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Sorrow to Joy

Posted Monday, April 2, 2012, at 8:47 PM

It had been exactly a year since the fateful call was received. "Hi, momma . . . mom? Mom?!"

"Ma'am . . . this is an EMT. We are transporting your mother to the hospital. She appears to have had a stroke. She wants to speak to you. We are taking her to . . ."

So began the beginning of the end. She was such a strong person that if there had been any indication that she might not recover everyone who loved her would have dropped what they were doing to rush to her side. She was the anchor for her family and friends. No matter what the problem was . . . she would find a way to fix it or make it better. No one could imagine she would not overcome the stroke.

Now a year later the reality that she is gone has begun to truly sink in. All the times you pick up the phone to call her or start to run by the house to see her or start to ask her if she wants to go a meeting, revival, concert, or just to McDonalds to talk don't take your breath away when you realize she won't be there or rip your heart out with the ache of knowing she is gone. Somehow a year has gone by and she is no longer with you and you still put one foot in front of the other and go on about life. The empty places gradually level--they never fill, but the constant ache is gone.

Gradually you begin to remember some of the funny things . . . like when she chased you through the house with the scissors wanting to cut your hair and you ran screaming to your daddy to protect you from her scissors--okay so it was just bangs . . . and they were down in your eyes . . . maybe you were going for the "Cousin It" look from the Addams Family! Or maybe the smell of fresh, ripe peaches in the market reminded you of when the whole family worked up the peaches--one boiled and blanched them . . . one skinned them . . . one sliced them . . . and another put them in the jars and sealed them or in the freezer bags and took them to the freezer downstairs.

Or what about the time she stayed up all night to make you a new dress because your arms are so long that no store bought dress with long sleeves would come down to your wrists and you just HAD to have this one with all the pleats and mandarin collar with the tiny buttons and frog closures. Then there was the time when you were camping and the rain soaked your sleeping bag in the middle of the night. When you tried to wake her up she thought you were a bear and tried to choke the bear so it wouldn't hurt her baby . . . unfortunately her baby was what she thought was the bear and could barely breathe until daddy pried her fingers off your throat.

Of course her food was always a classic memory: chicken and noodles, dressing, fish and hushpuppies, veggies from the garden--and especially her baked mac 'n cheese every Sunday fresh from the oven when you got home from church. One of her greatest moments was the first time she held her grandson in her arms. She was so determined not to miss his birth she went to Colorado four weeks BEFORE his due date and he was two weeks LATE. She never stopped talking about him and the joy he brought her--pictures were always available.

Listening to the Gaither Homecoming Friends no longer sends you into spasms of tears . . . because you know she is singing in the heavenly choir. Sometimes you can hear her voice. Especially when you don't feel good--running a fever, and you can almost feel her soft calming voice and cool touch.

You know she is with you . . . and once in a while you find you are even a little jealous. She gets to be with all those you love who have passed from this world to the next . . . your family, friends, and even your unborn child--she gets to hold her first. Best of all, she has her new body and is living with our lord--being a part of the great cloud of witnesses. So a day that could have been so sad instead become a day to remember.

When we think of God many people use male references. We talk of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Momma once got so angry with someone when the person referred to "Mother God." It made her speechless with righteous indignation. I understand her perspective. After all, she was married to a righteous man who also happened to be my father, and to think of God as being like my daddy was joy and light and love, gentleness, kindness, and goodness, all rolled into one. However, not all people are blessed with such a father model.

When we think of God there are just as many "mother-like" characteristics as "father-like." Personally I like thinking of all the best traits of both my parents as characteristics of God. God is beyond delineation into male or female . . . . God loves. God disciplines. God abides with us. God agonizes over God's children. God speaks to us. God provides for us. God is. Because God is . . . those we love are--whether they be with us on this earth or with God.

God, we thank you for the blessings in our lives. We know that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment that you are with us, whispering words of love and encouragement. Thank you for giving us parents, friends, and those we meet along our paths who reflect you. Help us to remember even in our deepest grief that you have never left us alone. You continue to speak to us. We just need to listen. So be it. Amen.

Momma, I miss you. Thanks for all the lessons . . . and the patience. I'm trying to grow up to be like you.

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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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