The Pastor's Pen

Mourning with Hope.

Mom hands pic

For those of you who don't know, my mom passed into glory on the 24th August 2020. The doctor’s final death report said that my mom died from a lung aneurysm. She was in a step-down facility when she finally passed away, four months short of her 82nd birthday.

This all happened during the level 5 Covid restrictions in South Africa. My sister was allowed special permission to visit my mom in hospital a couple of weeks before she died, and we were able to Zoom call her on my sisters phone and talk with her. During that time there were no commercial flights into SA, and despite my efforts to visit my mom, I was unable to see her or go to her funeral. 

The sense of isolation has been crushing. I learned a term for what we experienced: interrupted grief. This happens when circumstances separate family members, not only from the dying, but from the normal processes of grief.

The elders agreed to let me go on leave back to SA, this February so my family and I could finally grieve. After several postponed flights and delays we finally managed to make it to South Africa on the 29th January.

Coming home to my mom’s place has been hard. My mom lived in a small cottage that we built for her on my sister and brother-in-law's property. Michelle left my mom’s home just as it was before she died so we could have time to remember my mom and grieve. When we walked into her one bedroom cottage it was like walking into a time capsule. The onions in my mom’s grocery basket were still there, growing with signs of life. All the photographs she kept stuck to the wall of all her grandchildren and family that she loved to look at while she sat in her chair that faced the TV, were still there. The missionary’s prayer cards that she had collected over the years and stuck on her fridge to remind her to pray for them, were still there. Her bible was still open on her side table with a couple of books that she had just finished reading. There were even strands of her grey hair left in her curlers in her bathroom.  Everything was still exactly as it used to be. Even the smell of my moms’ perfume mixed with talcum powder still filled the air, and I could not help myself and wonder when she would walk into the room so we could start talking again. I have had to pinch myself and remind my heart that she is not here anymore.  

But this has been good for Keri, Ezra, Eden, Gabriel and I. We have had time to reflect, remember and grieve my mom.

As we cried while going through some of her old photographs, I was reminded that life was not always easy for my mom. She faced many dark and hard moments. And she weathered some of these better than others. Throughout my mom’s life she struggled with depression. There were times when her fears and anxieties would overtake her…but she always seemed to come back to a place of hope and happiness. During one of these times she was invited to an evangelical church where she responded to the gospel she heard preached. As hard as these times were…I’m thankful for all that my mom endured that brought her to the point where she understood she needed a Saviour. And because of the work of God in her life, both Michelle and I came to know and love the Lord too.

She prayed for us and her grandkids daily. She was our greatest fan…she has been the one constant in my life…and just like she so enthusiastically cheered me on during those many school boy rugby games (often screaming loudly to my embarrassment) …she continued to cheer me on as I made that decision to go into full time ministry…and for 17 years bore the burden of being separated from us because she knew God was worthy.

It was never easy saying goodbye, and as the Lord added to our fold; children, the goodbyes got harder and harder for granny.

There were tears…lots of them, but I reminded myself and my family of a truth my mom taught me early on. When I was about 12 years old, I was lying in moms bed and I asked her this question; “Mom who do you love more, me or God?” I am not sure why I asked that question, maybe my oversized ego…but I did. She took some time before answering, but finally said to me confidently, “Gareth, I love Jesus more!”. As a twelve year old, insecure unbeliever, that answer was not what I was hoping to hear. But I always remembered that, especially when my family and I had to constantly say goodbye to mom and leave her for a couple of years before we would see her again. She knew that Christ was worthy of all our sacrifice and service!  

I hope you don’t mind me reflecting and sharing with you what the Lord is teaching me during our time in SA. One of my regular prayers for New Life Church is that we will all be able to confidently say that we love Jesus more than anyone or anything!

I am thankful for my mom. I thank God for her love for Christ. I thank God for her decades of daily prayer for me and for my family. I thank God for her example of daily reading of God’s word. Mostly, I am thankful for the gospel that she loved. I am thankful for the peace and reconciliation with God that was purchased by Christ when he sacrificed his sinless body on the cross. I am thankful that Christ rose victoriously from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, proving he has conquered death and sin. 

Yes, we grieve deeply. It is still not easy to say goodbye, but because of this promise of the gospel, I am even more thankful that one day I will sing with my mom in heaven “HE IS WORTHY”.

We mourn with hope! (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

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