Saturday, March 07, 2009

My Mom

When I posted my last, I had no idea that a "crazy week" would stretch into 3 and beyond. Even now, I can't quite grasp all that has taken place in my life over the past 2 weeks -- the lessons I've learned, the Scripture I've read, the tears I've shed. I couldn't begin to put it all into one blog post, so this may be the first of many on the subject.

My mom passed away this morning.

Even as I type that, though I've seen what I've seen, it still does not seem possible.

It was very sudden. On February 21st, Josh and I settled into our new apartment, and I talked to my mom on the phone. She asked about the baby, our new apartment, and asked me if I wanted some things she'd found when cleaning out my sister's room. We did not talk too long, because my dad and sisters were waiting for her to go out to eat. The last thing she said to me was "I love you, honey. I'll call you tomorrow."

At the restaurant, she began to have signs of a stroke, much like the TIA she'd had 4 years ago -- not remembering names and specific things. Later that evening at the emergency room, she had a massive stroke. My sister called me a little after midnight that night to tell me that things were really bad, and Josh and I left for Illinois right away. Though mom lived for the next 2 weeks, and underwent a serious operation, she never awoke from her coma, and never saw us or spoke to us in the time that has gone by.

We sat in the hospital all day every day during that time. For the first week, she was in SICU, and we could only visit 2 at a time (though sometimes there were 4 or so of us). My sisters and I polished her nails and toenails, and gave her lipstick. We all talked and prayed, and sang and read Scripture to her. Then last Sunday she was moved into her own room, and hospice care, and we all could gather there together, where we spent the last week by her side.

She had such pretty warm hands, with the nails painted so nicely. I held one for hours and hours every day this week. I miss it already.

What can you say about your mom? We (her 6 kids) all had a great relationship with her. She was loved by hundreds of children in the nursery ministry where she served for years, not to mention their parents. We've seen and talked to hundreds of her friends during these weeks. I can't begin to recount the memories, the things that were special about her. If you knew her, you certainly have memories of her yourself. Feel free to post them here for me, it is such a comfort to think of all the people who loved her.

I never spent a moment during these weeks in which I did not feel the Lord's gentle care for me. He seemed very close, the Spirit's ministry of comfort very real. Oh, there were, and still are, moments of aching loss and overwhelming heartache, but my Gentle Shepherd has cared for me and lead me through these days. I know that sometimes when people go through suffering, the most difficult aspect is that they do not feel the closeness of the Lord, so I am so grateful that I did. "I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name" as the hymn says. Jesus is the dearest and sweetest name I know, more than ever.


Heather said...

I cannot even imagine what you've gone through but I am so glad we have the Lord to comfort us and care for us in the tough times. I saw on your facebook people remembering your mom and just felt so sad for you because I figured out that she had passed. I spent such little time with your mother but I thought she was such a sweet, godly woman. Remember how you'd borrow her stuff for me to use at Pendergraph? She was a blessing! And how happy she must be to be with Jesus! I am so sorry and I will keep praying for all of your family during this time. Love you!

MadMup said...

Oh, Gretchen - I am so sorry. I will be praying for you and your family.

I didn't know your mom, but knowing some of her kids tells me she must have been a great person.

Jaime said...

I won't pretend to understand what you're going through. My heart aches for you in the earthly loss of your mother-especially so unexpectedly.
I don't have that many memories of her-but what I do remember about seeing her around Calvary was that she was always happy, and you would never doubt her love for you guys.
I am SO thankful you've felt the Lord's presence during this time, and I pray that you will continue to in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.
I'm also thankful for the fact that we will all be reunited again someday. The loss doesn't have to be forever.
You (and your family) are, and will continue to be in my prayers.

Love to you-and a hug if I could...
Jaime Westcomb

Rachel Wind said...

I just sent you an email not knowing that your mother had actually passed away and gone to her eternal reward. But I am so grateful to read your words here and so especially thankful for the way the Lord comforted you during this time. Your final paragraph really resonated with the feelings that I had when my brother died of cancer on his 33rd birthday--never was I more sure of the gospel, never had I been more convinced that the gospel was TRUE and the Lord's ministry to me and our family at that time was so incredibly precious. I will be praying for you in the weeks and months to come as you process things and as you prepare for your sweet one to arrive, without your mom there to welcome her. You are in our prayers.

