Caring for Everyone Throughout Her Life

Tamika is the utter definition of an amazing caregiver.  She is the oldest granddaughter in her family and was raised by her grandmother because her mother was a drug addict. At a young age, she started caregiving for her younger cousins and later in life, her grandmother and mother.  It was a pattern that would continue throughout her life.  But she had no idea how that road would twist and turn.

Her 30’s were a very difficult time. She and her husband tried for eight years to get pregnant, even going to a fertility physician.  Tamika became pregnant, but the joy was short-lived as she lost the baby 35 weeks into the pregnancy.  The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck.  She says, “Words cannot explain the hurt I felt when I lost my child.  I did not know what God was trying to tell me.”  

She started to see another fertility physician with no success.  During this time, Tamika said her faith was tested, and she became angry with God.  Finally, they decided to stop and think about adoption.  Almost 2 1/2 years later, at age 36, she got pregnant again with a baby girl.  Then she had a big surprise later that same year, as Tamika got pregnant again with triplets, two boys and a girl.  She had four babies in one year, one in January and the triplets in November.  However, the joy was tinged with pain as going from no children to four in one year caused a lot of stress.  It was overwhelming, and she and her husband began to have marital problems.  Her husband became so overwhelmed that he left when the triplets were still infants.

While he was gone, Tamika said she was sleepwalking through life. She explains, “I needed help, but I wasn’t good at asking for it.  I knew I had to be strong just like my grandmother taught me. I was taught to never let anyone see you cry.”  She soldiered through and went back to work in order to care for her family.  

Her husband returned after almost a year, and they went to counseling and learned life lessons.  Tamika says, “We learned that when two imperfect people come together, we cannot expect perfection.  Marriage is like a plate.  Through the years, you keep adding to the plate and when things happen, it breaks.  Things in life fall everywhere.  It becomes a mess.  Then it’s up to us to glue the plate back together making it even stronger, so it can hold the same things as before plus more.”  

Today they are much happier.  They have four beautiful, healthy children, ages 5 and 4.  They have learned to be thankful for even the smallest things.  God has helped them overcome so many struggles.  Tamika says, “We have learned to love each other as God loves us.”

Tamika says that God put others, especially an aunt, neighbor, and coach, in her life at an early age to reveal God’s love for her and show her a different way of life. She says, “They helped me see that God loves me. He is a healer. I learned that life will be better if I just keep God first.”

Tamika is still working full-time, but she is fully conscious of her life now and feels wonderful.  She feels that God has prepared her to minister to others who may be going through similar situations.  Just as others helped her envision a different life, so will she inspire others.

What Helped:

  • Her true and constant faith.
  • Her church and work communities.
  • The book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.

Scripture Verses:

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.

Prayer

God, you do give us the strength to soldier on when our lives feel impossible. You are a never-ending source of help. When we pass through these difficulties, we become stronger and more able to empathize with others who are struggling. Use us to minister to others in similar situations and show others Your peace and strength.

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Caring for a Parent Struggling With Alcoholism

Karen had a difficult childhood growing up with her father, John, who was an alcoholic. According to Karen, she was always walking on eggshells as she never knew what would happen next. The family tried everything, including an intervention, but he simply could not stop drinking. He died at the age of 70 from alcoholism. There is a strong genetic factor to the disease as his father was also an alcoholic, who abandoned the family when John was young.

Karen and her two siblings saw their father when he was at his lowest. During that time, he passed out several times at home, and fortunately, her brother found him. John’s wife, Jean, was literally at her wits end. She turned to her priest, who suggested an intervention. Everyone in the family wrote letters, and a social worker facilitated the conversation. Karen says the letters were heartfelt, and everyone described their bottom line. At this point, Karen had three children, and she wrote that she would no longer bring her children to the family home as she could not trust her father alone with the children for safety reasons.

After the intervention, John went to a treatment center for six weeks, but his sobriety didn’t last long. It was a disease that would haunt him the rest of his life. Even with the support of his faithful wife and three children, he could not stop drinking. Eventually he lost his job as he could no longer function at work. Karen says the loss of his job was the “perfect storm” for him sinking further into the abyss.

