Tag Archives: grief

Reflections on the Death of My Mother

Jonathan has been preaching through Genesis in the evening service and a few weeks ago Genesis 46:4 stood out to me.

“I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

Our modern world thinks so rarely of the task of closing the eyes of the dead, but it struck me that one of the great promises God granted to Jacob was the promise that his long-thought-dead son would be the one to close his eyes. The intimacy and beauty of that care touched me in a bitter sweet way. I realized that living roughly 1400 km (850 miles) from my parents and 5000 km (3000 miles) from Jonathan’s parents meant that we would likely not have that moment, real or symbolic, of closing our parents’ eyes in death. Three weeks later we received a completely unexpected phone call that my mother was dying of a brain bleed, and there was no way to make it to her side in time to say good bye. The Lord had so graciously prepared me for the situation I could not have known I would face.

There were so many moments of kindness in the journey. Our church session was quick to encourage Jonathan to travel with me instead of sending me alone. Our church congregation, my sister’s congregation (also in our presbytery) and the other churches of our presbytery, and my father’s church all expressed their care and love for us in so many ways. The funeral service was full with people from almost every part of my mother’s life, except her Australia years. We received flowers and phone calls and literally hundreds of emails and Facebook messages with such kind and genuine memories of my mother. The Lord was kind to sustain us, even when we were struck with the stomach flu the night before the funeral.

memorialfrontNow, after seven hectic, but blessed, days of funeral preparations, we are back home, and the chronic nature of grief is becoming real to me. I had not realized how many times every day I think “I must remember that for Mom.” or “Mom would love that story.” or “Take a picture of that for Mom.” I had often joked about hearing my mother’s voice in my head. Don’t we all do that? But I hadn’t realized how very often the every day tasks in my life incorporated a memory of something my mother said, or taught me, or loved, or hated. There are so many irrational moments like seeing my Scrabble board and suddenly feeling overwhelming sense of guilt that I hadn’t replaced the J as I promised her I would before her next visit. There are those gut wrenching moments like being the only member of the family who could disable her Facebook account. There is the reality, as I sit blogging, that I was always certain, no matter what I wrote, my Mom would read it. There is that sense of sadness that I carry with me, inside my chest, without really being able to express it.

My mother loved the Lord and was loved by Him. Her struggles with her health, her body, and her mind are now gone, and she is worshiping in a peace and joy she never knew here. I do not grieve as one with no hope, nor do I grieve as the one who knows the Lord and is certain their loved one did not. However, I do grieve. I grieve in the confidence that the Lord’s promises are true and that my mother is resting in the arms of our Savior just as my first child is. Still, I grieve.  I grieve because I miss my mother. I grieve because I don’t think my youngest daughter will remember her Nana. I grieve because death is the result of sin and corruption in God’s good creation.

People ask me how I am, and I answer “I am doing well. The Lord is sustaining.” It is true. It is not a mindless platitude or the socially expected statement from a minister’s wife. The Lord is kind and is sustaining me in my sadness, just as he prepared my heart for it weeks ago. Blessed is the name of the Lord.


Things I Love Part Three: My Husband

This is part three in my week long series seeking to honor the things I esteem.

Last Friday I had the privilege of hearing a woman of God speak to a group of us women.  In that talk she made a great point of how excellent her husband is and I was struck that too often when we get together as women we tend to idolize our children and mock our husbands.  This should not be the case, and I was convicted that I do not honor my husband here on the blog nearly enough.

Here is my struggle: how do I publicly acknowledge and esteem a man who hates to be the center of attention?

I think I can say this: the first time I met Jonathan Cowan, I was running, tears in my eyes, away from a silly boy I thought I loved who had broken my heart. I literally ran into Jonathan’s arms, and I’ve been running into his arms ever since.  We’ve had our moments. I mean, put two sinful people in a marriage and there’s bound to be conflict.  When both of those people have artistic temperaments it takes things up a notch.  While we may have fought over how to cut a round cake (yes really), or the state of the house, or other trivial matters, when the storms came we’ve clung to each other, and he’s led me in clinging to the Lord.

In all the years of infertility and every month that we felt that loss of omission, he still loved me.  He never once told me that I was broken.  He never reminded me that if he had married someone else he could have had a full quiver before then.  He opened his arms, and let me run into them.

I will never forget, even when I am old and gray and can’t remember how to cook soup, I will never forget lying on my bed in our little apartment in Georgia sobbing over the loss of our first child after so many years of prayer.  Jonathan curled up behind me, and held me and read me Job 1, which ends:

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Then he went into our spare room/study/art room for several hours, and wrestled with God, and came out with this:

I still get choked up when I look at it.

There is so much I could write about my Jonathan, but anything more would make him uncomfortable.  If I said he was a great man of God, he would say he was a horrible sinner, who faces his sin every day.  If I said he was a caring and loving father, he would say he was too often impatient, or selfish.  So I won’t say those things (*wink*) I’ll just say that I love him more every day, and the longer we’re married, the more I see the gospel at work transforming him.  I need to say it more often.