Why Do Dying Men Call for “Mama?”

Russell Moore | 5/8/2019 | Staff
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That’s the question I’ve been pondering for months, since reading a line in an Atlantic Monthly article about what we can learn from the last words of the dying. Surveying how many of the dying use similar words—often evoking childhood and family—in their final moments, the author quoted a hospice nurse from a German magazine, about how there was, in this nurse’s experience, a common factor among the dying men with whom she worked: “Almost everyone is calling for ‘Mommy’ or “Mama’ with the last breath.”

This struck me because, having been at the bedside of many as they were dying, I’ve found a similar phenomenon, and not just among men but among women as well. Not always, but often, very often, I will hear someone in their last moments move from talking about various loved ones to crying out for a mother. And, like this article notes, the call is usually with a name of familiarity, of “Mama” or “Mommy.”

Case - Sense - Death - Christ - Union

This made me wonder, why is this the case? I think we can get some sense of this in the death that all of us who are in Christ have experienced, in union with him, his crucifixion outside the gates of Jerusalem. The Gospel writers tell us that there before him stood his mother, Mary. As a matter of fact, some of the last words of our Lord were used arranging for the care of his mother by his disciple John (Jn. 19:26-27). The Gospel writers also foreshadow all along the way his mother’s presence at that awful moment. The prophet Simeon tells her in the temple courts, when Jesus was only eight days old, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword...
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