The Legacy of Mom

Nov 9, 2018 at 12:51 PM

Smiling Josie & caregiverI can hear mom say, “Halloween. Oh, I just can’t be bothered.” So, at 5:30 a.m. on October 31st, Mary Josephine, my mom, took her last breath. I’m sure she was anticipating the party the next day in heaven… All Saints Day on November 1st.

One lesson that my mom’s 94-year life modeled was this… we are wired by God to contribute not consume. “Spend yourself,” I can hear her say. And spending herself she did. The last two years of dementia were debilitating for her and I must admit, my relationship with her was affected. These last two years consumed my capacity and the capacities of my sister and mom’s care givers in so many ways. I often said to myself, “this is all consuming.”

But now a week after her passing, it’s easy to see this lesson of contributing not consuming was lived out to the very end. She totally spent herself, until the very last breath, contributing to her loved ones as an example of being present, wanting to connect…. and eager for everlasting life. At one point coming in and out of a coma state in hospice, saying, “I wish Jesus would do something!” And, “Who is that sitting in the corner?”

Days in hospice were filled with visitors. So many that sometimes family got pushed out of the room. My sister Anne and I took turns spending the night. By the way… nice hospice…bad hotel! At 7:00 a.m. one morning after I had spent the night, Monicah, mom’s long-time caregiver showed up, unexpected but welcomed. As we chatted, Monicah told me again how much she loved my mom, calling each other “lovee.” I thanked her again and acknowledged how difficult it must have been. Monicah, pushed back, “Oh no Mr. John, Lovee taught me so much.”

OK, I’m listening. Because the last two years were an exhausting season of consumption to me. Monicah went on to tell me that mom taught her one really important thing.

First, when you find “your” church, pour yourself into it. Monicah thought to herself, I want what Josie has. So many people who love her, include her even in her disabled state and are present to her…and they are not family, not obligated. She belongs to her church community.

Now, in my words, this is what mom did and was encouraging Monicah to do.
Find a church where you can Belong
So, you can come to Believe….
And watch your Behavior change.

Most churches, with good intentions get this wrong, requiring you to behave so you can come to believe and eventually belong… Josie says, “Don’t settle for it.”

And it occurs to me that this is true for other parts of our lives too-  neighborhoods, workplaces, nonprofit boards.

How about you? Does your church, neighborhood, workplace, nonprofit board want you to behave and believe before you belong?

10 responses to “The Legacy of Mom”

  1. Mark Neumann says:

    Your mother sounds like quite the lady! Sorry for your loss John…. but her gain!
    Be well brother.

  2. Jeff Turner says:


    I just finished meeting with the director of estate and gift planning for the American Cancer Society in Dallas, and I told her I would send her a link to your website so she can buy your book. While here, I decided to peruse your blog. I know you miss your mother because you were (are) so close to her, that closeness being a gift from God not everyone enjoys. Dormit in pace. She sleeps in peace.

  3. Gay Morris says:

    I can honestly say your Mom, my Aunt, was my hero from long ago. I loved her so. Peace to you and yours.

  4. Cheri Toogood says:

    John, your words are Spot On! I have an emptiness this week not making the trip to see the beautiful lady I was lucky to share the same last name – Toogood. She truly lived up to that in so many ways!! She taught so many people so many things and I will carry many of those lessons with me. I can imagine the greeting party on Nov. 1st by many and especially those named Toogood. Thank you for sharing her story and legacy.

  5. Joan Thompson says:

    Well I did volunteer work for the church with her for 20 years and I knew her well and I loved her. She taught me a lot and I will miss her. I know how much she loved you and your sister.

  6. Gary Rosberg says:

    John… this is vulnerable, transparent and real. Vintage John Stanley. Your mom modeled loving others well and a life well lived although the real and brutal aspects of dementia carry pain to all it touches. Been there with our parents yet over time you will remember the overall impact on those who knew and loved your mom and they were countless. When my mom died, John, a friend commented that when a man’s mother dies he loses his first cheerleader. That’s when if he is blessed with a wife she picks up and completes the work of believing and loving a man well. Jamee is just such a woman. You are blessed to have had a mom and now a bride that loves you passionately. Praying for you JS… Barb and I are crazy about you… Guard your heart, Gary

  7. Jenny Laycock says:

    John, these words are perfect. Auntie Josie was my go to person for many years, and always encouraged me to keep in touch with you all. I will honour her wishes to the very best of my ability and for as long as health allows. I am honoured to be told I have a lot of her in me, obviously the Cowley gene, but I think the mould was broken when God made her. I promise to keep on being as near to her likeness as I can. It was an honour and privilege to be with her at the end. I will carry her in my heart forever, and thank God she put us all in touch all those years ago. My love always.

  8. Mandy Stelling says:

    Mimi was so amazing, loving, and inspiring!! What a wonderful reflection you put into words. She has definitely taught me more than I even realized! I will miss her terribly, but I know she’s right where she is supposed to be now…Love you!

  9. Scotty says:

    Beautiful, Uncle John. Even if she was always too young to be called it, she was the best grandmother a boy could have asked for. A loving but firm, persistent teacher is the best combo a boy should be lucky enough to have. . She is alive and well in all of us. Peace.

  10. LANCE WOODBURY says:

    John, thanks for your reflection and encouragement through your writing. I am thankful today for my acquaintance with you!

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