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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

A Daughter-in-Law's Grief, Observed

Photo taken December 21, 2013 - Mom's 90th birthday

When your middle son, my husband of 45 years, called me from your home in New York early this past Sunday morning, he had no words.

None were needed.

I heard his long, shuddering sigh and knew the moment we both dreaded and longed for had come. A pastor friend identifies the death of a believer as that jumbled place of agony and assurance.

After nearly a century of journeying through the Great Depression and a second world war, a remarkably loving marriage of over 70 years, the raising of seven children, a new career in full-time ministry during the second half of life, the welcoming of 22 grands and 38 great-grands, and the burials of your husband, eldest daughter, and two great-grandchildren, you had walked this earth as far as it could take you.

In the pre-dawn hours of the Sabbath, when no one was present but you to witness the glory, that sweet chariot swung low and carried you Home.

Silence stretched over the line as Mike struggled to describe what he saw.

“Mama looked so beautiful, Maggie,” he said in wonder. “When we went into her room, her face was completely at peace, not even a wrinkle. We were astonished at the change from the night before when her body was fighting to keep her here. You know how in the past ten years dementia gave her that lost look? It’s gone, Maggie. It’s almost as if we had Mama back.”

Beloved mother of my man, grandmother to our three, great-grandmother to our six ­­— you are not lost to us who are found to Him. You have not gone away, only gone before. You outran us in the quick race Home. *

On a glad Sabbath morning, a day you raised your children to honor, you flew into the arms of Jesus. Then straight into the arms of the man whose hand you never stopped holding.

If there are cameras in Heaven, your firstborn has been documenting every moment, the youngest in our clan clapping for joy.

Someday I will find the words to describe what you have meant to me, all that I learned from the tough little lady from Kentucky who lived simply and loved deeply. I can’t see my way right now because the tears my friend Sandy calls “liquid love” are running like a Smokies stream.

They say that grief exists where love lived first.

No wonder our sorrow is so deep, the wounds of loss so wide. The devotion between you and Poppa flowed into the veins of three generations of your descendants and the lives of countless others you discipled around your kitchen table.

You were Mama to your seven and their spouses. Jean to the world. A Pearl of great price to your Father who has gathered you to himself. Goodness and mercy have followed you there.

Welcome to your new home, Mama.

We’ll see you soon.

* A truth we learned from the writing of Amy Carmichael

Libby's great-grandparents decorating Christmas cookies, 2013.


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