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Blessed mourning: Finding words of comfort in unexpected places

I never meant to write this column.

These are thoughts I never wanted to have — or to share.

Insight | Bailey McBride

Insight | Bailey McBride

On April 16 at 3:45 p.m., my wife of nearly 59 years, Joyce, died. All her life, she loved teaching and adored our children, their mates, our grandchildren and the spouses that four of them have brought to the family, our four younger grandchildren and our two great-grandchildren. She equally loved the 3,000 pre-kindergarteners she has taught over the past 47 years.

She had a growth on her throat, and she wanted it gone so she could speak more forcefully to her class. She firmly believed that God had preserved her life so she could help young children come to know him through the great stories of godly men and women.

The surgery on her left vocal cord had no effect on her death. She had a heart attack one year ago on April 16. She had been under great cardiologists for years, and her doctor told me that he had been helping her survive for seven years. She had two faulty valves, and she was not strong enough to undergo the procedure to correct the problem. She had a second heart attack on April 2, and even though medical science did all possible to save her, we lost her two weeks later.

It was the worst blow I ever had. I have been surrounded by children, grandchildren, friends of nearly 50 years. Her memorial celebration was attended by more than 1,200 people, and more than 200 former students quoted Psalm 23. My three children have helped me with all the paperwork and details, but it seems to me that the light has gone out for me.

Joyce and I have been blessed to live into our 80s. We have had time to talk about and pray about such an eventuality. We agreed that quality of life was more important than more years. We promised each other that we would seek to do whatever God has planned for us. Joyce worried that I might sleep life away if she were not here to wake me, and she made me promise that I would get up and follow the same routine I had followed for years. She also asked that I do at least one good deed for someone outside the family each day.

I sought guidance from friends who have experienced the loss of a spouse. Most of the men I have talked to believe that only time really brings healing. One told me that I should take one day at a time, spend much time in prayer and begin to write my thoughts to Joyce. The time in prayer has been helpful, as has Bible study.

I began reading Joyce’s prayer journals and discovered that she prayed about nearly every person we know daily. I have started my own prayer journal, and I am trying to focus on others.

Another friend encouraged me to find a mature woman that I could visit with on a regular basis. That is not advice that interests me. I did, however, turn to a wise, godly widow whose children I have known since they were students at Oklahoma Christian University.

Sue Warren Green has a great heart of compassion, and the first thing she did was refer me to a column I wrote in 2013, “Blessed mourning.” I told the story of my grandmother, whose first child died 12 hours after his birth. She had 12 other children who lived full lives, but in her later years her memory lingered over the son she lost.

I concluded the column with the statement, “Only the eternal perspective of God provides a valid view.”

It was easy to sound wise when I was only dealing with death in general. Feeling the pain of Joyce’s death I understand that mourning accentuates grief, but my mourning is only for me and my children.

I cannot mourn for Joyce because she has what she wanted all her life. I mourn for my children, but I celebrate that Joyce loved me, loved her family and loved almost every person she ever encountered. I am on God’s time, and I will use every day to serve him and his kingdom.

CONTACT [email protected]

Filed under: Insight Opinion

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