Absent From The Body


My Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just a few short months ago. Despite my aunt’s continual efforts to study up and get her to the best doctors, and even after a
completely successful operation at Johns Hopkins, a short time later the cancer went to her liver.

Mom came to our house after that, to juice vegetables, to eat a raw food diet. In the end it didn’t cure her, but she never went through the uglier symptoms usually associated with liver failure – vomiting, and extreme pain. Her end was peaceful and with relatively little pain, which my aunt attributed to raw food and juicing.

Beyond bodily illness, psychologically and spiritually it was a great gift to have her there sitting at my table every day, reading the Word together, talking, laughing. It was healing for me, and I know for Mom as well, on a level beyond the physical. God brought us a closeness in those last weeks that I will always treasure.

In late October three of my cousins flew to North Carolina, where my aunt and uncle and Mom live. We loaded Mom into a padded and blanketed nest in the back of the van on a Thursday; she had been getting weaker in the past few days and couldn’t make the whole trip sitting up.

The visit in North Carolina was deep and rich and hilarious; to have a bunch of us together again after such a long time apart was healing, strengthening. It was over all too soon, and on Sunday and Monday my cousins said their goodbyes to us all, and especially to Mom.

rrjoyce1After that she went downhill fast. On Tuesday hospice set up the mechanical bed.

Her passing the next day was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I had been playing guitar hymns for her that morning, and her breaths were getting more and more shallow, eyes half open and not looking at anything in particular. I called my aunt when her breathing changed, and told Mom that Jesus was going to come for her soon, that she needed to go with Him, that indescribable glory beyond anything she’d ever experienced was waiting for her.

My aunt and uncle arrived, and for the last twenty minutes of Mom’s life my aunt laid behind her on the bed, hugging her; my uncle stood directly behind his wife; my wife Sandra sat next to me and held Mom’s hand as I held Mom’s cheek and forehead with my hands and looked straight into her eyes. We prayed, sang hymns, and told her to go with Jesus when the time came. She had been breathing through her mouth for awhile, and her breaths weren’t going down into her lungs much anymore.

We were in the middle of singing “Jesus Loves Me” when Mom opened both of her blue eyes wide, and she looked above my head and past me. She held her gaze there, in wide-eyed wonder, for about twenty seconds, then closed them both shut and smiled a big smile. At that moment Sandra told my uncle, “Feel the goose bumps on her arms.”

Her body lived for less than a minute more, but I know she left her body with the blue-eyed wonder, that smile, and those goose bumps. I saw no fear, only amazement and joy in her eyes. She reveled in His glory, felt the thrill in her body, smiled like a lamb, and took His hand. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Joyce Marilyn Block: Sept 1, 1940 – Oct 21, 2009


Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


  1. Pete

    We lost a ten year old (Jonathan) to cancer this past June. I’d always put him to bed, and as he lay stretched out on my chest, we’d talk of the things of his day. There was a lot of Sponge Bob, Wimpy Kid books, and Cartoons, but we eventually seemed to get around to weighty topics like “What’s Heaven Like, Dad?”. I believe early on that he knew the answer would be important. He’d had cancer for quite a while, and had lost a cousin to the same beast about 2 years earlier.

    His health went down very quickly – from losing mobility and speech to losing consciousness to his final passing took a little over 2 days. But given the short time, he went out right – in that 2 days, he was visited and surrounded (in hospice in a hospital bed set up in our living room) by almost all of his extended family, all our neighbors, and a good number of his class mates. When he passed, I was asleep on the couch, my wife and daughter were asleep upstairs, and our best friend was his hospice nurse. He went peacefully, and knew where he was going.

    After he passed and before we told his younger sister, I took a walk around my neighborhood. I say a vision of my son as a young adult. It looked like him, but not like him – in the vision he was in his early 20s (the peak of young adulthood), with long hair replacing his baldness from the chemo and was laughing, running, and leaping with speed, power, and JOY. I believe it was his way of letting me know that all is better than well – it’s perfect.

    He’s probably bugging your aunt to read his Wimpy Kid books with him as we speak (the latest one was dedicated to him by the Author – Jonathan met him and got under his skin).

    He is Good Indeed!

    And Thanksgiving blessings to all Rabbit Room Tribe

  2. PaulH

    What a blessing for you Ron and thank you for sharing this personal experience. Sorry your mom’s gone, but like you explained, she is in great hands now.

    My wife worked for Hospice for 6 years. She has countless “passing” stories that at first I was skeptical about. But, she and others have confirmed that this is very real.

    Similair to your experience, she witnessed people filled with utter joy, every instance different but the joy was the same.
    But in others that she was present for, didn’t go as well. Sheer terror and fear mixed with comments like “dark people coming for me” and “Why is he here and what does he want?”. She told me it would make you a true believer faster then 10 sermons and a revival.

    What a great gift it was to have the moments of connections and time with family during this difficult season. Again, thanks Ron – Happy Thanksgiving to you and to all

  3. Jodi

    God is good to comfort us in this way. My grandma left us a year ago this week. Although she experienced more suffering in her last hours, her final moments were just as you described your mother’s. Peace be with you.

  4. kelli

    ron…this is a beautiful story of death…a remembering, a rejoicing, a reveling. how i thank you for living it well and sharing it. my mother-in-law and my mom’s cousin both passed away from pancreatic cancer 2 years ago, so i know how aggresively this disease moves. what a gift for you all that your mom did not experience some of the standard side effects.

    thank you giving us this glimpse of glory, ron!

