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    Joy for Mourning

    Learning to give thanks in the midst of grief. October 7, 2014 by Major Kathie Chiu
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    It was Thanksgiving 2009, just four blurry 24-hour periods since the passing of my mother. I felt like I was walking through a fog as things happened around me. Looking back, I wonder how I navigated those days and the weeks that followed.

    That was only five years ago, but so many of the memories are gone. I can't remember what day of the week she died. I remember our divisional commander, Lt-Colonel Susan van Duinen, arriving early at my mother's bedside to sit and pray with us. How did she get there so soon?

    My kids watched, helpless, as I grieved. They watched as I sang hymns to her every day for seven weeks. They watched me sob as she lay in the hospital. They watched me walk around the house aimlessly. They talked to me without expecting a reply, or waited patiently for me to answer when I stopped mid-sentence to stare off into the air. They knew I was no longer hearing them.

    My husband also lost a mother that day. My mother had become his mother, too. She accepted and loved him as one of her own, and he accepted and loved her back. He teased her mercilessly, and his quick smile and loud, crazy laugh would chase away her annoyance. He grieved heavily, responding with constant activity. Where I was overwhelmed and paralyzed, he got busy. While I felt numb, he got everything organized.

    I can't remember the day of her memorial here in British Columbia—what songs we sang, what Scripture was read. I have no memory of getting on the plane to take her back to Ontario to be buried with my father. I do remember the funeral service at her home corps and all the people—family and friends; her Sunday school kids, all grown up; her junior soldiers, who loved her dedication to them; my school friends, who knew her as their Brownie leader—who came to send her off to glory. There was standing room only in that little corps on the lakeshore.

    Everyone reacts to grief in a different way. For me, talking about my mom really helped. I reminisced, cried and laughed. It was cathartic. Even though I spent so much time with her in those last few weeks, I still felt guilty about leaving the day she had a moment of lucidity. My son was giving me a ride home and needed to be somewhere. All we managed to say was, “I love you,” and although it was sweet, I still regret not staying. Family and friends reminded me to be easy on myself.

    The other thing that helped was reading the cards people sent with their sweet messages of grace and peace. Along with phone calls, they helped me feel the prayers and support of friends.

    As a writer, I poured my grief and loss onto the page. Writing about my mom and the experience of her death helped me mourn.

    Five years later, my grief has become a sense of peace and joy for having had her in my life for so long, and for so many wonderful memories. I was her youngest child and only girl—she spoiled me with love and affection. It is, I'm sure, what buffeted me against a distant and broken father plagued with alcoholism. She was my lifeline. She took me to Sunday school and Sunday meetings. She made sure I was surrounded by people who loved God. Even in her own brokenness, she showed me how to be resilient—how to persevere and get to the finish line. When I wanted to quit, she made me keep at it. When I said I was leaving home, she offered to help me pack. And when, as a teenager, I did leave, she waited patiently for me to return. She was a rock in a turbulent sea of family chaos and messiness.

    When Thanksgiving comes and our family gathers around the table, filled with delicious foods made just the way she taught me—like her awesome turkey gravy—I give thanks for my mother. My children give thanks for a grandmother who loved, kissed and cuddled them, and gave them her unconditional support. In her eyes, we were perfect. In our eyes, she was simply the best.

    Major Kathie Chiu grew up in The Salvation Army and has been an officer for 22 years. She has five children, including two teenaged boys still living at home, and eight grandchildren. She is the corps officer in Richmond, B.C.

    Comment

    On Monday, December 8, 2014, Donald Jefcoat said:

    Major Chiu what a beautiful article.

    I can tell you the day, time, and what I was doing when I got called that mom had been found dead in her apartment after suffering a heart attack while making breakfast. I can tell you that the walls in the kitchen I worked in did nothing to hold me up when I had to repeat the words to my boss as to why I wanted to go home "Karyn I need to go my mom is gone" I can also tell you that while my friends and I were outside a convenience store smoking a cigarette I saw the hearse leave my local funeral parlor to go retrieve some one else's mother or father. My mom lived in Toronto I lived 2 hours away.

    After the news hit me much was a blur after. I knew I took a 3 hour bus ride but can only recall passing the airport to Toronto and saying to my friend "She was your mom to you, I will make sure people include you in the planning of things" She was all our friends mom. There were very few things I can remember surrounding her celebration of life and what lead up-to it.

    I do recall going into the viewing room with my sisters to view my mom to make the decision of an open or closed casket. One would think that what I saw was my mom. I would of hoped that the person in that coffin was the woman who from birth loved me when others wouldn't. There was no love or warmth radiating from that coffin. Mom was not there and for the first time that week it hit me that my mom was gone. The grief hit me physically I couldnt breath, I tugged at my tie, at my shirt to just get a breath of air. For the remainder of that week if I wasn't numb or trying to breath I was weeping. Well after mom was laid to rest I retreated from that city as fast as I could and got back to my life as best I could.

    I was living in the town I grew up in. And for the most part I functioned quite well till the cereal incident. My pastor of the day warned me about the potential for odd things triggering my grief. But I thought I got it under control. A couple of single people and I went grocery shopping. We often found it more fun to shop as a group then alone. But as I was in the cereal aisle I came across moms favorite cereal picked up the box and my first taste of that odd thing triggering grief didnt just sneak up up on me, it consumed me. I sat in that aisle hugging the cereal and no sooner could I say "Mom will never come here again" I was in tears and full out weeping again. I learnt something that day. If you ever want to clear out an aisle gentlemen just sit down hug a box of cereal and start blubbering. My friends laughed that they never seen an aisle empty so fast.

    I personally have a formula for my sad times. If I have one I have to have a good time to end it. I have also learned that when my heart yearns for mom, to hold her, to call her, to remember her that I am blessed. I had mom whom loved Jesus. Who loved her kids, her friends, and even her enemies. She had the same love for me and my sisters as she did for people in the gutters of life. She yearned for the lost to be found in Jesus arms. That was her passion. Though loosing mom was the most traumatic thing to ever happen in my life. The pain and sadness are eased because of I know that when life's final breath is taken, and I enter Heavens kingdom That mom will be there. For that I am thankful. I am thankful that mom got to see her rebel son come back to the flock, and that she never gave up praying for me to smarten up. And even then she kept praying that God would make a man with the Fathers heart. Thanks mom, and Praise Jesus.

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