Losing a


It was the day I had dreaded more than any other.

The day we buried my mom.

Somehow I had managed to get dressed and rote walk my way to the church for the funeral, flanked by my dearest relatives.

The “inner circle” of immediate family congregated in a private gathering space, waiting for other attendees to find seats before we would file down the aisle to the front rows.  As we waited, the somber conversation turned to one of the last times we had all been gathered together in the same church — for my wedding, seven years earlier.

My two uncles, who positively crack me up every time we’re together, started in on a story I’d never heard from that day.  They were due to drive me and my husband in my cousin’s convertible from the wedding ceremony to the reception.  Just after the ceremony, my uncle managed to spill mustard on his tie!  Being an auto parts dealer at his very core, he used nothing else but brake fluid to remove the stain!

At the church.

On my wedding day. 

I knew nothing of any of this, until that afternoon as we sat waiting for my mom’s funeral to begin.  Of course by that stage, we were all laughing, and kept laughing as my uncle concluded, “The stain came out … the only problem was the smell!”

I looked around the room, and it felt scandalous to wipe tears of laughter from the corner of my eyes.  Just moments before a funeral.

My mother’s funeral.

Moments later, our pastor and lifelong friend corralled our thoughts toward the service.  Just before we formed a procession to enter the sanctuary, he said, “Okay, here we go. And I want you to sing these songs with gusto! She would’ve wanted that!”

It was true.

My mom had a lot of time to think about her own funeral, and she had insisted that there be lots of singing.

Joyful singing.

She knew exactly where she was going when she died, and to her, that was reason to rejoice.

It sounded like a good idea, but there was just one minor problem: in my past experiences at funerals, the lump in my throat had grown so large I couldn’t even swallow, let alone get any sound to come out.  How much more so during my own mother’s funeral.

But to my great surprise, the Lord again gave grace, and when the music started, I stood there in the front row, looked straight up at the huge wooden cross hanging in the front of our church, and I sang.

I even smiled while I sang.

It was a smile on a tear-stained face, and the tears are spilling over even now as I think about it —  but it was a genuine smile, as I thought about the infinite joy my mom must be experiencing now, doing what she loved best for all eternity.


Lisa-Jo Baker and I chatted about this theme of how it’s possible for it to be “well with your soul” even in the midst of incredible sadness.  It’s a topic that comes up as we discuss Chapter 5 of her book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

This is Week 2 of Lisa-Jo’s online book club, and she’s got a great video chat with Christie Purifoy on Chapters 3 and 4 that you won’t want to miss, as well as discussion questions and some encouraging passages of Scripture, all right over here:





Related post:  When You’re Going Through a Deep, Dark Valley



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9 thoughts on “how to be sad and well at the same time

  1. Thank you for this. I’m always grateful to find models of healthy grieving, it’s not something I learned as a child or observe often in church settings. Your post reminds me of how often the psalmists would start in tears or rage and end in praise and thanksgiving, it’s the room for both that makes all the difference and the suppression of one (grief) actually directly affects our ability to experience the other (gratitude, joy).

  2. Oh, how I can related to these words Kate. Even the laughter through the tears. I’ve sat in the same seat burying my mother and I rejoiced knowing she was rejoicing, as well. It is only God that can give such grace in such times of sorrow. He gave me grace enough to read a poem at her funeral and twice again at my grandmother’s. It was nothing but His grace that carried me and carries me still. Thank you for this beautiful reminder today and Lisa-Jo’s words in her book were life-breathing in reliving those moments and coming to terms with a lot that I had left buried from the day we buried her. Love both of you with every ounce of me. xoxo, mb

  3. It amazes me what happens when the grace of God is within and upon us. The sorrow is momentarily put aside to let the joy shine through.
    Here are just a couple of things that have happened to me at funerals:
    I went to the funeral of my dearest cousin. I just knew I couldn’t be in a world without. My grief was so overwhelming I didn’t know if I could go on. I prayed so hard that day in church. I came out of church with Lord walking beside me. Where he has been ever since.
    When we buried my mom my brother and I with our families were at loose ends. It was early in the day. We knew if we went home we would just stare at the walls. So. We went bowling! My mom’s favorite thing. We had a grand time. We honored our mom, mil, and grandma by doing her favorite thing. I am a terrible singer, but I sing loudly when I do. I sang when it was my turn to bowl. I knew she was smiling down on us.
    Funerals don’t have to always be solemn, especially if we know where the person has gone.

  4. This is SUCH a practical and perfect illustration of rest. When we trust in Christ, we can rest in all circumstances… even the most difficult ones, even when we are grieving. Thank you for sharing your story in such a beautifully crafted, graceful way. Loved this!

  5. i have not lost my mother. i’ve watched two friends go through that terrible loss. one two weeks before her wedding. it was a joyous time but we kept hearing comments that just two weeks prior they had all been grouped in the same church for a very different service. ‘ It was the best of times and the worst of times’. It’s funny how so often those go hand in hand. Thank you for chronicling these painful moments. I’m so glad your uncle gave you something to smile about that day. My other friend that went through her mom’s loss to ovarian cancer was only 16. She has spent the past four years punishing herself for not feeling sad enough, for trying to move on and then feeling like a traitor. Reading this helped me relate to her in some ways.

  6. Thank you for sharing this truth. October will mark 10 years since my mom’s homegoing. I did not grieve well and struggled with depression. But God redeems even the most difficult times in our lives. And for that I am thankful.

    Blessings to you both for the thoughts about how to be well and sad all at the same time.

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