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Mother’s Day without Mom: Despite grief, reporter finds ‘10,000 Reasons’ to praise

“Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me. Let me be singing when the evening comes.”

— from “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman

I’m not looking forward to Mother’s Day this year.
I never have. It’s a schmaltzy, overcommercialized, pseudo-holiday that only greeting card companies enjoy — and mothers, I suppose.
For me, it’s just one more day to feel guilty about forgetting. And I have forgotten it. A lot.
Not this year. For many of us, this will be the first Mother’s Day that we’ll be unable to make that sheepish phone call, confessing that we didn’t get the card in the mail on time. Our mothers won’t be here to call.
I just read our blog post about church member Angi Brenton, who died May 8 after a three-month battle with pancreatic cancer. My heart breaks for her husband, son and daughter.

The Tryggestad family, ready for church during a visit to Tennessee, circa 1977. (Photo provided)

The Tryggestad family, ready for church during a visit to Tennessee, circa 1977. (Photo provided)

My mom’s battle ended Jan. 17, one day after my daughter’s fifth birthday, less than a week after my wife and I learned that our second child is on the way. It’s a girl — a girl who will have no earthly memory of her grandmother.

My colleague, Bobby Ross, dedicated a recent column to Mom’s final days. My dad, my brother-in-law and my sister did the heavy lifting during the five months after we learned it was stage four pancreatic cancer. I pray that my two girls will show the strength, stamina and humor my sister managed as she ministered to our mom.

Mom’s oncologist  — a sister in Christ, who attends the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn. — said that her goal was to see Mom through Christmas and New Year’s. (Thank you, Natalie. You did it.)
I was an observer during those months, flying back and forth between Oklahoma City and Nashville, saying goodbye to mom each time. We spent Christmas in Tennessee, when she had just started hospice care. Though frail and weak, she insisted on standing up, next to her hospital bed, and hugging me before we left. We both knew it would be the last time.
In the weeks since the memorial service, Dad has tried to stay busy, serving at his church wherever they need him and visiting his own mother, who lives in snowy South Dakota. When I invited him to join me at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures in Malibu, Calif., he jumped at the chance.

Flowers sent by The Christian Chronicle for Mom's memorial service. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

Flowers sent by The Christian Chronicle for Mom’s memorial service. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

During the first night of the lectures, we stood in the Firestone Fieldhouse and sang alongside thousands. On stage, leading worship, was Zoe Group, an a cappella ministry from Nashville that includes David England, a former mentor of mine from my days at Lipscomb University. (How very Church of Christ that Dad should fly clear across the country to hear a group that lives a few miles away from his house.)

In my 11 years with The Christian Chronicle, I’ve attended church conferences around the globe. Having dad there with me made it special. But it also produced a strange sense of yearning. There, in the rafters of the Fieldhouse, I started to miss mom.
Almost on cue, the Zoe Group launched into its a cappella rendition of Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons.”
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul. Worship his holy name. Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship your holy name.”
“I knew it,” I heard Dad whisper, resolutely. “I knew they’d do this song.”

Zoe’s version of the song, based on Psalm 103, is the song we played over a photo montage of mom during her memorial service.
Dad and I shed tears. I began to wonder if bringing him to Pepperdine was a mistake.
The moment passed, however, and our stoic, Scandinavian genes helped us regain our composure. We spent the next three days learning about the work of the church around the globe. I presented lectures on Christianity in Africa, alongside my good friend and Pepperdine professor Dyron Daughrity.
I introduced dad to Christians I’ve come to love from Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria and Singapore. We sneaked away one afternoon and explored Hollywood. I saw the footprints of R2-D2, C-3PO and Darth Vader at the Chinese Theatre. Dad got a T-shirt for my nephew.

The footprints of R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and Darth Vader (David Prowse) at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

The footprints of R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and Darth Vader (David Prowse) at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

As is often the case, the most memorable part of the lectures happened between the speeches and classes. I got to speak with a Christian who came to Malibu from much farther away than I did. (He asked me not to say exactly where for security reasons.)

This Christian grew up under a regime that didn’t care much for his family’s faith. His father, a devout believer, endured hardship because of his devotion. He was passed over for promotions and.gif?Action=thumbnail&Width=460&algorithm=proportionalts — including a TV.
I asked him if he ever resented his father’s faith, since it had denied him these.gif?Action=thumbnail&Width=460&algorithm=proportionalts.

