So grateful to welcome my lovely friend Carolyn Grant – guest-posting today all the way from Austin, Texas. She sent me this just after Mother’s Day a year ago, and I know it will be an encouragement to many, this weekend.
. . .
I thought I could get through today without thinking of you. After all, Mother’s Day is just a commercial holiday to hike up flower prices and make our kids feel obliged to say how much they love us. I had told myself that there was no reason to miss you any more or less today, which is true, but hard to do when every radio station is telling some soppy mom story.
You have been gone for three years now, and some days I don’t even think of you at all. When that realization is not followed by guilt and shame, it’s filled with a sense of deep and significant loss. A void that feels infinite and impossible to fill.
Although fill it I try. With gratitude for the years you were so present in my life. I remember our trips to the library where you fostered my love for reading, the stops at the green grocer to get fresh vegetables for dinner, and the help with my homework – especially when something needed to be typed. I’m thankful for your prayers for a God-fearing husband, that were answered in the man who still holds my heart. And I’m grateful for the trips you made, first to London and then to America, to help me with my babies when they were born.
The gratitude brings tears as the memories resurface, but it also performs a miracle in my heart, which I needed today. The morning had started off well, with breakfast in bed and the school-issued love notes from the girls. We got late for church, so I hadn’t even thought of you yet as I sat on the edge of the pew expecting a sermon about women in the bible or something just as benign. Instead, Paul’s letter to the Philippians was preached and I had to confront the truth that even our hardest circumstances can serve to advance the gospel.
I’d had to swallow this bitter pill when I rallied my fists against heaven, asking God why you had to fall prey to the evil stealth of Alzheimer’s disease. I couldn’t fathom how your subsequent diagnosis of lung cancer and imminent death could possibly result in any good. But God spoke to me then, and He was speaking to me again this morning.
He reminded me how strong you had been right until the end. How, despite becoming blind and not knowing who I was or where you were, you could recite Scripture with me when I read at your bedside. How you kept your composure and hardly complained, even though I’d seen the x-rays that showed the deterioration in your bones. How you comforted me one night when I couldn’t hold back the tears as I put you to bed. “There, there, dear. No need to get upset,” you whispered as you patted my head.
Really? I had so much to be upset about! My mother was dying! You were dying, and I could do nothing about it.
I was drowning in a rancid pool of regret for the years I had lived away from you. I was choking in the lies we had spun to keep you from knowing about the cancer for fear of your mental state. And I was selfishly angry for all I would be losing upon your death: my safe place, a grandmother for my children, and the ideal of the perfect family I had always upheld. Everything was about to change and I knew it.
All these emotions rushed back this morning as I pictured Paul in prison writing to the church. He had every reason to fear for his life, let alone the possibility that the gospel would no longer be spread with him in chains. He had every reason to whine and wonder why God had punished him – a faithful servant.
Yet he turned that worldly perspective on its head with joy and thankfulness, and a ridiculous optimism that everything was going to turn out just fine. Did he know something others didn’t? No. He just trusted in a faithful God who is always there and always good. This was enough for him to have hope beyond his dire situation, and faith that the gospel could not be chained even if he was.
It was this kind of peace that I saw in you as you crossed from this world to the next. Your faith that a room had been prepared for you in your Father’s house. It was your blessed assurance that eventually gave me the ability to even dare to believe that something good could ever come of your suffering.
And this is why I’m writing to you today. Thank you for showing me what it meant to have faith in God. It helped me believe that he would also be there for me as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Thank you for showing me how your faith sustained you through your suffering. It opened my eyes to your incredible strength where before I’d only seen weakness and defeat. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to experience life as I put my trust in Jesus. Even when this meant your death.
This gratitude has changed my heart. It is also changing the hearts of those around me. My friends are in awe of my faith despite my circumstances, and this gives me the opportunity to point them to Jesus. My children have seen a change in me, which helps me give the glory to God. And I have seen a change in me, as I believe who I am in Christ: loved, accepted, and full of the knowledge that what happened to you, to me, has really served to advance the gospel.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.
All my love,
. . .
Carolyn Grant is a South African living in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three daughters. Her experience living in three different countries makes her empathetic to all those living away from “home”, and she is best known for writing and teaching on topics like transition and grief. When she is not being full-time mom, she can be found reading, walking around Town Lake with friends, or planning a trip to the beach. She is currently working on a memoir.
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Beautiful post! My wife’s mother passed a few years ago, I’ll be sure to share.