Eulogy for Nancy Ann Austad
b. August 6, 1930 d. November 30, 2003
Delivered by her son, Steven R. Schoner
Scandinavian Mariner's Lutheran Church
San Pedro, CA on December 13, 2003
I Will Love You Forever…
I am a miracle as I stand here today, for my mother was a miracle worker. It was by and though her prayers and the prayers of many of you here today that I am here to give her this eulogy. I nearly died last January from a rare form of encephalitis. And I came back from it.
I can add more to what my brother and stepfather have already said; the memories of her, the things that we did together and such. But one prayer, one wish she always had was that my brother and I would be closer in this life. Not in distance, but a bond between us.
Now my task is to focus on the spiritual aspects of her life. And I could relate the discussions we had together and our frustrations with religion, hers and mine. As with everything she was astute and perceptive.
But I won’t go into those details, other than to say that she was very disillusioned with religion, starting first with Catholicism and then for what an abusive Pentecostal group did, their spiritual abuse, and their slanderous ways directed toward me.
And in fact I was quite angry with God in general until this last year, when I nearly died from ADEM.
And I relate in this, for in that 7 day coma, I saw Jesus in a doorway with intense light of gold and silver streaming out from Him and past Him.
He sent me back, but did not tell me why.
And how many times over this near last year of recovery I have prayed for a reason.
Why did He send me back? My mother prayed for me even though she could not be there at my bedside as I was in that coma. She prayed to a God she did not know, for nothing could be worse than her child, a son dying before her. My step-father, brother and wife and daughter came to my bedside. They pulled for me, against all odds and what the neurosurgeons had said would be my fate. And I came back. I came back in a miraculous recovery.
But I needed the answer, something to carry me on through the pains of recovery.
And I related to my mother, what had happened to me, how I recovered, and what I saw.
"You must believe in Jesus, and no other." I told her, "I saw him, mother. Believe that He died on the cross for you, and your sins will be forgiven, and believe that He rose from the dead..." I told her. "This is the most important thing that one can do. Nothing else matters."
And I mentioned this to her many times over the last year, and how we will come to a place where there is no sorrow or pain. Her heart changed. I heard her when she cried, and when her heart opened to Him in the weeks after I returned from the brink. And I know that He heard her prayers, and sent me back with a message, a witness for her.
And Thanksgiving weekend, as I was getting ready to go to church, I received a phone call from my stepfather. "Get home Steve; please get home, your mother is dying..." Then he gave the phone to my brother, who said, "Forget everything Steve-- Your mother is dying."
And I became frantic, having not fully recovered from my illness, and still in rehabilitation after a year. Knowing that at Thanksgiving flights could not be had, and not even a train trip from Flagstaff was possible. I could not drive, due to my disability, nor could my wife drive me on short notice for the 450 mile trip.
One ticket was available... on the bus... and I left Flagstaff for Pomona that morning, an hour after being told.
It was a long trip, and at each stop I called home to hear that she was still alive. Earlier, at one point in the hospital she had asked if I would be there.
At Barstow, at 5 P.M. We hit a huge traffic jam; bumper to bumper, all the way to Riverside, and there I would change busses for the final leg. It was 6:45 P.M. I called my Dad to find out what was happening, He said, "Steve, I have bad news.... Your mother died 15 minutes ago..."
I broke down in tears in that jam packed station... weeping uncontrollably, with strangers looking on. I am still in recovery from my own illness, and this was a crash to my brain. I was in another world, total grief...
The remainder of the trip was horrendous. And when I was taken by my grief stricken brother to the hospital to see my mother, still in bed, dead for almost three hours... When I saw her face I fell to her, embracing her head, with her cheek against mine, and I wept.
My heart was broken. And my damaged brain could not absorb the impact of what I was enduring. "I am sorry," I whispered in her ear, "I am sorry I am late, Mom..."
And my heart is broken even now...
But she is free... Saved by the Grace of God, and I thank God, Jesus Christ my savior. For had I died in January of this year, she would have been devastated, and I am certain that she would never have heard of the saving Grace of Christ. My experience was for her, I was there, in that door leading to a better place that Jesus spoke about. And when I told her afterwards, when I had come out of that coma, she believed me....
Oh God, she believed me....
And as I wept with her cheek to mine, I felt her warmth. It was as if she was still alive. And in that instant, though she had been gone for near 3 hours, I felt her presence in that room.
She had waited for me, though her body could not.
And later, my brother asked me what it was that I wanted to tell her.
And I said to him, what I wanted to say to her,
"It's OK Mom, you can go," I said over my tears, "Remember what I told you. I was there, Mom. I saw Him, and He sent me back… Look to Him, Mom, and believe."
And my brother told me with tears in his eyes, "I told her that, Steve" he said, "I told her that, telling her to remember you, and what you had told her."
And him and I are closer now, and our mother is gone. Things for us should be better, with light at the end of it.
I should rejoice.
My Mother prayed for me, to a God she did not know to bring me back from near death. Nothing could be worse than a son that dies before parents. My brother was there with me when I was gravely ill in January of this year and witnessed me emerge from that hopeless condition. And when I could speak, I spoke of Jesus, and that I saw Him. And though I could not be with my mother when it was her time, my words were spoken by my brother, who bore witness to what I said, to give our mother consolation that I could not give. He became my messenger, and that strengthens our bond. In this we are closer, just as she wished.
But I still feel the pain of her loss to me, my brother, my Dad, and all of her extended family and friends..
And when I look at her picture, the picture here taken at the highest point in her life, when everything for her was at its best, I see that same smile, as I saw when I saw her last in the hospital… A smile of contentment, her closed eyes, and the peace on her face…
And I should rejoice, as should we, for she is with the Lord, as all of us who believe will soon be. I know now that Jesus would take us even to the edge of death to bring those we love to Him, and to be forever more with those we love.
I will love you forever, Mom.
Forever, even to that day and beyond when we meet again…