A Mother’s Day Retrospective: Thankfulness In Spite of Loss
Every year as May approaches, Hallmark execs gleefully watch sales, florists manically order ever more roses, and kids and husbands everywhere conspire: Mother’s Day is coming!
And somehow, while all these joyful, secret plans build to a crescendo, a dull ache grows somewhere inside of me where my heart must be.
Mother’s Day is a wonderful holiday, no matter what the Grinchy skeptics and tightwads purport. Although the day has been highly commercialized, and children ought to honor their moms 365 days a year, still the intent is good.
My mom, Joan Marie Cochran, went home to be with the Lord on August 20, 1990. She had been 53 for a mere 10 days when the rare cancer (Leiomyosarcoma) took its toll.
I knew beyond a doubt that Mom was with her Savior. And yet the loss was so huge, a weight of sadness that at times was overwhelming. It was a full year before I stopped picking up the phone to call her…just to share nothing in particular, or great achievements.
Basic rule of communication in my family? If I wanted a pithy, to the point conversation and perhaps a fix to a current dilemma, Dad was the guy. But, if I wanted someone to empathize and laugh with joy or groan with disdain, only Mom would do.
So Mother’s Day for a mom-less, child-less gal like me has always been tough. Like Valentine’s day for those of us who have no spouse or sweetheart: a reminder of what’s missing.
But this year, though tears were still there, an overwhelming sense of thankfulness was present in equal measure.
Some insights into what made my mom, Joan Cochran, so very special.
First of all, I, my dad, my brothers, and so many family members and others might have never come to a saving knowledge of Christ if not for Mom.
It all began when Dad, working on his post-bac degrees at Oregon State University (then College), was assigned to do research in Pringle Falls over 2 summers. For those unfamiliar with Oregon, Pringle Falls is a tiny hamlet in Central Oregon, about 30 minutes south of Bend.
The family moved to the “Works Project” cabin in the middle of a huge Ponderosa Pine forest, about 100 ft. from the Deschutes River. That wonderful cabin would be our home for 2 glorious summers.
I loved those summers of 85 degree days (with about 15% humidity) and the smell of pines scenting the air. I fed the Golden Mantle Ground squirrels, had a salt lick out for a doe and fawn, caught frogs, and when allowed, tagged along after Dad through the forest.
But there was one problem: we were quite a distance from a town with a church, at least one of the denomination we attended at the time. So Mom found a station on the radio and a program called Radio Bible Class with Richard DeHaan.
Today not as many people know who Richard DeHaan is, but the ministry is also responsible for the Daily Bread devotional booklets.
Mom soon looked forward to listening to the RBC daily, and found a new thirst for scripture. I’ve since heard similar stories over and over — it is often the wife and mother whose heart is tender first toward spiritual matters.
Mom’s desire to hear more Bible, eventually (about 5 years later) led us to attend a small Baptist church in Bend, Oregon, where she made a decision to accept Christ.
I was baffled by the whole concept, having been raised believing in God and Christ and the Bible, but not understanding the concept of grace through faith alone. Nevertheless, I went to summer church camp that year and gave my life to Christ.
By the time Mom and I decided to be baptized (by immersion, believer’s baptism), Dad had also surrendered his life to the Savior and the 3 of us were baptized on the same Sunday.
Through the years Mom and Dad grew spiritually, and Christian radio was a big part of that growth. Hearing J. Vernon McGee, Oliver Greene, D. James Kennedy, John MacArthur, Dr. James Dobson and others was standard fare in our home. As were devotionals and church 3 times a week.
And because of the role Christian radio had played in Mom’s life, my parents eventually founded Gospel Echo: an entity that, with the installation of 3 translators on buttes in Central Oregon, and with monthly funding from churches and believers throughout the area, brought Christian radio to most of the High Desert.
Mom taught to me to honor the Bible and to love Christian talk radio.
Mom was a stay at home mom, and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. The house was always immaculate, full of smells of homemade bread, cookies and good meals.
Mom was a beautiful lady, inside and out. And her sense of humor, whether intended or not, was hilarious.
For instance the time she decided our Ford desperately needed some deer alert thingies. You might remember those little contraptions that, when affixed to the front bumper — one on the right, one on the left — supposedly would emit a sound that would deter deer.
Since we made the trip over the Cascade Mountains to my grandparents’ home in Silverton, Oregon, frequently, and deer were a known hazard, we gave them a try. But one time, as we left my grandparent’s house, we saw a deer about an 1/8th of mile ahead on the road.
My 2 brothers and I were staring and wondering what the deer would do.
Then suddenly Mom patted Dad excitedly on the shoulder and urged, “Pat! The directions say the car must be doing 55 for the deer alerts to work! SPEED UP!!”
I can still hear my dad’s response, “ARE YOU NUTS??!! I’m not going to speed up!”
Dad, in fact, slowed down and let the deer saunter off into the brush. And the whole family laughed off and on all the way home.
Not long after that I noticed the deer alerts had disappeared from the front bumper.
Mom taught us all to laugh at ourselves and take ourselves lightly.
My mom also was a woman of prayer. We didn’t just pray before meals, we prayed if one of us were sick, we prayed for friends and loved ones. And every time I left to drive over the pass, Mom prayed for safe travels.
One time, after a weekend at home in Bend, I was ready to head back to college at Oregon State University…which meant a trip over the pass.
It was November, which also meant there might be snow or ice on the North Santiam Pass. I was trying to get an early start, and Mom ran out to the car waving for me to roll down the window.
She smiled, “I want to pray before you leave!”
Like a typical 20 year old, I rolled my eyes a little and groaned, “Oh MOM!!!”
She just smiled once more and responded, “It will only take a minute of your time and I’ll feel better!”
30 minutes later, I had passed through Sisters, Oregon, a lovely little “Western Town” just east of the Cascades, and was heading west on the highway approaching Suttle Lake, when I was passed by a police car with its lights flashing. 1/2 a mile up the road was a car on its side, the driver injured, an ambulance on the way.
I slowed to a stop, the first car in what would become a long line behind the accident. One of the State Troopers came up to my window as I watched sadly, not knowing the condition of the driver.
I rolled down the window and the Trooper said, “Well young lady, you should be thankful you weren’t a minute earlier or you might have hit that black ice. That could have been you.”
I looked at him and mumbled something about being very thankful as I blinked back tears.
Mom, you were right. And you taught me to pray.
I could literally write a book with Mom stories, some funny, some touching.
She was a Proverbs 31 wife and mother; she was more precious than rubies.
At her memorial service, 2 pastors officiated and both mentioned her wonderful smile. As church librarian, so many people saw Mom every Sunday and though quiet, she always greeted everyone with a smile.
And though not outgoing like her sociable daughter (me!), Mom was always eager to talk about her faith.
Mom’s gravestone is engraved with the words:
JOAN M COCHRAN
1937 – 1990
A Godly Wife
A Devoted Mother
A Beautiful Lady
So this last Mother’s Day, as I sat in church and looked around at hundreds of families with moms, I smiled.
I will always miss Mom until I see her in glory…and I know I will see her.
But my heart is overflowing with thankfulness that I was blessed with such a mom.
She wasn’t perfect, no one is. But she loved Jesus and people, and taught her kids to do the same.
So my Mother’s Day gift to Mom is not a card or flowers, though those are nice. No. Since Mom is among the great cloud of witnesses, my gift is a story.
A story about one godly woman’s legacy, the results of which will echo throughout eternity.
I love you Mom.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…because I have you in my heart.
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