  5. Laurel

    Ron, thanks so much for sharing the story of your mother’s home-going. I can hardly see to type through my tears… tears of joy and tears of longing. What a joy to meet our Savior face to face!

  6. Ron Block



    An interesting side note delineating the sovereignty of God – my grandmother (Mom’s mother) died of the same ailment (pancreatic cancer) on the same day of the same month, 25 years prior to Mom – October 21st, 1984.

  7. kelli

    ron…wow…such gifts just reinforce how deeply our Maker cares for us. like His response to Job…it is fierce, terrible and so humbling as His holiness shines through. but He also reveals His tender love as He describes the intricate details of the creatures He made.

  8. Curt McLey


    Thanks for your follow up post about the sovereignty of God and 25 years, Ron. I have long felt God provides these serendipitous moments to his children, if for no other reason than he loves us and it communicates something providential to us on a level that we can understand.

    There’s a 25 year family timeline in my family too. My son’s birth day was December 4, 1983, 25 years to the day after I was born, on December 4, 1958. Oddly, I’ve never thought of this as much more than “very cool.” Despite subscribing to your own belief about the sovereignty of God in these moments, for some reason, I’ve never really thought of my son’s birth in that context. Thanks to your post, and through misty eyes, now I do.

    Despite the fact that he wasn’t an easy boy to raise, God provided Eric as a gift of His loving kindness, with unspeakable blessings for which I am particularly thankful this time of year. I will never forget that. Thanks, Ron.

  9. Katy Bowser

    Ron, how sweet to read these memories of your mother. Seeing you with her at Trader Joes and Whole Foods, one after the other, is making sense in light of her diet! Kenny’s dad died a couple weeks before your mom, and this Thanksgiving is so full of joy and sorrow. Their passings sound so similar- prayers, hymns, letting them go to Jesus. What a mighty hope we have, and what heartbreak here- Come, Lord Jesus.

  10. Stacy Grubb

    Your mom’s story will always be a beautiful one, Ron, and from your pictures I can see that she was also a very beautiful lady. I think the most wonderful thing about the influence a special person has on us is the fact that their legacy becomes our legacy because of how we absorb so much of what we love about that person and hope to be the same way.

    My grandmother (Mom’s mom) died when Mom was 13 after receiving severe burns in a house fire. Her month and day of death was April 4th. One of my sisters and several of my cousins have April 4th birthdays. My brother has a February 5th birthday, which was my grandmother’s birthday. His daughter also had an April 4th due date, though she didn’t hold out that long.

  11. Ed Clark

    Ron, you are such a marvelous person to be able to not only share this story of your mom’s death, but to be so descriptive that we can truely feel the joy and blessings in that room. Your mother must have been a saint on earth for you. Your living gardian angel. I know nothing about her life except that she will live on in you and your good deeds. I am proud to know you and to share this moment with you. To think you were sharing your time with me and my sons just days after this experience. Your interest in giving uplifting support to three teenage boys as they face a world of unknown challenges was so appreciated. Had I known this at the time, I doubt we would have been so bold as to approach you as fans. You are a humble, inspiring gentleman. Your beautiful mother surely died in Peace knowing that her joy in you will be shared by so many people. May God keep you close, my friend.

  12. Jim Lenn

    Ron,, I have no words to say how I felt while reading this. May the Lord bless you and your family through this time of loss. I wonder how many would read this and find it strange to convey such peace about the passing of a loved one and especially a mother.. May this open the door to a desire to find out who is behind that peace..

  13. Ken Fleming

    I am always amazed at Gods glory and at how He, through His infinate wisdom, looked down at us and all our heart aches and troubles and said…I will never leave you nor forsake you, I will go with you always…

    So, so sorry for your loss Ron. But I’m sure it has truly been Heavens gain.

    Our family will keep you in our prayers.

  14. tom richardson

    what a sad story but also a happy ending…most people just look at the saness of things but i know theres a better place thats waiting for me and all that has been born again…thanx for sharing this story…

  15. Laura Droege

    Ron, thanks for sharing this story. I imagine you will always be able to see the wonder in her eyes that last moment as she flew into Jesus’ arms. My grandmother died the Saturday after Thanksgiving. My husband and I were careful to explain to our daughters, ages 6 and 2, that when they saw Mimi’s body in the casket, that this wasn’t the “real” Mimi. The real woman–her soul–is with Jesus. When my 2 year old saw my grandmother lying so peacefully in her casket, she pointed at her and said, “Mimi sleeping!” So true. She had fallen asleep in Christ and awoke to eternal joy in heaven. Maybe your mom and my grandma are chatting up there.

  16. L.Warner

    i was working on my website, and I was trying to find the bible vs that says “to be absent from the body is to be in the presence of Lord” and I came across your article. “Very touching, you came from a place of such strength you had me crying like a baby.” So thank you and God Bless if we could all get to where you are I think things would look a lot brighter. Anyway I have a song posted on my website called “today I saw Jesus” it was written for a friend who lost her child tragically and suddenly feel free to check it out at TodayisawJesus.com I am sending out free downloads to any who finds comfort in the song.

  17. Leah

    Ron, sorry to hear about your mother’s passing, but what an amazing story and testimony!! How Great is our God! Love, Leah xx

  18. Teresa

    Joyce you were always in your grandchildrens hearts, and I your daughter in law will never forget the wonderful times we had.

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