Mother’s Day, Magnolias, and the Final Stage of Grief Observed


I have written a considerable amount on grief and loss over the last several years as a result of my Mom’s death in 2011. (Here and here for example)

This season has always been one of those painful reminders of the loss of my mother for three reasons. Magnolia’s, Mother’s Day, and the anniversary of her death. My Mom loved Magnolias and I used to pick them for her frequently. They are in full bloom this time of year. Mother’s Day was this week and of course that is a very “in your face” reminder that my mother is gone. Then June 3rd rolls around and the date just carries extra weight.

A strange thing happened this year though. It can only be described as the absence of the often dull but sometimes sharp pain of grief. In place of this emotion would be best described as acceptance. The final stage of grief (or so I have read).


Acceptance of death is a very interesting thing to experience. I think we all can intellectually accept death. To me this is better described as understanding. For example, I understand how planes fly but I would be a dangerous pilot. We all understand things, but I think experience makes acceptance mutually exclusive, especially in this situation.

For the past 6 years, I have sought to actively engage my grief and I believe it has been a very healthy effort. I would encourage you to do the same once you do experience loss or if you are currently dealing with it. Acceptance will come in time. And if it is anything like mine, it will surprise you.

Knowing Joy

In some ways, this acceptance has given birth to a new sort of joy. I experience joy by knowing what eternal life actually means. Joy through knowing just a tiny glimpse of what faith in Jesus Christ means. Joy through knowing my Mom walks healthy and free and I will see her again.  This knowing is like knowing someone as opposed to knowing about someone. This knowing is like knowing your closest friend. This knowing is like feeling the heat on your skin versus just hearing it’s 100 degrees outside.

With this knowing, you just feel it in your soul.

Viewing Life through Death

The acceptance of death informs my view of life. It shines a spotlight on my life and forces me to ask a very significant question:
Where or in Whom do I place my trust while living? Faith in Christ was made real in my Mom’s death, but what about in my life?

I read Psalm 25 this week and verse 1 exploded off the pages (amazing how that happens sometimes).

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.

This verse captures the answers to the question perfectly. And I think in this season, this season of acceptance, I now know a critical truth of faith in Christ.

I place my trust in the Lord for my death, and I place my trust in the Lord for my life.

And just like before, with this knowing, I feel it in my soul.

What I Learned From A Few Hours of Kayaking

I went Kayaking a couple weeks ago with my Fiancee Sarah. She loves to Kayak. I love the outdoors and being with her, so kayaking is a win-win for both of us. We were joined by some friends of ours. A couple a little over a year into their marriage.

We arrived to the lake and met our guide. Loaded into the kayaks and set out onto the water. We then spent the next 2 – 3 hours exploring the area. As is the case in situations like this, I found myself extrapolating life lessons from the experience. Perhaps it was the struggle of kayaking against the wind, or coordinating our movements to advance the kayak forward. I am not sure, but the struggle seems to bring out some of the best lessons.

Anyway, in the midst of all this I realized something. This experience, kayaking with Sarah, is much like marriage.

Follow me on this:

I set out confident in my abilities to kayak. I mean, come on, I am an Eagle Scout. I have spent my fair share on the water with a paddle in my hand. (And by fair share, I mean a few trips with my troop and enough to earn a Merit Badge in Canoeing). I may not be Moana’s brother, but I felt pretty good about myself out there on the water.

Needless to say, there were times when we struggled. We struggled coordinating our pace and direction, navigating narrow canals, and often found ourselves off track as a result.


Meanwhile, our friends seemed to cruise through the water. I want to chalk it up to the kayak or some other factor, but truth be told I think they were in sync much more often than we were. They navigated the same canals with relative ease and moved rather quickly over the open water, even into the wind.

We alternated positions in the kayak. One person taking the lead seat (which, according to our guide, was largely responsible for paddling their tail off to propel the kayak forward) and the other in the rear seat (largely responsible for direction while adding some paddling power when they could).  I started out in the rear seat, then transitioned to the lead seat. Both were challenging for different reasons, but I gained an appreciation for how hard Sarah worked as the “engine” shortly after assuming control of the lead seat. You see, it was easy for me to sit in the rear seat and think to myself “I bet we would be moving faster if I were up there…”

As it turns out, where I was in the boat had very little impact on our success.

Fortunately, we improved with time. Communicated better, coordinated our movements, navigated the narrow canals with relative ease the 2nd time around. As a result, the 2nd half of our kayaking excursion was much better than the first. We were a team. As a result, we went farther, faster, together. The amazing thing is the fact that we accomplished this after hours of exhaustive struggle. We truly were better together. The main contributing factor was not our position in the kayak, but how well we coordinated our efforts. When in sync, we glided through the water. Out of sync, we slammed into the canal walls and zig zagged across the water like a novice sailor on the open sea.


I think marriage is going to be a lot like that. I am going into this season confident in my skills, abilities, and experience. Much like with kayaking, I am sure I will be humbled VERY quickly when it comes to marriage. There will be times when we struggle to communicate, navigate challenging situations, and find ourselves off track. We will slam into canal walls and zig zag all over the place. We will be exhausted from our efforts if we do not work together as a team.

However, we will also experience the triumph of cruising through the water that comes from working together. We will go further, faster, together.