6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 KJV
My mother, Gwendolyn Carol Caudill Simpson was born in Blackey, KY on June 17, 1949. On September 21, 2013-one week ago today-she left this world and entered Heaven where she was met by her Savior and a host of loved ones who had gone on before her. She was 64 years old. Cancer-brain cancer to be exact-took her from us much too soon. Though I would not have had her stay in that sick, weak, cancer riddled body one minute longer, I miss her terribly. I am not sad for her, for I know that she is, at this very moment, beholding the splendor of Heaven and that she is free forever from the pain and suffering of this world. No, I am sad for me and all of us that are left behind to mourn her loss and to forever feel the void that has been left in our lives by her passing.
I am finding it hard to return to my normal life. Before Mommy got sick, I started this blog as a way to share Cooper's story. My goal was to chronologize our experiences on our journey to finding his diagnosis as well as to share with others about Christianson Syndrome. At some point, I will resume writing his story. I will pick up where I left off and I will complete what I started. I will begin to write and distribute a newsletter for the Christianson Syndrome Association. I will do fund raisers to raise awareness about CS and I will do my best to help other families who have children with CS in our area. I will continue to do Bible studies with my WOW sisters. I will do these things. I will. I tell myself this, because I have to believe that I can. Because right now, doing the most simplest of tasks seems to overwhelm me. Just getting ready, leaving the house, and interacting with other people is almost more than I can handle. Never did I imagine that the loss of my mother would have such a profound effect on me. I feel paralyzed by the loss of her and my grief.
I loved her so much. Much more than I ever knew. Much more than I ever showed her. Two weeks before she died, she told us she had waited her whole life to feel love like this. I will never forget her making that statement. Why did she have to be diagnosed with terminal brain cancer for us to show her that love? Why do we take our loved ones for granted? Our parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends...are we showing them how much we love them? Are we telling them? Or are we going on with our lives, only thinking of our wants and needs, oblivious to those around us. Unwilling to make ourselves uncomfortable or inconvenienced for the sake of another. A lesson hard learned, but a lesson I will never forget.
My life will never be the same. I will never again hear my Mommy's voice, see her face and that beautiful smile. I will never again be able to pick up the phone and call her. Neve spend another Thanksgiving, Christmas or Mother's Day with her this side of Heaven. I am so thankful for the 4 months that God gave us with her after her diagnosis. Mommy was a worrier, but for those 4 months God lifted all that off of her. She lived in the moment, and for the first time in my adult life I got to experience Mommy completely free of anxiety and fear. Yes! When she should have been crippled by fear and dread and the "Why Me" of it all, she smiled and laughed and enjoyed her family in a way she had never done before. She was beautiful, strong and brave. Courageous. Words I would have never used to describe her before, but will remember her always as exhibiting those characteristics to the very end.
I am so incredibly grateful to my sister Jennifer. She and I got to walk the last mile with our Mommy. We spent the last 12 days of her life with her. We made a promise to her that every time she opened her eyes, one of us would be there. We kept that promise, and in doing so we saw her suffer in ways that are hard to put into words. Not physical pain so much, but mental and emotional anguish and torment that was difficult to watch. We are forever changed by the things we experienced in those last days, but we feel blessed to have been there with her. We made sure she was never alone. Jennifer and I, along with our Dad and our Aunt Nancy, her precious baby sister, were by her side around the clock. I know I can speak for Jennifer when I say it was an honor and a privilege to minister to our Mommy right up to the last moments of her life. We are proud to be her daughters. We will never forget and we will love each other more for it and cherish our relationship with each other for the rest of our lives.
The following was read at Mommy's funeral last Monday night. I wrote these words as a tribute to her. She was a wonderful mother and grandmother and I thought it fitting to tell people a little more about her through the eyes of her children. I think she would have liked it. I hope God allowed her to hear it. I think maybe He did.
We love you Mommy. Everyday.
A mother's love for her children. That is what I want to tell you about today. Gwendolyn Carol Caudill Simpson was born to be a mother. She loved her role as our Mommy. She brought each one of the three of us into this world with sheer joy. She was a dedicated mother: her love for us-unconditional, her devotion to us-unwavering, her loyalty to us-unfailing. She was always on our side, ready to fiercely defend us. She put our welfare above all else, doing her very best to make sure all our needs were met no matter how big or how small. I remember so clearly all the nights she would go from bed to bed, comforting each one of us when we couldn't sleep or were afraid. She would rock us and hum, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee…" Her very presence and the sound of her voice calming our fears, allowing us to drift off to sleep. She would later hum that same tune as she would rock our babies to sleep. Oh, how she loved her grand-babies! The love she had always lavished on us grew to include each one of them. When they were with her, our children were the center of her attention. She adored them and did her very best to make them feel special. Just as she loved being our Mommy, she loved being their Mamaw.
Mommy was a simple woman who loved the simple things in life. She could take the most mundane activities and turn them into great adventures. A simple game of backyard croquet. A ride out into the country to see if we could spot a brand new calf in the spring. Teaching us, and later her grand-kids, how to make bracelets and necklaces out of clover flowers. Endless hours spent baking cupcakes, cookies, brownies and muffins. Taking an old quilt and snacks out to the backyard and having a picnic. Watching The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie. Teaching us about antiques and old fashioned things and how valuable they are.
She loved good food and big family meals. She loved to go to her hometown of Blackey, Ky-a place she would always refer to as "over home". Growing up, we spent many holidays and weeks out of the summers there. In the fall, I can remember her trying to time a trip just right so as we traveled the old road the leaves would be at their most vibrant colors, just beginning to fall. How it delighted her to see the leaves dance all over the road under the canopy of all those old trees. I think she enjoyed the drive over as much as the visit itself. She would tell us stories and sing songs like Hey, Mr. Postman, Teen Angel and Tom Dooley. We would sing right along with her. Once there, she would take us exploring all over Blackey. She loved to take us for walks across the old metal Blackey bridge to Joe Begley's store-an old clapboard building where she would get us glass bottles of pop and candy in a paper bag just like she did when she was a little girl. She loved walking along the railroad tracks behind our Papaw Ben's house to pick blackberries. And no trip to Blackey was complete until she stopped to get a peach pop and a piece of pickled bologna on the way out of town. Those are precious memories-moments we will never forget.
It is an honor to say that each one of us, her children and her grandchildren, can rise up and call her name blessed. She was a devoted wife to our Daddy for 45 1/2 years, teaching us what it means to endure through the good times and bad. She was a praying mother, a bearer of our burdens, and a constant source of love and comfort all the days of our lives. Psalms 30 says "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Today we will weep for the loss of our dear mother, but we will also rejoice for her, that at this very moment she is walking with her Savior and her loved ones who have gone on before her. Her faith has become sight. Our Mommy is not gone from us. She has just gone on ahead. She has gone home. She will be waiting to meet us all there one sweet day by and by. We will miss her, but we will carry her with us in our hearts by reflecting on all of our wonderful, beautiful memories of our Mommy. Throughout her illness, when words became difficult, she would say to us, "I love you every day. Every hour. Every minute." We love you, too Mommy. Every day, every hour, every minute. Until we meet again.