A fascinating personal account of a libertarian feminist agnostic who discovered a dynamic faith.
Kitty Foth-Regner was a secular feminist who had bought hook, line, and sinker the ideals and objectives of Betty Friedan's N.O.W. Kitty's mother-a woman of faith-became sick and clearly was destined to die rather quickly. And the author began to wonder about whether she would be in heaven with her mother someday. This led her on a personal journey of faith. Heaven Without Her is Foth-Regner's personal memoir of how she found, to her amazement, that all the evidence points to Christianity.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
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Heaven Without Her
A Desperate Daughter's Search for the Heart of Her Mother's Faith
By Kitty Foth-Regner
Copyright © 2008 Kitty Foth-Regner
All right reserved.
Through a glass, darkly: Face-to-face with forever
4:30 p.m., May 30, 2000, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The last time I talked to my mother, she was lying in a morphine-induced coma in her room at the nursing home where she'd lived for the last eight years. We were not alone; my husband, Dave, was there, along with my oldest sister Carrie and her husband, David, an Episcopal deacon. Random nurses and aides floated in and out of a scene so dreamlike that it still doesn't seem quite real to me.
I do remember David delivering what he called the last rites, a swarm of prayers that sounded very dire to me. He has one of those deep-as-a-grave voices, a voice that resonated as he gestured over her body and spoke of "God's servant Ethel" and how she was "lying in great weakness" and how much she needed His mercy.
I wanted to say, "Um, excuse me? She's dying, right? She needs a cure, not mercy. Try calling a doctor instead of your imaginary friend." "Comfort her with the promise of life everlasting," he boomed in a pitch that was a perfect match for his shirt, an ominous black garment with a peek-a-boo square of white at the throat.
I thought briefly of all the promises I'd broken. No comfort there.
"That it may please You mercifully to pardon all her sins," he added.
I glared at him: how dare he accuse my mother of sin? No one noticed my anger; all heads were bowed but mine. I quickly dropped my eyes again, fearful that I might have broken some spell he was casting, half-expecting him to launch into something along the lines of "double, double, toil and trouble ..."
Instead, he rambled on about God's mercy and love.
Empty words, all. If his God really existed, which I sincerely doubted, He apparently had no problem ripping my heart out. What good was a God who would do a thing like that?
When he had finished, we sat there silently for a long while. I remember wishing they'd all leave so I could be alone with my mom. But it was such a personal request that I didn't have the nerve to ask them to get out. And they didn't seem to be doing a very good job of reading my mind. I finally settled for kneeling next to the head of her bed and whispering in her ear.
"You can let go now, Mom," I said, crossing my fingers. I said it only because someone had told me it's the kind thing to say to a dying parent.
"I'll be okay," I added. I didn't mean that either, even though she was eighty-seven, and I was forty-seven and, from what some very smart people have told me before and since, I had no business viewing her impending death as anything more than a sad but inevitable incident in my life.
She didn't respond. I knelt there, looking at her supremely peaceful countenance, listening to her steady breathing. I fumbled for something else to say.
Finally it came to me: "I'll see you there, Mom."
It was a promise, one that I intended to keep. Of course, I had no idea what this could possibly mean. But as Dave and I left the room moments later-I couldn't handle the death watch, and clearly she wasn't going to know whether I was there or not-I decided it might be a good time to find out. After all, everyone else seemed to have a pretty good idea of what the afterlife had in store for her, telling her slumbering form that she was about to embark on a great adventure. And telling her this with great gusto and cheer, like travel agents who have just sold a client a really expensive vacation package: "Ho, boy, don't we all wish we were going with you!"
I kissed her good-bye-a quick peck on one soft check, as if this were an everyday "see ya later" parting-and headed for the door, pausing only to grab my purse. Dave followed me out.
"She sure would've liked this little gathering," I said bitterly as we walked briskly down the hall to the nearest exit. Normally crawling with aides, nurses, and housekeepers, the place was eerily vacant. "Surrounded by people she loves, with everyone for once focused on her."
"And it's not even Christmas," Dave said.
Then he wisely shut up. Maybe he was sad, knowing he'd probably never have another teasing conversation with my mom. Or maybe he recognized that I was just a sympathetic word or two away from a total meltdown and feared what might follow in its wake.
With good reason, as it turned out.
* * *
There was one thing I was pretty sure of, even then: in her final alert hours, my mother had undoubtedly been overjoyed to be heading home at long last.
Her faith had been formed early, thanks to a mother and grandmother with rock-solid Christian convictions. Their generations had apparently been unfazed by the scientific revolution Charles Darwin launched in 1859 by publishing Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Christianity was truth, as far as they were concerned, and it permeated everything they did, said, and even thought. They held, in short, what is today called a "biblical worldview."
For instance, women of this era didn't believe that marriage was all about being happy, although I daresay that most were happy enough with their husbands. If yours was nasty to you, you were to respond with love because the Bible told you to do so. End of discussion.
Nor did they believe financial gain was to be had at any cost. If a shopkeeper gave you too much change, and you didn't notice it until you got home, then you marched right back to return the excess. Thou shalt not steal, after all, even if your gains were the result of someone else's honest mistake.
So thoroughly did this worldview permeate their lives that my grandmother's only surviving cookbook-handwritten in a spiral notebook-included generous helpings of advice from the Old and New Testaments. There between recipes for Ruth Niles' Butterscotch Brownies and Mrs. Martini's Potato Salad would be a solution for discouragement:
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Dealing with sorrow? Between her instructions for Ann's Noodle Dish and Happy Day Cake, this grandmother I'd never known had given a place of honor to the ultimate comfort food:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
My grandmother's generation-and my mother's-apparently had no need for shrinks or anti-depressants or self-improvement books. They had another source of help in times of trouble.
I'd never been much interested in these things. But that was about to change forever.
Excerpted from Heaven Without Her by Kitty Foth-Regner Copyright © 2008 by Kitty Foth-Regner. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of ContentsThrough a glass, darkly: Face-to-face with forever 1
When I was a child: A healthy fear of hell 6
Willfully ignorant: Turning on and tuning out 11
In the beginning: How I came to be so lost 20
Professing to be wise: A life worth the living 28
The whole creation groans: But let's pretend everything's okay 38
Where you go, I will go: Just leave me the directions 43
Be not afraid, only believe: At first, it's a lot to swallow 50
Let not your heart be troubled: Searching for a mother's peace 61
A reason for the hope that is in you: Looking to the Minister of Defense 67
A new creation: Turbulent times for an atheist sympathizer 75
Behold, now is the day: Okay, you've got my attention 82
What is truth? Your guess is as good as mine 86
They are without excuse: Could their imaginary friend be real? 96
The heavens declare: How could I have missed all this? 114
No other gods: Would the real One please stand up? 126
Let no one deceive you: There's Christianity, and there's everything else 133
Beware lest anyone cheat you: Separating scientific fact from science fiction 150
The future before it happens: There's only one explanation 163
The spirit of wisdom: What matters is what's true 176
The truth will set you free: One woman's liberation 185
In my Father's house: The ultimate wake-up call 203
Absent from the body: The only itinerary we need 205
You must be born again: Getting positioned for eternity 210
To die is gain: Women living on the edge 223
Joy for mourning: It's going to be awesome! 238
In the twinkling of an eye: Let the butterflies begin 247
Epilogue: Enter by the narrow gate: It's the only way to fly 252
About the author 270