remembering Mom

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.

24 thoughts on “remembering Mom

  1. Jason, our hearts grieve for you and your families, in the now, but we also know, as you, that you Mom is rejoicing. I will alway appreciate her and remember at a Deacon’s Retreat where she led a wive’s session, she said she ALWAYS told you boys as she kissed you out the door that she would be praying for you that day. As a mother..that advice resounded within me and I have tried to follow thru on that advice with our children and grandchilden. Your’s and Eric’s steadfastness through these months has been a testimony to her and your dad’s lives. We will continue to pray for all of you with much love.

  2. Your Mom, my Friend from so long ago, Retia, was all you and Erin have described for as long as I have known her. We graduated from H.S. together in 1958 in Vardaman, the Sweet Potato Capitol. No wonder she enjoyed sweet potatoes so. My Husband and I just celebrated our 50th anniversary and I do regret Retia and Jimmy got this close yet failed to reach that point. It is so precious. Our hearts, like yours, are breaking at the loss of this precious lady. We will certainly continue to pray for Jimmy and all the family as he continues to heal from his injuries and as all of you continue on with your lives. I remember once Retia was describing both her sons as “sweet” and I could sense the love and pride she had for both of you as your Mom. May God bless you with the peace only He can give in knowing Retia is in a much better place and is now whole and healthy again. We will remember you in our prayers.

  3. We are so sorry about Retia’s passing. She meant a lot to us during Jimmy’s interim pastoring at First Baptist Cliftondale. We have been hoping and praying that she would recover and be able to be with her family and we could see her again. Now, it will be in the “sweet by & by”. Our sympathy to all of you! Jimmy, we love you and hope we can see you sometime in the future. Raymond (The lighthouse painting guy) & Irene

  4. wow…my heart is crushed with the weight of your family’s loss & sadness, but my cup overflows with the hope of meeting your precious mom in heaven. thank you sweet Jesus for the cherished memories of this woman of God for this precious family!!! we love you & are lifting you all up!
    The Johnson Family

  5. Your mom was a precious woman. I will be praying for you and your family. The heartbreak of loosing a parent is painful. I understand your anger and love. I pray for healing and God’s loving arms of strength and support to be with you. We were on campus from 1990-95 and love your mom and dad. Blessings. Gail Parrish

  6. I am a North Georgia student and met your father at the Decatur facility. When I heard him preach in chapel I knew why God wanted me to pursue a theological education. Later on I saw him again in NOLA while I was there for a workshop. That is when I met Mrs. Retia. Right from the start I was so impressed by her humility, gentleness and kindness. Mrs. Retia was the kind of wife, mother, and grandmother I hope my own will be when she reaches her age. I was blessed to have met her. I cried when I opened the email yesterday and could barely read it through the tears. You all are in my prayers.

  7. Judy and I are so very sorry for your mom’s dying. We know ya’ll will miss her terribly. Know that ya’ll are in our prayers during your grieving. Your mom has been in our prayers daily since the accident and we know just as well as you know that nothing is accidental and that God has had a purpose in all of this since April 4. We also know that you know that God cares for ya’ll very much. Your family would not have impacted our lives if He did not. Thanks for being faithful in posting updates for us. Drew, Judy, and I are planning to be in NO for the Memorial Service. God bless you.

  8. God bless you, brother! That is an awesome testimony of the Gospel of Christ! It sure sounds like your mom epitomized the Gospel!

  9. Dukes Family,

    I have had the privilege of knowing your sweet wife, mother, grandmother, and friend through our mutual friend, Cheri Tew. I have read the blogs throughout the last four months of her time here on earth.
    Your love for her was so evident to me and others. Her love for you all was indeed a fulfilling one. Many of us were there with you and Retia these past four months, throughout the highs and the lows. We felt the hurt, disappointments, and the many triumphant moments right along with you. Though I never met Retia in person, I felt like I knew her. She was a beautiful and compassionate woman, with many spiritual gifts.
    My own mom went to be with the Lord almost 17 years ago. Seems like yesterday that she too was laughing, singing hymns, and telling her family of her love for all of us. I miss her!
    The solace behind these past four months is the full knowledge and belief that you will indeed see your sweet Retia again in Glory. Take time to grieve and have “moments”…God understands.
    Wanda Gartrell

  10. Jason,

    What an incredible tribute to your Mom. Your Mom was one of the most genuine persons I have ever known. Her’s was a quiet strength. Her words brought calmness and peace. Her eyes were soft and accepting. She stood strong next to her husband of almost 50 years. Her faith was simple and trusting. Brenda’s and my life were touched deeply by her’s. We loved her and we will miss her. Rest in His peace as she rests in His presence.

    We love you,

    Bill and Brenda

  11. What a lovely, heartwarming tribute to your Mom as well as a terribly honest expression of how yo’re feeling right now. Know that you have many people who are thinking of you and your family and are continuing to keep you all covered in prayer and love. God Bless.