Jean and the family attended Al-Anon meetings regularly and educated themselves about the disease, even though John did not attend AA meetings himself. They prayed fervently even when it seemed that their prayers were unanswered. It was such a difficult time for the entire family, and they often felt helpless. After his death, John’s children spoke openly about the disease. Even today, they watch the grandchildren’s behavior closely to recognize any signs of alcoholism early on.

It is important to remember that it is an illness. The modern disease theory of alcoholism states that problem drinking is sometimes caused by a disease of the brain, characterized by altered brain structure and function. The American Medical Association declared that alcoholism was an illness in 1956.

Karen says, “This is truly a horrible disease that affects the entire family. It eventually cost my father everything, including his job and health. It greatly affected our family’s relationships. It is so difficult to care for someone who won’t stop drinking.” Although Karen and her family saw first-hand how totally devastating this illness can be, their prayers never stopped. In their case, it made their family closer.

What Helped:

  • Faith and fervent prayers.
  • Their priest and the social worker who helped with the intervention.
  • Al-Anon meetings.

Scripture Verses:

Psalm 69:13 But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose. Answer me because of your great love, because you keep your promise to save.

Psalm 143:1 Lord, hear my prayer! In your righteousness listen to my plea; answer me in your faithfulness!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, sometimes it does seem that there isn’t an answer to our prayers. Help us to keep discouragement at bay and await Your glorious intervention. You are always in control, so we continue to turn to You with open and thankful hearts. We trust that You will not abandon us in our time of need.

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Going Home

I just returned from the burial of my parents in Wauseon, Ohio where I lived for a while as a child. They were buried next to my baby sister, Martha, who died at 18 months of age. It turned out to be a perfect day – beautiful and sunny.  All of my Michigan cousins came, along with my childhood best friend from Ohio and her family. Although I was apprehensive about this day, it turned out to be lovely. It helped tremendously to be surrounded by others who loved Mom and Dad so much. We had a touching burial service, followed by lunch as a big group. Everyone had memories to share, and we laughed a lot.

I have my own special memories of my childhood in Ohio.  My best friend, Jane, and I reminisced about constantly dressing up as movie stars by borrowing her mother’s clothes and heels when we were young. We performed very dramatic imitations of Sandra Dee and Annette Funicello. We actually pretended that telephone poles were our boyfriends, and we were often found hugging and kissing the poles. Jane’s mother and sisters still get a good laugh from those memories. Jane is the type of friend with whom you pick right back up. If she lived closer, we would be the best of friends again. I am grateful to know her and her wonderful family of five girls. My Mom and Dad considered her parents their best friends, and they stayed in close touch for over 60 years.

This is the end of an era for both my Mom and Dad.  All of their siblings on Mom’s side are gone, and Dad was an only child. Two of my cousins created beautiful DVDs of the lives of my parents and relatives. We watched these DVDs for hours one afternoon, and are so thankful for the effort that took. There were so many memories of the fun times with our special cousins growing up along with the many trips we took. We looked forward to those trips planned every summer by our parents. Since I hadn’t seen these cousins in 20 years, it was so wonderful to catch up and to reminisce. They are as fun and funny as ever. While we shed some tears, we laughed more, putting even the difficult times in perspective. I am so appreciative of their love and sense of fun throughout my life.

While my husband and I drove around Wauseon, we discussed how different my life would have been if I had stayed there. The people in Wauseon were literally the salt of the earth. The corn fields throughout the town are still there, as they were in our backyard at our home. The town square is so much smaller than I remember. The homes are smaller too with people sitting out on their front porches enjoying the day. It felt like a much simpler life than mine here in Dallas. I know my parents were truly happy living there and had many amazing life-long friends. Those friends were there in happy times and sad, especially when Martha died. Mom and Dad remained close to them even taking trips with these couples over the years.

As I watch so many new lives coming into the world through new grandchildren, I feel like the circle of life is complete. Mom and Dad had good, long lives and are enjoying everlasting life with the Lord. Things are as they should be, and I am at peace.

What Helped:

  • Our belief in everlasting life.
  • Our wonderful cousins and friends.
  • The faith and values that our parents taught us.

Scripture Verse:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gifts you have given us, especially the gift of our parent’s love. Their burial was a beautiful and joyful reminder of how much they were loved by so many. Thank you for the absolute peace and joy of that day.

