Grief and Gratitude

It is a strange thing to see your mother in a wooden box, lying there so gently, as if you could simply lean over and whisper into her ear to wake. For her funeral, my mom wore the dress she had originally purchased for Miska’s and my wedding. My mom released her son into the world. And now we have released my mom into God’s care.

It is such a strange thing to lay a hand on your mother’s casket, to speak a blessing over her life. Emotions and memories rush forward at such a moment, but the sturdiest thing I felt was gratitude. Gratitude for her tears and her tenacity, for her commitment to my dad, for the ways she sought out those who had been left out or wounded or silenced. One morning before her funeral, I ran my old jogging route, and I stopped in front of the house that was my childhood home. For several minutes, I walked back and forth in front of the old house, fearing the neighbors would think me a loon. I remembered all the years, all the tenderness. I remembered a few arguments, tense moments. I remembered laughter and meals around the table. I remembered love. Through tears, the words that spilled out over and again were only this: ‘thank you.’

A friend recently passed Kahil Gibran’s words to me: When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. And this is true. Sometimes you also weep because of regrets or things that will never be. But somehow it is true that if you trace those things back far enough they do somehow work their way to delight, to hopes, to joys you knew or joys that lingered as you searched for more. In the strange twist, grief and gratitude seem to walk together.

As I say goodbye, for now, the only words I have are this: Mom, I love you, and I thank you. 

17 Replies to “Grief and Gratitude”

  1. Winn, in your grief you have lifted up and encouraged others. I pray that as you use your words in this way to honor your mom, your heart would begin to heal.

  2. Your mom is well pleased. You have been giving her and the world love and gratitude for many years now. That is what a mother prays and hopes for.

  3. Here via John Blase’s FB post. I’m so sorry for your loss. And, yeah…what a life well lived if our children can be grateful for our lives and love. May God give you more and more mercy and grace.

  4. Visiting via John Blase. My husband lost his mother on May 30. I’m sorry you have this in common, but I’m glad for the blessings these women brought to your lives. I’m glad for your lives, period, and the blessings you bring to others’ lives because you’re here: because they carried you here. And I’m so glad for heaven, and Jesus, and eternity with Him, where nothing and no one hurts. May God flood your heart with His peace that passeth all understanding, and may He send comfort in the form of His Holy Spirt, and helpers in the form of His saints and warriors…and very best cooks.

  5. With brutal honesty, the prayer reminds us: “In the midst of life, we are in death.” Your witness here is equally unflinching, reminding us of and giving thanks for life even in death. Thank you for sharing such true and beautiful words. I am remembering you and your family and asking the God of all comfort to hold you fall fast.

  6. Amen and amen.
    Hugs and comfort to you.
    At my Mom’s memorial service, I briefly shared that one of my favorite memories was when I was 5. My Mom usually put her housework as a very high priority, but this one time she took the time to play tug of war with a bed sheet she was trying to get away from me so she could do the laundry. We both laughed and tugged back and forth for a while. This happened over 50 years ago, and I can still remember this clear as a bell.

  7. I am so sorry I missed the funeral. Ronnie and I were out of town all week. Parrish said it was sad, but very beautiful. I’m so glad he was able to attend. You two go back a long way and he thinks so much of your family. You have been in our prayers.

  8. Dear Brother in Christ – I weep with you over the earthly loss of your mom, I rejoice with you that you will see her again – God’s plan for His children. My mom went to be with Jesus in 2009 and there is still not a day that she is not in my thoughts, my memories, my thankfulness. It is a beautiful rememberance. I lift you in my prayers as you walk through this part of life’s journey.

  9. I too am sorry for your loss. Please know that your words offer others much needed perspective. Thank you.

  10. I am sorry for your loss. Lately I have been grieving the loss of several good friends, near my age. Makes me even more aware of our mortality and of my need to believe in Heaven and eternal life. I especially liked what you said about stopping by your house and remembering. I have done that very often in dreams of former homes.

  11. this brought tears, Winn. Thank you for this lovely, honest, tender tribute. such a gift – her life and your words.

words have a way of making friends. drop a few here.