Blessings in Him,
Rachel W

sara's art house said...

Praying for you and your family, Gretchen. What a gift that the last thing your mom said to you was that she loved you.

Anonymous said...

As I read your blog the tears roll down my cheeks. I am so sad for your loss, but absolutely thrilled that your mom is at the feet of our Jesus and that one day we'll all be reunited again. One of the things that I loved about your mom was how she could jsut make you feel at home, like you were one of her own. I'll always think of her as a make a pot of cheddar chowder, remembering having it for the first time sitting in her kitchen. She was a wonderful lady and though I didn't see her often, I will miss her. As for you my sister, know that I love you and am encouraged by your faith and the true evidence of Jesus in your life. See you soon.

Devin said...


I am so full of emotions that I almost don't know where to start; I will say that I am so glad to know that Jesus has made Himself so real to you in these last couple of weeks.

I have been praying fervently for your mom and for your family...I will continue to, for a long time to come, as you all cope with her loss.

I am so sorry for you all--but I rejoice in knowing that she is with Jesus now.

Words are just failing me...just know that I will continue to be faithful in prayer for you all.

megan said...

Gretchen, I just want to say I am praying for you all. As I sit here and read your post, the tears flow freely. I can't imagine losing my mom at such a young age. Your mom was never without a smile and always so welcoming to all the kids in the nursery. What a special place she will always have in our hearts. I remember giving her her Christmas present this year for working in the nursery. She squealed with delight when she saw it was a RED bag! How fun it was to see her so excited and to receive her big thank you hug!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Gret,
I too have tears rolling down my cheeks as I read your post. I love your Mom. I remember how she was always searching for the right term for our relationship. She loved Josh as much as I love you, so we were definitely closer than friends. Being "In-laws" just did not cover it. I think at one time we decided on sister-mothers. I will greatly miss my sister-mother, but know she is with our Lord. We can look forward to being reunited with her someday. Love you and see you soon, Lennis.

Barb said...

I am so sorry to learn of your Mom's passing. Having lost my own Mom just a few short years ago, I certainly understand your feelings of loss and love. I did not know your Mom but I do know that she certainly brought up great children. I will continue to keep you and your sisters in my thoughts and prayers as you go through this difficult time.

Lisa said...

So sorry to hear about the loss of your mom. Through reading your blog, I know how dear she was to you and your family. Thanks for sharing your testimony of God's grace and care for you during this time. We'll be praying for you.

Sarah said...

Gret, I love you. I already wrote on your Facebook, but I just wanted to say here that I am blessed to call you a friend. So many times, I watch people go through times such as these, and they do not look to their only True Comforter. What a sweet and comforting post to read! I know your pain is overwhelming, but the Spirit of God is still showing through in your words.
I pray that you can continue to lean on Him as your all in all. I wish I were nearer, to help ease any burdens. Know Josh and I are praying for you.

Kevin and Jill Thompson said...

Gretchen - You have been on my heart and mind since I read this blog last night. I can't imagine the pain you are feeling. Praise the Lord for the hope we have in him! I know that your testimony through this huge trial is already a beacon to those who suffer on the sidelines. As the Lord keeps bringing you and your family to mind, I am bringing you before our Father.


Laurie and company said...

Our family is so very sorry for the loss of your the others have said, it leaves us speechless.
We are praying for you and your family and are so encouraged by the praise that you give to God in the midst of all you've been through. Gentle Shepherd! Wow!
God be with you, with lots of comfort and big hugs in the coming days...Laurie Young
for David, Will, Ethan, Melanie, Levi and Molly...

Paul Fuller said...

We'll continue to pray for you and Josh, Bill and the rest of the fam that His grace would continue mightily in strengthening your faith and that others would see God's glory through the life of your mother and your response to her death.

Betty 'Rie said...

Oh Gret, I've only just found out about all of this. My heart aches for you and the grief you must feel. I know that you know - Jesus has never left your side.

I'm sure that along with the grief of losing your mom, you must think of your child having not known her. Let me assure you, Gretchen, that your baby will amaze you. He or she will give you a look, a laugh, say a funny thing, and you will be struck with the resemblance to your mom. Because of God's wondrous design, your child will carry the essence of your mother, and will comfort you throughout your whole life.