Click here to listen to a beautiful song about remembering our loved ones.

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Caring for Triplets Plus One

Haley and Zach are the parents of four beautiful children – triplets aged two and a one year old. They consider Joshua, Hannah, Charlie Fay, and Phoebe to be their greatest blessings. Haley and Zach walked the path of infertility for three and a half years before successfully becoming pregnant with their triplets. They always knew they were meant to be parents. Throughout the multiple Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) medical fertility treatments, they prayed together each step of the way. 

During quiet prayer times, Haley felt the Lord impress the number “3” upon her mind and heart; “3, 3, 3” everywhere. Her eye would catch and pause at three flowers growing in her yard; three cupcakes on her birthday card. Even silly things would pop in her head like “the three amigos!” She was not sure of the purpose and significance of it, but she journaled it all and prayed. 

Haley and Zach finally came to the point where they felt ready for Invitro Fertilization (IVF). IVF is much more physically, emotionally and financially difficult to undergo than all the previous treatments. 

Haley says, “God works in your life during hard times. Just ask Him and He will be with you.” Haley and Zach read Scripture and listened and asked for God’s will to be done. 

The first IVF procedure failed. The two embryos that were transferred did not implant. In early June of 2015, Zach and Haley once again returned for a second round. Their patience and faith were rewarded. They had three embryos this time.

On the day of transfer, the doctor recommended that they only transfer two embryos and freeze the third for later. This is typical protocol. Medically, it is riskier to transfer more than two embryos. But all Haley and Zach could think of was the months and months of “3, 3, 3.” That still, small voice said, ” I want all three.” There was no question; all three had to be transferred together. 

With Zach by her side, the room was abuzz. On Haley’s left hand side, she could see the camera magnifying her three embryos. They actually formed a small triangle. “It’s a little cheerleading pyramid!” declared one doctor. “Never seen that before,” said another doctor. Several weeks later, Haley and Zach saw and heard the three beating hearts of their babies at their first sonogram. They were born at 33 weeks and 3 days. (More threes!) 

When the triplets were eight months old, Haley and Zach got the surprise of their lives. They were pregnant! Phoebe was born 16 months after the triplets. She is truly a blessing, and Haley reports she is an easy-going baby. Haley says, “She is a demonstration of who God is. He loves to bless his children more than we can imagine.”

Haley and Zach definitely grew in their marriage and faith before the births, and it prepared them for raising their four children. Even now they schedule date nights and were able to have one getaway weekend this year. 

They are blessed with a very supportive family who live close by and have been a tremendous help. Also, Haley said the international and non-denominational Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) Group has been a Godsend. 

Today, Haley continues to pray for, and now with, her children each day.  She has a special verse for each child, and prays aloud over them along with teaching them to pray. She also journals her prayers.

“Although I can’t be there as much as I could for one child, God can be with them when I can’t,” says Haley. She loves taking the babies on walks and enjoys the opportunity to share Christ on her walks. Haley and Zach truly live their faith and are a beautiful example of God’s blessings. 

What Has Helped:

  • Their faith and prayer life.
  • Their parents’ help.
  • The support of their community.
  • The following books:

        –  A seed of Hope: God’s Promises of Fertility by Evangeline Brown Colbert.

        – Waiting in Wonder: Growing Faith While You’re Expecting, A Devotional Journal by                        Catherine Claire Larson.

  • Moms in the Making – Online Support Group, click here   

Scripture Verse: 

Habakkuk 2: 1-3 I will stand at my watch and station myself upon the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the Lord replied: Write down the revelation and make it plain upon tables, so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

Prayer:

Dear Father, thank you for the blessing of these four children to parents who had faith and trusted that you would provide. You knew the plan all along. We pray that all of us can learn from Haley and Zach’s example. Only You know when the time is right. We just need to keep the faith; regardless how difficult the journey is. You never let us down.

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Celebration of an Extraordinary Caregiver’s Life

We just celebrated the life of Donald Bowen, our father. I would like to share a snapshot of his life with all of you, my dear friends.

Dad was born on Oct. 30, 1929 to Theodora and Aaron Bowen in Detroit, Michigan.  Dad did not have an easy childhood. He was an only child and took on the tremendous responsibility of caregiver for his mother at a very young age when his father left the family. He and his mother moved frequently, which meant that he often had to change schools, making friendships difficult to maintain.