Dad goes Hollywood (that's the sign way in the background) outside the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

Dad goes Hollywood (that’s the sign way in the background) outside the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

“No,” he told me. “No, I was the.gif?Action=thumbnail&Width=460&algorithm=proportionalt.” He was born late in his parents’ marriage, and they reminded him, constantly, the he was their blessing from God. Now he preaches the Gospel, just like his father, who died about 10 years ago.

“We owe a lot to the faith of our fathers, don’t we?” I asked him. It wasn’t really a question. It was a realization.
I’ve known for quite some time that the work I’m doing for The Christian Chronicle relates directly to my parents’ devotion to God. Mom told me, repeatedly, that she prayed for me — much in the same way that Hannah prayed for her own son, Samuel, to be a man dedicated to the Lord. Throughout my life, mom and dad have been quiet examples of faith and perseverance.
I have thrived under the protection of my mother’s prayers. I have grown in faith by following my father’s example.
“For all your goodness I will keep on singing, 10,000 reasons for my heart to find.”
Yes, I will mourn on my first “white rose” Mother’s Day, but I will praise God all the same. I have 10,000 reasons to sing to my Redeemer.
About 9,900 of them come from mom and dad.
The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field;the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children —  with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Psalm 103:15-18

  • Feedback
    As I read your story, it brought so many common threads we have in our lives. My mom is in the final months of life due to health issues and this will probably be our last mother’s day together. It makes me appreciate every minute we have together. At the same time, Mothers Day is one of my hardest days because I lost a son in a accident and will always have a hole in my heart. After church Sunday I will be sitting at his grave and having last visits with my mom. But I will also be celebrating because I know my Redeemer lives. God is faithful and no matter what this world brings, my parents always taught me that Christ is not only a goal–but he is a way of life. I am a blessed woman.
    Judy Sweet Hunter
    May, 10 2013
    There is no greater gift in this life than a loving Christian mother. May God richly bless them one and all.
    Orion Mitchell
    May, 11 2013
    Beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing.
    Matthew R. Boydstun
    May, 16 2013
    My own mother passed away just 3 1/2 months after she and my dad lost their home in the massive May 3rd ’99 tornado outbreak.
    Reading your tribute the day after attending the funeral of my mother’s only remaining brother has caused me to ponder the blessings I’ve gained from both of them–not to mention my father, who is still living.
    Russ Sharp
    May, 16 2013
    Erik, thank you for sharing this with all of us. My own mother passed away in 2011. For those who haven’t experienced singing in the fieldhouse during Pepperdine Bible Lectures, it is truly like being in heaven. Rick Gibson and Mike Cope did a phenomenal job of producing 2013 Pepperdine Bible Lectures. I know you and your dad share wonderful memories of your time there–we’ve been trying to get my dad from Louisiana out here for several years now! Thanks for bring back the feeling from Lectures.
    Blessings, Larenda Roberts
    Larenda Roberts
    May, 16 2013
    Karen was very proud of you, and you have done her, and Tom, proud. I can easily imagine him enjoying his time with you at Pepperdine. I wish I could have seen your mom one last time, or been able to get to the funeral, but all of you have been in my prayers, and the memories are sweet. It doesn’t seem so long ago that she showed up in Virginia, fresh out of high school, to work for the government, and came home with us most Sundays after church. Since that time, we have always considered her, then Tom, and you and Amy, part of our family, and I have enjoyed the times we have been together. She was a wonderful Christian woman and that led to a wonderful Christian family. I had hoped she would get to see all our kids when they could get to know her, too. I guess you may have to stand in for her on that one. Give my love to your father and sister.
    David Kilpatrick
    David Kilpatrick
    May, 16 2013
    I was so moved by this article. Thank you for sharing. I lost my mom in October to pancreatic cancer as well. Your story was similar to ours, as we found out only a few months earlier about her diagnosis. This past Mother’s Day was difficult, but with the help of the Lord we made it through. God always opens a window of support to those who are in need to remind us He is still here. He is our Comforter. Losing Mom was a great loss not only for our family, but also our church family. Dad is still serving as minister as well as my brother and husband who are also ministers of the Gospel. Through all the pain and heartache, the support from God and our fellow servants in Christ proves that we truly have 10,000 reasons to praise!
    Felicia Cottingham-Foster
    May, 16 2013
    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Erik. I’m so sorry to hear of your family’s loss. Thanks be to God through our Lord and Savior, your mother has gained eternal life. May the Lord bless your sweet family in the coming months.
    Holly Brock
    May, 17 2013

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