I am truly sorry for your loss, and I will be praying for you, your baby, and your whole family.

Anonymous said...

Dear Gretchen,
I'm so glad you got to talk to your Mother the very last night before she was in thehospital. The Lord had His hand in that you got to talk to her! How comforting to have had her last words be that she loved you. I remember your Mother clearly- I remember a few times being at your house with the Hendrix's for I believe it was Anna's graduation party and another for a 4th of July. Your Mother was always a hostest and so inviting and welcoming. I remember her beautiful home. What a beautiful Mother she is. I understand what you are going through; the grief & pain. I am so thankful to have met your Mother. Love, Sioby

GloryandGrace said...

I have been so encouraged and spurred on by the testimony of your life since the day our paths crossed. For your fervent passion for the Lord and how that's been manifested through your love for husband, family and friends, you have been a glimpse of Christ to so many people.
I cannot begin, as so many who are walking through this valley with you, to imagine what you are experiencing right now, but as I wipe tears away, I praise the sweet Father that we hold onto the same hope and longing for heaven.
Praise the Lord that He blessed you with a mother who has prepared you for years as a wife and mother.

I love you dearly, sweet sister~

Johanna said...

My heart is aching and tears are spilling down my cheeks. So many lives have been touched by your mom's love and care. She was fun and full of life and loved to the fullest. She had a gift for making people feel comfortable and loved. There are too many stores to tell of your mom. I can see many pictures in my mind of her hugging babies and kids through the years. A couple weeks ago I was sitting in the front pew with her after church was over and she called to 'Lilly-bug'(Brown) to come give her a hug because she hadn't been hugged by her in awhile. She's left a huge gaping hole in our church and that's the way it should be. She's truly an example of how we all should live, ministering to others till God calls us home. May we all be found as faithful as your mom was. We loved your mom and we will miss her greatly. May the Lord continue to gently comfort and carry you. We love you.

Fran R. said...

Dear Gretchen and Josh, these previous posts have all been lovely testimonies of how Sue influenced so many. Especially mothers. I thank the LORD that He drew me to be in the nursery on Wednesday nights. Mike was not coming and I didn't want to be alone out in the auditorium. And, I knew how much time and energy your mother put into that precious nursery. I wanted to help her to maybe get out of there on Wednesdays. But, instead she stayed and we watched a slew of little ones together, along with others that were scheduled on a monthly basis. I loved that she knew she could count on me to help her. It was a privilege to do so, knowing I was actually helping this servant of God. What a blessing to me to get to know her better, and love her. I miss her, but I know she is in the arms of our Savior. Peyton and Paige were here last night. We talked about Miss Sue. We decided that God needed a seasoned worker for His nursery in heaven. We will pray for each of you. She was SO proud of you expectating. It was fun to watch her face when she spoke of it. And so good to Cede. All of your family has been a blessing to Calvary, from the first time we met you. Sue stayed home that first Sunday because Abby was sick. I remember it well. Much love from Miss Fran and Mr. Mike.

Barbar said...

When my mother called and gave me the news that Mrs. Benzing had suffered a massive stroke, my thoughts immediately turned to some of those early summers when my family had just returned from the mission field. America was a somewhat scary place. My own understanding of its culture was garnered mostly through children's television shows, and random news reports on CNN international. My introduction to this country came in the form of middle school...which was probably no introduction at all.

Your family, and especially your mother, embodied a lot of things about this country that are inspiring. Your family embraced mine, and helped give us a sense of grounding as we attempted to build a life here.

I will always cherish the 4th of July celebrations at your house, and the numerous other events that your mother hosted at your there. There was a sense of regality and refinement that your mother carried herself with, which I always admired.

She was a truly generous woman who brought encouragement and peace to those around her, and she will be missed by many. Me, and my family will continue to pray for yours as you journey through this time.

God Bless.

Brittany said...

Is it really true? It feels like she's on vacation and coming back soon. '

Those are the things that keep going through my mind. Yet, I KNOW the truth but don't want to accept it.

I've cried, I've prayed, I've begged God to perform a miracle as we know he can do. He has a reason and while it's so very hard for those she left behind, she is in the presence of an almighty God and I can just hear her squeal of delight!