  12. Dear Jimmy, Erik and Jason and family,

    I was at NOBTS 1978-1981, and your precious parents were such an important part of me and my wife’s experience while there. Jimmy preached my ordination sermon in 1981, and although we have not been in contact for some time, he and your mom were never out of our thoughts and prayers. What special people they are. We are both saddened about your mom’s homegoing, but rejoicing because she is no longer in pain, and is whole again, waiting for the rest of you (and us) to arrive in that glorious place called Heaven. What a day that will be! Just know that we are praying for all of you, and give your dad our love.

    Danny and Jan Sumerlin

  13. Dear Dukes’ Family,

    Maya and I just wanted you all to know our deep and heartfelt sorrow after learning just today that Mrs. Retia has died. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all. Rev Dukes and Erik we were so sorry to have just missed you both during our visit with Mrs. Retia about 2 weeks ago. We so enjoyed our time with her there at the Oschner LTAC. Here mood and memory were GREAT and she seemed so at Peace. I was pleasantly suprised at how quickly she recognized me as “Powers” and we had some great conversations. I know she is at even greater Peace now in our Heavenly home with our Lord. Erik, Jason, and Rev. Dukes we will continue to pray for all of you and for your families.

    Your Friends in Christ,

    Chris and Maya Powers

  14. I never got to meet your Mom, but I feel as though I know her. When I see Dr. Dukes in his practice here in Booneville you can see how he much love he has for his family. You can see what a testimony he is for everyone. When I see how he cares for my parents you know how much he cares for his own. I know what a wonderful caring Mother you had because she and your Dad have raised such fine sons.

    You all will be in our thoughts and prayers and one day I will get to meet you Precious Mom in Heaven.

    We love you all,
    Pam & James Keeton
    Shawn & Rebecca Keeton
    Wes & Lavelle Talkington

  15. Jason,
    Great post of your memory from a son’s perspective. I thought many of those same thoughts after my mother was made new again nearly two years ago. What wonderful examples of Christ’s amazing love for us…they were simply extensions of Him to us. At least that’s my perspective.
    I remember spending hours at your home in N.O. playing hoops or video games late into the night. Not once can I remember her ever raising her voice at us or you or anyone, even when I’m sure we deserved it often, well maybe not often, but certainly some. Anyway, she was always sweet, soft spoken, and full of love for her family and their friends. Good memories!
    She will be missed. Praise God for our promise of reunion one day!
    Love you bro, sorry we can’t make it to NOLA for the service! But know I’ll be praying for ya’ll and our hearts pour out for you in this time.
    Talk to you soon.


    David, Stephanie and Sophia Oswalt

  16. Pingback: ridin’ with the king » a son’s remembrance: raw, honest and grace-filled

  17. Jason
    You don’t know me, but I have followed the caringbridge site since the accident…Dr. Dukes is one of our physicians at NMMCI and he really doesn’t know me personally..just as the one who tries to keep the computers running…What has had the biggest impact on me, is the true testament of faith that your parents lovingly shared with you. I know how very proud your Mother was of each of you and how she was loved by all. I pray that through these entries, others have come to know the mighty God we serve and began an even deeper relationship with Jesus Christ our loving Savior…You have touched me so with your words of love and comfort…I pray for each of you in the coming days as we patiently wait a glorious reunion…In Christ, Mamie
    Clinic Admin

  18. I came over here from Dean’s blog. I’m sorry for your loss. May you find comfort knowing she’s in the arms of our Lord and Savior. I lost my own mother almost 20 years ago when I was 18. It’s difficult to lose a mother…my heart goes out to you.

    A beautiful post and tribute to your mother. May all who read it be inspired. God Bless you, and I will remember to keep you and your family in my prayers. May He comfort you and give you peace.


  19. Beautiful tribute to an obviously beautiful woman. We leave nothing behind except relationships that testify to our time here, and she did that so well. Praying for your family as you go through these difficult days.

  20. Despite the unbelievable sadness that this brings to your heart and your life, I wanted to share with you what this blog, what your vantage point on your mom has done for me. God will, and is, using this for good. Reita even in passing continues to be the good and faithful servant. As I read, I could not help but wonder “what would my two boys say about me???” Would they say “my mom always made sure our clothes matched, and my mom always made sure the playroom was cleaned, and my mom always made me eat my veggies…” or would they mirror your thoughts and comments on seeing Jesus in me?? Reita did not have a good week or a good year for you to feel this way about her. She lived this for decades… this was her life. Reita will change my legacy. I want my boys to see JESUS in me and in my daily. THAT is what is important. For them to say that about me I must live it and die to self every day. Just as Reita did. THANK you for posting this. I am grateful for your moms life. Joel and I will continue to pray. We love you.

  21. I am so sad and yet filled with such joy. I cried tears of pain for your heart and tears of joy for your mother dancing with our savior. Only in Christ could could both sorrow and joy so peacefully co-exist.

    I’m calling my mom.

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