No Burdens

It’s strange, how happiness awakens grief, as if the heart contains muscle memory of the ways it has been stretched.

I called Barb, my friend from church, a few weeks ago to tell her about Marnell, who, as you know, was still mostly a stranger to me.  She thought he was a great idea, and said she had been praying for me to this end.

“So this is your fault,” I told her, and we laughed.

Then, before we hung up, she said, “I wish your mother were here.”

I didn’t absorb her words immediately, until I began to find myself also thinking that Marnell was a great idea.  Suddenly, reminders of my mom were everywhere.

For instance, shortly after posting my blog last Saturday afternoon, I began to rearrange my house to distract myself.  Why? I don’t know.  Somehow it took me a few hours to get up my courage to go back online and evaluate the fallout of the public announcement.

Of course, my sisters were keeping an eye on the situation for me anyway…

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the comments and the good wishes.  I did, a lot.  I just couldn’t face it for a second.  I grabbed my Windex instead. I decided that the pen and ink artwork my mom had made in high school was in the wrong place in my house.

So I moved it here, to my bathroom where I would see it every day.

I had already shown Marnell the slideshow my sister had made for my mom’s funeral. The flowers from him, now drying, I put in a glass bowl behind the candle with my mom’s picture. It was from the funeral home and I had talked my family into letting me have it.

Then, our Elkhart church group was watching a sermon by Ravi Zacharias, and he began to quote the song by Annie Johnson Flint,  “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater…. He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.” Suddenly I was back in the white farmhouse on March Rapids Avenue, listening to my mom sing this song while sewing in the little room on the front corner of the house, or while clattering around the kitchen, making supper, or while rocking my baby sister, who now also is dating and unable to introduce her boyfriend to her mom… “To added affliction He addeth His mercy, to multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.  His love has no limit!  His grace has no measure! His power, no boundary known unto men!  For out of his infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.”

“I want you to meet my family,” I told Marnell, as we reviewed our complicated calendars.

Make no mistake, I love my step-mom. She’s been a great friend of mine for many years, and I have no fear about introducing Marnell to her.  But, the nagging reality remains: the closest place I can come to physically introducing him to my mother is to take him to her grave.

Further–and I think I’ve alluded to this–my mom’s death coincided with one of the worst times in my life, and I’ve always felt that perhaps that was her final memory of me.  It probably doesn’t matter, but still. This is why it was infinitely meaningful to me that in 2013, God answered my prayers for direction on her birthday, October 15.  I wondered as I sat crying in the hospital cafeteria that day, tears that reached back across the long months of crying out to God… Could she be aware of this?  Is it possible for people to look down from heaven?

“I thought, I wonder if she can see me!” I told Marnell when I recounted the October 15 story, and he didn’t laugh at me, nor did he tell me that such a thing is impossible.  Perhaps, as long as we are bound by the constraints of time and mortality, we will never know.

And in the end, I’m glad.  I’m glad that my memories of my mom are good ones, awash with sunshine, singing, and Scrabble games on Sunday afternoons.  I’m glad she was interesting and funny and creative, but that she loved us more than her paintings, or her books, or her furniture.  I’m glad she never pushed us to live a certain life,  glad I never felt pressure from her to get married, or meet any certain standard other than following God.  I’m glad for that last summer with her, even though she was growing weaker.  I’m glad to remember how even in those final days she helped my sister with an art project for vacation Bible school. Despite a failing mind, she held the pencil comfortably in her hand, an artist to the end.  I’m glad she fought to stay alive, and I’m glad she died gracefully, peacefully, proving her own song, that “when we’ve reached the end of our hoarded resources, our Father’s full giving is only begun.”

And certainly I’m glad to know that if people can watch from heaven, she is smiling with us, in that place where there are no burdens.

 If you have a moment to listen: He Giveth More Grace When the Burdens Grow Greater

18 thoughts on “No Burdens”

  1. I love that song Katrina, I want it to be something my life makes real – a testimony to God’s provision in the midst of pain. Your pain is familiar to me and, I’m sure, to others who no longer have their Mom here on earth.

  2. Awwww….. I wish too that your mom was here and you could introduce Marnell to her. He would have loved her and I know she would have been thrilled of your choice of a man! Take him to meet the Kulp sisters and maybe he can get a taste of who your mom was….nothing will replace your mom though.

  3. I am another one that wishes your Mom was here , I’m sure she would approve of Marnell , The rest of the Kulp’s (us included) will be quite happy to meet and greet him ,whenever that might happen . I loved your blog I can feel your pain in the loss of a wonderful Mother ,I miss her too . So glad for your thoughts on Jeanie we all love her too !!

    1. Thanks Pauline. We are hoping to come the first weekend in May! Still a long way off though. ?

  4. Scrabble games, interesting, creative and funny are also words I would use to describe your mom. I would love to be able to have a good talk with her again.

  5. Lovely memories. Treasure them. Bring them out every once in a while n dust them off. Greet them with a smile as leak out of your eyes n roll down your cheeks. For they are like a hug without arms!

  6. Oh the emotions….. and with each new development in life you feel them all over again…. hugs to you!!! And still super excited to see you two together!

  7. Katrina, I cried like a baby when I read this blog. Yes, I miss your mom but mostly I cried for you girls who can’t show mom their boyfriends, their husbands and their babies.

  8. You my dear heart, are beautiful! What a loving tribute to your mother. What a treasure to love so richly, your mom would be proud!

  9. Linda Sprouffske

    What a wonderful tribute indeed to a mom I’ve only met through your words. Thank you for sharing them.
    May the Lord richly bless you in this new found adventure in love. With a mom like yours must’ve been you’ve a great example to follow.
    Press on living loved, choosing joy.

  10. This brought back memories of your mom, and my mom, because sadly, the disappointment of not being able to share happy times and sad times with a mom just keep repeating through life’s happenings. But you can be brave, even through tears. Soon my hydrangea from her will send up green shoots again, and I’ll remember funny times with her! And the bitter sweet time I came to say goodbye, and walked alone through her flower paths because she was too sick to join me one more time…

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