He married when he was only 21 years old to Carolyn Karrer, who was the love of his life. He told her from the beginning that he wanted a large family so that he could experience being part of one. He wanted what he hadn’t experienced as an only child. He wanted fun, laughter and stories to tell, and he definitely got his wish. The Bowen stories are countless – nothing is off limits, including his funeral notes! Just one that I can’t resist sharing. He asked to be cremated, and my brother, Dave, was chosen to be the keeper of the ashes. In his funeral notes, he told Dave to keep his hands off the ashes! That was Dad – he had a wicked sense of humor, and he always had the last word.

The six children include: Nancy, Bob, twins Mary and Martha, David, and Jim. He faced a parent’s worst nightmare when Martha, my sister’s twin, died suddenly at 18 months of age. He was the one who was called to the hospital when she was dying. After her death, he had a difficult time speaking about her.

He especially loved having grandchildren. Each one was special, and he loved sharing stories with them. My son, Ryan, came home to see him the weekend before he died. What a great day they had recounting those memories together. He was a great grandpa and mentor to all of them.

He loved to travel. My daughter, Laura, says that her last long conversation with Dad was about trips he took. She was in France when he passed away, so she toasted her grandpa one more time from there. As a family growing up, we had countless camping, beach, and skiing trips, and typically our cousins from Michigan would come too. Often we would have seven kids, two dogs, along with Mom and Dad in a pop-up trailer. To this day, we love to recount funny memories from those times.

He also loved animals and always wished that he could have been a veterinarian. As a matter of fact, he hung a picture of our beagle, Holly, above the mantel where we told him the family picture should have been.

Dad was a champion labor negotiator with a difficult job that involved a lot of travelling. He could be tough as nails during those negotiations, but he always had a kind heart. He was a stern father, but we never doubted that he loved us. He was a man with a strong will who ran the show until the end. When he was admitted to the hospital during his last week with us, he immediately told the nurse to put a sign on the door saying not to awake him before 8 a.m.  That was true Dad.

We found an absolute treasure in his personal belongings. My father wasn’t much of a writer, but he had handwritten personal letters to each of us, including Mom, awhile back. The gift of those notes was  priceless to us!

We also all enjoyed reading his handwritten notes about his funeral. The first thing he said was to make it joyful. He said he hoped to see his God and would wait to see each of us. He also said that he wanted an Irish wake style funeral complete with funny stories and toasts.

He ended his notes with this paragraph, labelled “The Most Important.” He said, “How fortunate that I married young to my lovely wife, and we have the most beautiful children God could give us. Each one of you have made me proud and how much I love all of you, including the in-laws. My love to each of my grandchildren whom I deeply love. Remember me in your prayers.”

What Has Helped:

  • Faith and prayers help the most.
  • Family and friends.
  • Remembering our stories.
  • Reading his funeral notes.
  • Reading his handwritten letters to each of us.

Scripture Verses – These two verses seemed symbolic:

Jeremiah 8:18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. (upon Mom’s death)

II Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (upon his death)

Prayer

Dear Father, please comfort the caregivers who are grieving. Many of them are living in darkness right now. Help them to feel Your constant presence. You never desert us – rather Your love and peace surround us always. Bless our family with the knowledge that our parents are together again and with Martha, too. We thank you for the time we had with them on this earth. Help us to live our lives as a tribute to them.

A heartfelt thank you to all of our family and friends for your support and prayers during this difficult time with losing both parents. Your love and friendship have meant the world to us.

Please click here to listen to a beautiful song perfectly suited for our parents.

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My Father’s Passing

My father, Don Bowen, passed away at age 87 on March 21st  after many years of selflessly caring for my mom, Carolyn. His only desire was to be reunited with his wife, who died recently on December 19th after 65 years of marriage. She was always front and center in our family and although we all miss her greatly, Dad grieved the most. Even though he had family and friends who visited often, he just wanted to be with Mom. He was her devoted caregiver for so many years, and his purpose for living was gone. Before he died, I told him that he would die of a broken heart – but Dad often said that he had “half a heart.” I thought that was a sweet way to describe it.

