When the Caregiving Ends and the Grief Begins

As you know, my dear mother passed away a month ago, and I feel the need to talk about grief. Although Mom’s quality of life was not good for the past five years and we are assured that she is in heaven, we greatly miss her physical presence. I miss talking to her on the phone daily, and visiting her in their home. Their apartment is so empty feeling now. But mostly I see my father’s deep grief after 65 years of marriage and many years of amazing caregiving. His whole purpose revolved around Mom’s needs, and now that she is gone, he is feeling lost without her. He has lost the love of his life. He needs to cry. Intellectually I know that, but I want so badly to help him feel better. I don’t know how to ease his loneliness, and I often feel helpless. I realize that grief is a process and that he will never “get over her,” but life will go on.

I think that the end of the holidays makes it worse. One little thing that helped me is right after I packed up Christmas ornaments, I put up Valentine’s decorations so that I would have a new holiday to look forward to. I love to decorate, and that brought me joy. Also the planning of her service helped give us a purpose, but now that is done. Now we must learn to live without our angel.

I am trying to practice my mother’s greatest virtue of gratitude each day, and that is my goal for this new year. Also, I have become very sensitive to gossip and negativity as she taught us not to speak badly about others.

My cousins created two beautiful videos – one of Mom’s family and one of our family. We have watched them repeatedly and they are a beautiful reminder of Mom’s youth and also remind us of the fun times we had when we were growing up. Mom was always front and center in the pictures flashing her larger than life smile.

My comfort is that I can feel her presence, especially at night when sleep won’t come.  I try to feel her arms around me. I remember during the last days of her life how she told me she was ready to go home. She asked for Jesus to take her. I know she was ready, but I wonder how really ready we were.  Are you ever ready to lose a parent, particularly a sweet mother who was such an inspiration?

One of my Bible study friends gave me a small book, titled C.S. Lewis On Grief. Lewis also lost his wife. This quote seemed to reiterate what my father is feeling. It says, “You tell me ‘she goes on’. But my heart and body are crying out, come back, come back. I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the arguments, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace… It is a part of the past.”1   

We are fortunate to have three siblings here to be with Dad, and he has good friends who get him out of the apartment. I think about others who are grieving who may not have that kind of help available. I cannot imagine the loneliness that they must feel. But Scripture tells us that God is right there with us to help us through our grief.

What Helps:

  • Friends and relatives are simply invaluable.
  • Our priest and church members.
  • Devotionals and prayer.
  • Grief counseling and a grief support group.
  • For me, writing this blog helps me tremendously as I know so many of you can relate to these emotions.

Scripture Verses About Grief:

Mathew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Jeremiah 31:13 I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

Prayer: Dear Father, I pray for all those who are grieving right now, and especially for my Father, that You will see them through their pain and suffering. Send Your comforting spirit to be with them.  Give them Your peace which transcends all suffering.

Lewis, C.S.  (1998). C.S. Lewis On Grief. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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My Mother’s Legacy

Carolyn Bowen is no longer terminal; she is now ETERNAL!

My precious mother went to be with the Lord on December 19 after many years of suffering. She passed away peacefully in her sleep, which was an answer to our prayers. I want to share some of her eulogy with all of you as she was an extraordinary woman and leaves an amazing legacy.

Our Mom was the definition of gratitude, compassion, kindness, and endless faith.  The word, “thank you” was always on her lips for every little thing done for her.  Dad must have heard thank you 100 times a day as he cared for her for the past five years, even when she was in pain.

Mom was born on July 16, 1924 to a large family.  She was the fifth of six children born to Benjamin and Mary Karrer in Detroit, Michigan. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother was a homemaker. The Karrer family was fun, and she was the mischievous one, who always had a multitude of friends who remained friends for life. For Carolyn, once a friend, always a friend. Her siblings frequently told stories of her antics.  Our Dad remembers her being a pistol when he met her. At one of their first parties together, he found her smoking a cigar with the guys!

Mom had a huge smile that lit up the room.  And she wore that smile continuously until her final breath.  It was the physical companion to the love she showed to everyone.  She also held a rare and genuine skill – an interest in you, she asked and listened.  She treasured relationships – hers and ours.

All of our friends were welcome at our home; she was gracious and kind to everyone.  She was known as the fun Mom.  Our Michigan cousins came every summer because they had such a great time at our home and came with us on numerous family camping trips.  We have countless Bowen stories. Isn’t that what life is about – shared stories!  And our Mom was front and center in them.

She was always there for us. She often got up early to help the boys with their paper routes, and she listened intently to any friend trouble that my sister and I had. And she was always sending cards of encouragement to family and friends.

And of course, she was the fun grandma too.  She loved to bake and would bring bags of cookie makings whenever she babysat. Making Christmas cookies was an annual tradition. They remember her always praying both for and with them for any of their intentions. Before Mom had heart valve surgery, doctors explained that the size of her heart is about the size of her fist.  Her grandson said, “No Daddy, Nana has a big heart, just look at how kind she is.”

Her daughter and sons-in-law felt immediately welcomed into our family. She just had a way of making everyone feel cherished.  She was never pretentious or judgmental, and we never heard her gossip.  People referred to her as St. Carolyn or an angel on earth!  And that was our reality, although she always denied it.  Her gentle redirection from someone being negative always began with “Oh now.”

Her faith was greatly tested when she and Dad lost Mary’s twin sister, Martha, at 18 months old.   Soldiering on, we remember Mom constantly telling all of us that now we had an angel sister in heaven, who would be our guardian angel forever.  Her incredible faith helped her through the tragedy of a parent’s worst kind of loss.

Remembrances would not be complete without describing the marriage of 65 years with Don.  During their 65th anniversary at church, she had that huge smile on her face as she greeted friends.  Our dad was the most amazing caregiver, particularly during the past five years through Mom’s heart surgery, strokes, cancer, and finally a broken hip.  He never faltered in his care and love for her. His care was the inspiration behind this blog. “Well done, Dad.”

So many of you were recipients of her love through babysitting, a prayer card, holy card, religious artifact of any kind, a bluebird of happiness, a personal note that lifted your spirits, a personal touch, or knew you were the beneficiary of her prayers. That’s what Mom did – she fed our spirits and our souls. This is our mother’s legacy, you are her legacy and for many more who could not be here today, pass it forward.

We are called to model our lives after our Lord.  Mom was constantly loving and serving everyone she met. She picked up her crosses every day with a grateful heart. Mom watered and practiced her faith in her life and deeds. She never judged or complained. Mom went to her reward in full confidence of her faith.  

In one word, she was extra-ordinary. We are sure that when she entered heaven, the Lord said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Yes, well done, Mom. Our little angel on earth is now an angel in heaven.

Click here to listen to this beautiful song that touched our hearts. 

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