touches from God” moments happened throughout her illness and after her death, to the point that the family would hum the “Doo.. doo.. doo.. doo..” tune like the Twilight Zone because things could be so “weird” at times. From the Easter lily that kept leaning toward wherever Sally was, to the night she died and all the girls awoke to the strong smell of Ciara perfume (their mother’s signature scent) unbeknownst to the other until it was later declared. What I am about to share will forever live on in my mind. On the particular morning of April 19th, all of the kids and their spouses were kneeling around both sides and at the foot of their mother’s bed. Robert Mills, a close friend that is truly a member of our family and a fantastic orator, was leading the rosary. As Bob led and announced, “The second Glorious Mystery, the Ascension into heaven,” Sally suddenly started gasping for her last breath.
My sister-in-law Jane, who was kneeling beside me, grasped my hand and startlingly and tearfully gasped, “Oh my, God!” as she watched her mother leave this earth at the precise moment “the ascension into heaven” was proclaimed. Without barely a pause, the family held hands and pulled together to recite the next four decades of the rosary. What a send off! Their mother could have died anytime during those seven weeks, and at any moment, but she did not. She passed on at the precise moment those words were said, not a moment sooner or a moment later. That in itself is a small miracle.
If you choose to read on, you will understand why God gave her family a sign that this wonderful woman and mother had a straight shot to heaven. She may have seemed to be an ordinary, everyday person, but in God’s eyes, she clearly was anything but ordinary.
My mother-in-law was polite and quiet, intelligent, hardworking, non-complaining, honest, and a genuine good person. She had a big job while their dad worked second shift at Ford Motor Company in Lima, Ohio. Raising six kids was a lot of work and expense; the kids didn’t have expensive clothes but wore clothes that were nice and stylish, clean, and always impeccably ironed. Inexpensive meals like cabbage soup and bean soup stretched the dollar but are still family favorites today. She also had a great sense of humor and fun loving side as well. In fact, some of the best times in my life were spent going out with my parents-in-law and their friends. We could have a few drinks together at a Saturday night dance and laugh until we cried into the wee hours of the morning. But their faith was always an example and you still never missed Mass on a Sunday morning!
As a tribute to the person she was, all six of her children are also great individuals. The Sommer siblings are all products of their parent’s qualities and I am therefore blessed with the most amazing and fun in-laws in the world. They have a strong work ethic because they worked at home …mowed the lawn, washed the cars, did the dishes. They were happy kids and totally unspoiled. In fact, on their birthday it was special enough just to have everyone sing “Happy Birthday” and enjoy cake. No extravagant presents like the spoiled children of today. Only once did my husband receive the gift of a watch for a birthday present. Never did he feel he was not unconditionally loved by two of the best parents in the world.
None of the kids are divorced, have ever been on drugs, or in jail. They are teachers, professionals, business owners. They are just what you might call “salt of the earth” good people. I never said they weren’t ornery. We continually laugh at family gatherings as we hash over childhood stories about the glowing statue Dale scared the girls with coming down the bedroom hallway or the stink bomb he made in the garage, etc. etc. Many stories revolve around Dale!
My mother-in-law gave me the gift of a husband who is the most hard-working, moral, and honest person I have ever known. He totally “gets” what is important in life. How she ever raised a son like this I will never know because the boys did the mowing, car washing, etc. He cooks, cleans the house and bathrooms, does laundry, irons, runs his own business and has a delicious meal ready when I get home from work everyday. He could not have been a better parent from the get go, changing diapers, giving the baths, and playing and reading for hours every day to the kids. He helped take care of my 101 year old grandfather before he died, my sister throughout her five year illness with breast cancer until she died, and has my 86 year old mother for dinner almost every night. I can only thank his parents for the person that he is and I am blessed to have kids who are just like him. My in-laws are also blessed to marry a child of Andy and Sally Sommer because they too possess the same morals and ethics. All my nieces and nephews are also remarkable individuals and great parents. I believe my mother-in-law deserves a tribute to the life of a true Christian mother that raised such an awesome family. Her entrance into heaven was to be known and celebrated by her family as their words “the ascension into heaven” were recited in the faith they were lovingly taught.