We all knew his health was declining but were very surprised to learn that he had advanced cancers throughout his body, which were diagnosed only a week before his death. He simply put my mother’s needs above his own and didn’t think about his own health. His complete focus for the last five years of her life was about meeting his wife’s every need. In short, his devotion to her and caregiving were extraordinary. That was his legacy.

I will share my father’s life story with you after his funeral. In the meantime, please keep Mom and Dad and our whole family in your prayers.

With Gratitude,

Nancy

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Prayer Request for My Family

Dear readers and friends, I ask for your prayers as my siblings and I move my father from the hospital into a facility this week. I know so many of you have faced this same situation. Plus, I am also dealing with my own chronic, painful medical problem that has yet to be resolved. Please pray for peace and healing for my father and myself, and strength for our family.  I will post again soon after the transition. Thank you for your prayers as I give this to God and put my trust in Him.

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Siblings Work Together to Care for Mother with Alzheimer’s disease

Siblings Sherri, Jacque, and Mike have learned together how to care for Dorothy, their 81-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s disease. Although they don’t all live in the same city, they have worked well together – each bringing their own strength to the situation.

It has been a long journey. During Christmas of 2009, it became obvious from her behavior that Dorothy needed help. She was diagnosed by a neurologist in early 2010. During 2012, the family realized that she could no longer continue to live alone. After three attempts, they found the right home for her. Since then, they have been able to divide the care.

Jacque lives away from her siblings, so she deals with paperwork issues like renewing insurance plans, maintaining retirement package updates, etc. She’s also the most informed regarding the latest medications, so she often provides insight when they are discussing medication changes with one of the doctors. She sends Dorothy special treats throughout the year, like roses on Valentine’s Day. When she returns to St. Louis, Jacque always schedules one or two days just to be with Dorothy. Both sides of the family are in St. Louis and want to see Jacque, but she makes time alone with her Mom her priority.

Mike has been the “man” of the family since their dad passed away 20 years ago, so he has always handled Dorothy’s finances and big decisions such as selling her car, home, etc. He keeps Jacque and Sherri in the loop and asks their opinions. He is her power of attorney for both legal and health issues. Mike is the primary caregiver for her more now that he is retired, so he stays busy taking her to doctors and other appointments. When Dorothy gets out of sorts and refuses her medicine, Mike seems to be the only one who can persuade her to take it. So he handles those kinds of phone calls as well.

Before Mike retired and was able to help more, Sherri was the main caregiver. She was working part-time, raising a family, and is a pastor’s wife, which means she has an extremely busy life. Even though she handled all of the shopping and doctor appointments, she still felt guilty that she wasn’t there enough. And of course, there were times when she was simply overwhelmed.

Sherri says she learned three valuable lessons from caring for her mom. First, Sherri says, “I’ve changed as much as she has.” In the early stages of the disease, Dorothy was upset about everything, and Sherri took it very personally. She learned the hard way how to diffuse the situation. She says now that although it still makes her sad, it is no longer personal.

She says, “Lesson two was to learn to love her as she loved me – a mother’s love in reverse. I want to model that for my children. That no matter what, that is how you love.” She has a special needs son with Asperger’s Syndrome, and it is especially important to her that he sees this example.

Lesson three, according to Sherri, has been to become an advocate for her mother. She realizes that her mother doesn’t have the words to describe how she is feeling and doesn’t know the questions to ask, so Sherri has learned to be her voice – her mouthpiece.

The progression of this disease has been difficult to watch as their mother was one of the smartest women they have ever known. She worked in management for McDonald Douglas back when women just weren’t in management. She was a trendsetter and a very strong, independent woman, even after being a widow for 20 years.

The siblings have found new ways to connect with their mom. Pictures in photo albums help to jog her memory and initiate conversation. Her long-term memory is better than her short-term memory.  She still remembers words to old hymns and loves to sing. The family has learned to adjust to all the changes in their lives with God’s constant help. They feel that God has turned the negatives of this disease into positives.

What Has Helped:

  • Prayers have played a huge part.
  • Meditation.  
  • Sherri’s church members have adopted her mother.
  • The book, Creating Moments of Joy, by Jolene Brackey.

Scripture Verses:

John 13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Prayer: Dear Father, these siblings model Your unconditional love for us. Continue to give them strength and hope. May we all learn valuable lessons about life and living from following Your perfect example.

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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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