I've generally made it my policy that when something big happens in my life, I write about it and share it. In the past week or so, I've seen page views on this blog spike. I'm sure that people in my life who know I've lost my mother are wondering what I have to say about it. The problem is that blogs by nature feel like a self-promotional medium. I took my name out of the title of my blog a year and a half ago for this very reason. Even so, I'm writing about my experiences, my feelings, my perspective.
My Momma passed away last week. I want her and The Lord to be served in anything that I have to say here. The problem is, what the hell does one say in such a circumstance? In the past several weeks, I have struggled to figure out how to frame so many messages to so many people. How does one go about communicating the death of one's mother to those beyond the closest of friends and family.
Yesterday I was given the opportunity to speak at my mother's memorial service. The following are the notes which largely drove what I shared on this occasion. I hope you enjoy them and I hope that they give you insight as to how wonderful my mother is, and how I, my family, and my savior feel about her.
Since my momma got sick, she’s become a big fan of trashy reality television. I am not that big a fan of trashy reality television. This lead to a sort of awkward one-sided tension as we hung out in her hospital room a couple weeks ago. She was perfectly happy watching her shows while she thought I sat at her bedside and read a book. Little did she know, I wasn’t actually reading at all. I was sitting with a book in my hand, completely incapable of focusing while the irresistibly addictive sounds and images of Say Yes to the Dress and Flip This House were projected from her tv. I didn’t judge my mother for her choice of entertainment because I knew that she was too weak to read, but I still would rather have been doing something else.
After working my courage up for a day or so, I asked my mother if she would mind if I read to her. I had just finished reading the Magician’s Nephew from the Chronicles of Narnia and was starting on the Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe. This felt like the perfect book for the occasion, it would be fairly easy to read out loud, I knew we could finish it before her time was up in the hospital, and I find C.S. Lewis to be a lot of fun to read. It turned out that my nerves over asking m y mother to read to her were completely unfounded. She loved it. We had a wonderful time. She loved the way Lewis wrote and I felt a deep peaceful joy as she gazed in childlike wonder while I read to her. We only got five chapters in before she was put under a heavy dose of drugs for a procedure, after which I really never had more than a few lucid minutes with her at a time. Despite this fact, I can’t think of many things that bring me more joy than looking back on that time and I feel confident that she now knows the end of this story although I was unable to finish it with her.
This is the source of so much of our heartbreak as a community that knew her. We know the strength of her faith and we know the place where she currently resides. With this joyful knowledge, it’s the unfinished stories that leave us wishing she was still with us. Apart from the one Lewis wrote, there are so many that I wanted to write and that I’m sure so many of you wanted to write. We hoped she would be around to see the conclusions to these stories.
The wonderful thing is that God feels this sadness with us. In the Magician’s Nephew, a little boy brings concern over his mother’s health to Aslan, the great Lion who spoke Narnia into being with his breath and song.
“But Please, please – won’t you-can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his mother than he was himself.
“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another. But I thave to think of hundreds of years in the life of Narnia.”
We cannot conceive of why we had to lose our mother or why we had to lose her in the manner in which we did. However, I know our creator grieves with us and must be concerned about the whole of the good of creation in every decision he makes.
The story of Jesus raising Lazarus is another example of the emotional availability of our God who mom served so faithfully. We all know about the miracle that occurs as Lazarus is raised from the dead, but I believe the most revealing part of this story occurs before Lazarus is raised. Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus saying, “He whom you love is ill.” By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus is dead. Jesus knew he had the power to raise Lazarus, but just the same, his heart aches over he whom he loves and it aches for his friends who miss Lazarus. Here we come to my favorite part of the story, the shortest and one of the most poignant verses in scripture. John 11:35 tells us, Jesus wept. Jesus did not look ahead to the miracle he was about to perform, nor did he use the grandiosity of his creation and plan to explain away his friends’ pain. He understood the anguish of that moment. He sympathized, he empathized, he wept. I find great consolation in the fact that my savior weeps with me. Although he’s called her to glory, he weeps for my mother’s sickness, he weeps for her death, and he weeps for those of us left behind, missing her. He weeps because he loves us.
The story of creation and everything that has happened since is a story of love. God created us and he was in love with us from the very beginning. We, his bride, turned away from him and he has chased us as a groom truly in love. There is a French easter liturgy, for which the translation is, “The love of God is folly!.” God has constructed so many bridges by which we could return to him, the final being the sacrifice of his son on the cross.
Although I can say these words, I have always struggled to understand the depth and breadth of the Lord’s love for me. God feels too distant, too big, too ethereal. Because she was a human being walking on this earth with me, I find it easier to understand my mother’s love for me. It has become clearer and clearer in recent months that she totally adores me. She thinks I’m incredible, she thinks I’m amazing. She finds me worthy of love and takes joy in loving me. Mom is with The Lord in her home now. Because she is next to him and she loves me way she does, it is now easier for me to understand God’s love for me.
The one person that my mother loved more than my brothers and myself is my father. It’s become inescapable to me recently that over the past 30 years, I have been privileged to witness a tremendous love story between two Godly, caring, dynamic people. They have fulfilled God’s purpose in each other’s lives as they have loved each other intensely and tenderly and driven each other to more closely resemble Him. As my mother got sicker, I witnessed my earthly father’s love and care for my mother. He adores her and wants little more than to be with her.
There is one whose love for my mother is greater than my earthly father’s still. That is my heavenly Father. As her earthly body was broken and beaten, we heard the Lord calling her to come home as the beloved does in Song of Solomon 2:10-14. I believe that the creator of the universe called my mother home using the following words:
My beloved speaks to me and says to me
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away,
For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth a fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.
Oh my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff,
Let me see your face, let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely"
My savior is desperately in love with my mother. Far more in love than any of us can be. Five days ago, my mother and my savior were united in their tremendous love for one another.
My savior does not love my mother for anything she did. He merely loves her because she exists and is his. This love has compelled her to be the woman we are all here to celebrate.
A favorite band of mine from College wrote a song about a friend called Elias. The song is about love and separation. It’s about loving someone deeply across a great distance. This is something we’ll all now have to learn to do for a time. There is a bridge in the song that makes me think of my brothers and me. The lyrics have become increasingly important to me as my mother’s sickness has progressed.
I see your wife she stands stooped over by the fire outside
And I see your boys and when they look up
You know I think they got their mothers’ eyes
She looks so proud, she looks so happy
She looks so proud, she looks so happy
My prayer as my mother has departed this earth is that my father, my brothers and I would have my mothers’ eyes. Not the deep, brown eyes that I received from my mother, but eyes that view the world as an opportunity for service and worship. Eyes that see every person who walks into our lives as someone whom we are meant to serve. I pray that we’ll make her proud. I pray that we’ll make her happy. I pray that we’ll bring glory to her beloved.