I will always remember Mom for the beauty she was inside and out, the love that she gave so generously, the honesty with which she spoke, and the confidence by which she lived that spilled over into my life. I will miss her dearly.
She left her body vacant at around 4:20pm yesterday (Monday, August 3rd), just one day shy of four months since the accident. April 4th is a day for our family that changed a lot of things. It has been a sobering journey since. Again, I can’t express our gratitude for the love that so many people have poured out upon us.
In remembering Mom, there are many emotions. I am sad. I am angry. I am thankful. I am peaceful. I’ve also felt numbness. I am told by those who’ve lost a parent before me that processing this loss will come in increments and phases and multiple emotions over a long period of time. And there is a lot to process.
I am sad. From my vantage point, Mom is gone. I will not talk to her or text her on her phone again. I will not pick her up at her townhouse to go on an adventure with the kids and me again. I will not hand her a Grande Black Iced Tea, sweetened with Classic, light on the ice again. I will not eat her cornbread again. I will not be told that I should have a CD if Steven Curtis Chapman has a CD again (Mom had an elevated opinion of my singing and songwriting ability). I will not embrace her and get a 90 mph love pat on my back again. I will not be told “I love you” as often. I will miss her.
I am angry. I am angry at the man who hit Mom and Dad. I am angry that he stole the life of my dad’s wife. I am angry that he stole Mom’s chance to continue to be a loving and doting grandmother. I am angry that his choice to drive when he was not supposed to be driving so drastically altered the life and future of our family. I am angry that Ella will not know my mom. I am angry that Abby will not play with her Ammaw again. I am angry because of the sadness of Katey’s heart as she sobbed when I told her the news of Mom’s passing. I am angry that Caleb will not continue to be filled up with the confidence that Mom so naturally spilled over. I am angry that Erik and Erin and their family will not welcome Mom into their home again. I am angry that she will not sit in her twin recliner next to her husband of 49 years and enjoy a good comedy. I am angry that Mom and Dad were eight months shy of celebrating 50 years together.
I am thankful. I am thankful for 34 years of knowing a mother whose selflessness and faith demonstrated the nearness of God to me in so many ways. I am thankful for the friend she was to my wife, and the way that she encouraged my wife in so many ways. I am thankful for the countless stories over the last four months from people who were encouraged by or laughed with or traveled alongside or worked with or cried with or were changed by my Mom’s life. I am thankful for the memories of Mom yelling out to Erik and me when were hiding from her and in trouble, “You just wait until Dad gets home.”I am thankful for the memories of the last four months, for the days when Mom would look into my eyes and whisper, “I am so glad you are my son.” I am thankful that she stands whole again, that she is not in pain any more, and that she sings and dance with Jesus.
And I am at peace. My sadness and my anger and my thankfulness are all associated with my finiteness. My peace is not. My sadness and my anger and my thankfulness are tied to my vantage point in the here and now. Mom is no longer associated with this vantage point, walled in on all sides by time. She is outside of time now. The peace and hope we have in Christ are founded beyond the chaos of the here and now. They are found in the infinite. The forever.
Paul wrote that those who die “fall asleep,” at least from the perspective of those who are “still awake” in time. He used this description as a metaphor to help the Thessalonians understand death and the 2nd coming of Jesus. He wasn’t trying to introduce an etherial concept that systematic theologians would turn into a name-throwing debate. I would suggest that it is just a metaphor for explanation. It seems to me that what will happen when Jesus returns, according to what Paul wrote, is this – Jesus will appear, the dead in Christ will rise (those who have been “asleep” outside the day-to-day of time), and those who are still alive will then meet them in the air.
If we take that metaphor with its simplest explanation and its simplest implications, then it sounds like, as I am even writing this, FROM MOM’S PERSPECTIVE we are ALL worshipping and dancing and singing and whole together with Jesus. From my perspective, she is gone and we are here and our hearts ache to see her and ultimately to see Jesus. But from her perspective, the hope Paul seems to be communicating is that the big family reunion has begun. She exited time, and the rest of the day-to-day is over for her. What this means is that she heard the trumpet sound at about 4:20pm yesterday, our time, but it wasn’t “pm” or “am” for her. It was the end of time. And we met her in the air. And we are worshipping together.
The point is this – WE HAVE HOPE IN THE HERE AND NOW BECAUSE OUR REAL LIFE IS HIDDEN IN THE FOREVER. Our peace and hope are not bound by the fact that Mom died yesterday, but by the fact that we all have life together with Jesus, from her perspective, in whatever is “now” to her now (“forever” stuff makes my head hurt). Does that make sense at all? Whether it does or doesn’t, listen to what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
So, I am at peace. Erik is at peace. Dad is at peace. Jen and Erin are at peace. Other family and friends are at peace. We are all sad and angry and thankful. But we are at peace, because the full life that Mom lived is now fully revealed in the glory of the Christ at whose feet she bows. Right now. At least as “now” as the present can be inside of forever and outside of time.
A friend of our family (Cheri Tew) wrote these words about Mom and sent them to Dad. They are beautiful. I wanted to share them with you:
As I have been processing all of this I have thought about several things I would not change. I would not change one thing about Retia. She had a way of saying your name that said she totally respected you and loved you just as you are. She had a way of saying her husband’s name that made us all laugh. She said Jimmy Dukes as if it was all one word. I wouldn’t change a thing about her, but I am forever changed because of her. I thank God for the life of Retia Dukes. She deposited the love of Christ into every soul she connected to and she didn’t even keep the change. She just kept giving and giving and because of that she never ran out of love to deposit.
May we love like Mom loved. May we live in the confidence of Whose we are, as Mom did. And may each of cherish every moment we have with one another, because our togetherness matters more than anything else.
I loved my Mom. And I miss her. I have so many memories. Thanks for how so many of you have shared with me how you remember her, too.