I have soooo many memories of your mother through the last 16 years of knowing her. She was a wonderful mentor to me when it came to parenting, homeschooling, and ministry.

I went to her when we began talking about homeschooling. I asked her so many questions, called her on days I was so unsure of myself. She always patiently loved me, guided me, and gave me wisdom from her experiences.

I served beside her so many times I can't even recall them all, I'm sure. In the nursery, cooking for the crowd on Wednesday night, painting at the McCurdy's, and countless other ways.

I remember one time specifically when we were working on the McCurdy's house. One of the teenage boys came to me and said he wanted to donate a bicycle to be hung in the boys' room that would go w/ the decor. I said something to your mom about it and how I felt like we should use some of our budget to pay him for it. She lovingly stopped me right there and told me that this was a way for this boy to minister to the new pastor. He didn't have money to give or couldn't come work, but could donate something of his own and to not rob him of his joy and jewel for his heavenly crown. That so stuck with me. She was right. There have been several times since then that I've rememberred that.

On Saturday morning, when I told Brookelyn that she is in Heaven now, she began to cry and said one word. "Why?" I said I didn't know but that maybe Jesus needed her in Heaven to watch over my (and others') babies until I came. She thought that was ok.

Your mom was THE BEST person to tell that a baby was on the way. She was around for all of my babies and I always looked forward to telling her because I got a truly delighted reaction and it was so much fun. An excited squeal and a solid hug, it was priceless. She mourned with me when I lost the ones I did. It meant so much.

She was soooooo excited about this baby, Gret. I can still remember clearly when she told me you are pregnant. This baby was so incredibly loved by her as if she were her own. It was fun to hear her guess what you would name her.

We'll miss your mom so very much. We truly loved her. She leaves a huge hole at our church, in the nursery, in various other ministries she was involved in, in the homeschool community, and most of all, in our hearts. We will never forget her.

We'll continue to pray for you and your family.

Paul, Brittany, Lauren, Brookelyn, Nathan and my 4 babies in heaven.

Sandy said...

Gret, as I have talked today to Paige and Peyton about your mom, I was struck by how much your parents have meant to my own children! What a blessing both of them have been as a constant smiling, loving presence at the church. I am so thankful to have gotten to know your mom. She was always willing to stop and talk and answer any questions, and never had an unkind word to say. Thanks for sharing this post, I plan to post a link to it on my own blog. We are continuing to pray for your family.

jillybean said...

oh dear gretchen, i'm just reading and crying and reading and crying. Several have said it...she leaves a gaping hole. I don't understand, but I am thankful for how He has walked beside you during this time. I am thankful to know that He understands our grief and grieves with us. Thank you, Lord, for how you have shown your grace through Sue Benzing - for her hands that served, her ears that listened, her eyes that received, her heart that loved.

Love you and thinking of you continually!

Jaimie said...

What a sweet post this tears stream down my face - i can totally picture your mom being so proud of how her amazing children turned out. I would ask...what was her secret to success, but I already know the answer is Christ. A common bond you all share!

When I think of your mom, i remember her being soo put together! From her hair, makeup, outfit and even warm and welcoming home. But most of all - her love and dedication to the church. She was always there and serving. What a beautiful example she set to so many.

Jaimie Z

Robin said...

Gretchen, I am so very sorry to hear of this devastating loss in your life. My mom passed away in a similar fashion 5 years ago.

You and your family are in my prayers.

Mandy said...


Just in the last year or so having a conversation with your mom about foster/adopting children (I cannot remember the specifics of WHY we were talking about it) I remember her saying "If someone walked in that door right now and said a child needed a home I would raise my hand". That is so Sue. I think she probably meant that would be her instinct...even though that would obviously be a prayerful decision to make.

I remember thinking here she still has teenage girls and is getting closer to the "quieter" time of her life, but she would start it all over again. God gave her a heart for children...her own as well as everyone else's. She was a true model for loving, correcting, encouraging, and teaching.

Also she was so proud of all of you kids. Not in an arrogant my-kids-are-the-bestest kids ever way, but genuinely proud of each and everyone one of you and who you are in the Lord.

