This post was written anonymously from a husband.
Carolyn died a little over a month ago. I cannot describe how big of a hole she left without providing a little context. It was a few months into the pandemic when a good friend persuaded me to seek out healing of some childhood wounds. I was connected with Bob and Carolyn. I could understand a little bit of how Bob might be used by God based upon our shared vocation as men in pastoral Ministry, our common uniqueness of being Holy Spirit-filled Presbyterians and his being twice my age. I saw that Bob could be a mentor and a coach. I did not understand the critical role that Carolyn would play in my healing.
I grew up in a home with parents who had both been deeply wounded in their childhoods. My father had never measured up to the expectations of his parents. His parents could not comprehend his aptitudes and gifts and saw only that he was not athletically gifted. In the case of my mother, no one measured up to her parents’ expectations. Her musical gifts allowed her to obtain a scholarship to college. My grandparents were not impressed.
Both of my parents were the first person in their generation to attend college. If my grandparents had understood the enormity of this, it would have been celebrated. It wasn’t. My parents moved to an excellent school district with the intention of providing their children with better opportunities than they themselves had had. They were able to move away from the economically-depressed homes in which they were born. They were not able to move away from a culture of criticism that infused their own self understandings.
I spent significant time in prayer with Carolyn and Bob specifically forgiving sins of omission and commission by my parents and grandparents. In the context of healing prayer, Jesus brought to mind some of the most painful memories I had of my childhood. As we invited Jesus to show how he had been at work and is still at work in those places, I forgave and extended pity (the same kind of pity that allowed Jesus to become incarnate). As a result, I have been living in greater freedom, and with a stronger sense of my value and worth to God, than I could have imagined 18 months ago.
I only ever spoke to Bob and Carolyn via Zoom. I never was able to hug them even though physical affection is my primary love language. Despite these limitations, the depth of relationship and love that we experienced is awesome.
It was obvious fairly quickly that Carolyn was an embodiment of the biblical concept of Ezer to Bob. This Hebrew word is translated into English as “helper” in most Bibles. However, there is nothing subservient in the two times that this word occurs biblically. The only two characters referred to as Ezer are: Eve in her relationship to Adam and God himself in relationship to His People Israel. The first occurrence of this term is in Genesis 2 when God sees something that is not good in the wonderful new creation. It’s the recognition that it is not good for Adam to be alone and God, on that basis, decides to create a suitable “helper” for him.
Carolyn handled all of the details of connecting us on Zoom up to and including texting me if I failed to schedule an appointment that we agreed to. When she wasn’t feeling well due to her illness, she would make sure that Bob was able to connect with me on Zoom one-on-one. She handled almost all the details for Bob. Driving, cooking and technology were on the short list of things visible to me. However, of greater value in our relationship was her willingness to challenge Bob when she believed that he was hearing the Holy Spirit incorrectly. She did not hesitate to interrupt and say, “no Bob, that’s not what I’m hearing.”
Similarly, there were times when I missed the Holy Spirit and Carolyn would point that out for my benefit. Once, when I thought that God had given me a sign via a bird strike with my vehicle, Carolyn challenged me with “perhaps you were just driving too quickly.” She was right. Likewise, Carolyn spoke truth that was simultaneously challenging and affirming on several occasions. I believe that I would not have received a raise that ultimately came my way had Carolyn not pointed it out, “you have not because you ask not.”
Carolyn not only pointed it out when she thought I was wrong, she graciously and repeatedly pointed out when she thought I was right. She affirmed my gifts. Natural gifts and spiritual gifts were to be honored and she did that. She encouraged me. During a moment of deep discouragement, Carolyn pointed me toward resources that directly contradicted my discouragement.
After only a few months of weekly conversations, I discovered that I could not end our time on Zoom without saying, “I love you.” In fact, my ability to say “I love you” to more people is a direct result of an increase in the love of God flowing through me over the last year-and-a-half. I received a prophetic word several years ago which resonated with me; it came from a complete stranger. The stranger stated that my wounds from childhood were not as much from things that were done but the many things that were left undone. He specifically cited the lack of words of affirmation to counterbalance the criticism in which I had been bathed.
I have buried both of my grandmothers. However, the grief I feel at losing Carolyn far exceeds any grief I felt from losing them.
Why do I share all of this with you? I think it is so that you can understand that your impact as a mother, father, or a grandparent is in no way limited by being a biological parent. I miss Carolyn every day. Her presence in my life made me a better person, husband, father and pastor. She did not teach me in any of my classes or in any official capacity. She taught me by seeing me. She taught me through encouragement, invitation and challenge. Her death and the ache that I have felt since then reveal the depth of her impact on me. Who could you give that gift to today?