Sandy said it...she never had a bad word to say about anyone. How many of us could say that? She was truly a Godly example in numerous ways and will be missed more than I can even comprehend.

Rebecca said...

My memories and feelings for you mom cannot fit onto this page. I wish I could have come and been there with you all. You probably already know but I posted just a few of the many, many memories I have of your mom. They are many and they are good, fond ones. You all continue on in my prayers. You are wise beyond your years, Gretchen. You are perhaps one of the godliest young ladies I know. Your mother's legacy will continue on in each of your lives and I already know the kind of mother you will be to your daughter. Know you have family here in K.C. who love and care about you and who continually hold you up in prayer!!!!

Donette said...

Oh Gretchen, I am so sorry. Everyone else has said such sweet and comforting things about your loss and I echo their sentiments. I will be praying for you for comfort and rest in the arms of our Savior. God bless . . .

Mommy said...


I don't read your blog regularly, so I'm not sure why I came by today. I guess the Lord led me here, because I had no idea about your mom. I just want to add that I am sorry for your loss. I am so thankful that you are able to grieve with hope! I will be praying for you--sounds like "the right thing to say", but I mean it!


Anonymous said...

Such a touching post Gretchen! How encouraging to hear how the Lord has been so faithful and real to your family through this time. I'm sure you know this but so many people are praying for you all!

I think some of my fondest memories of your mom are being at your house during the teen group years. You would always have nutty fagan(sp?)! Then during the college years when your family would come to visit-fun times at Ella's Deli and Upper Crust come to mind. One of the last times I talked at length with your mom was at Upwards Basketball a few years ago. Your mom was exctied to see our baby. I think you guys had just moved to KY and she was updating me on how you and Josh were doing.

I agree with so much of what others have said! You mom loved her kids and sharing what was going on in your lives. I also think about how hospitable she was-she never knew a stranger and could make anyone feel at home.

I also look back with admiration on your parents relationship together. When we did our marriage counseling with Steve and Marie, she encouraged us to find couples whose relationship we admired. (I'm guessing you and Josh did this too!)Your parents were one of those couples. They always seemed to love, enjoy, and respect each other.

May the Lord continue to comfort and encourage you. Love you Gretchen and continuing to pray!
Melanie Davis

The Murray Crew said...

Dear Gret...

What an honoring post for a mother of grace. I feel increbibly blessed to have known her and learned by her example.

Gret I will remember:

Your mother's laugh - infectious!

Her hospitality

The way she could retell a story with such emotion and details

Her friendliness and optimism

The way she "trained up her children in the way they should go"

Her heart for people, especially children

Her style

Her cooking

Her love for her husband

Her servant heart

The way her life demonstrated Christ

I love you Gretchen. See you this evening.

Anonymous said...

Its a little after 3pm in Alabama. I am sitting here thinking so heavy for all of you. My heart is broken with sorrow for you. I do understand what having to endure a funeral for someone in your family and how painful and heartwrenching it is. I still cannot erase the memory of my brother's funeral. I do however find comfort that both your Mother nad my brother too were both saved and they are in paradise with the Lord! Its comforting to know that they are in NEW glorified bodies now. I am so sorry this had to happen. It doesn't seem right or fair. I have and will continue to pray you will feel the Lords presence. Love, Sioby

Elizabeth said...


Just wanted you to know we're still praying for you guys. I know tomorrow will be so tough, but as you said, The Gentle Shepherd will still be holding you up with His strong arms.

Your mom was one of a kind and I cannot believe she is gone. It is very surreal and if it is that way for me, I can only imagine how it is for all of you.

I posted some memories of her on my blog, along with an older picture. You may enjoy looking at it.

Take care of yourself and your sweet baby during this difficult time. We love you.

skB said...

I don't know you in person--only through blog-land and facebook, but I just am in tears at reading this and am so thankful that you and your family know the Sovereignty of God.

I am so sorry for the loss that your family has gone through in losing such a godly woman, your mom.

I am expecting--and reading through your last few posts just brought tears to my eyes as I tried to put myself in your shoes and imagine all that you are going through. I will be praying especially for you as you have your baby and yearn for your mom's presence to be there at that time. I cannot imagine going through that time without my own dear mom. Please know that I will be praying specifically for God's comfort to surround you.