Margaret Ann Henderson McKeever (June 9, 1942 – January 29, 2015)

“Beauty is deceitful and popularity is vain. But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her own hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:30-31).

Margaret would be embarrassed to know I used Proverb 31 on her.

But she was in many respects every ounce that strong woman to whom someone is paying tribute.  She had to be, considering all the hurdles she cleared, the obstacles she overcame, the setbacks and hardships and difficulties life handed her, all of which she met head-on and surmounted.

I wish you could have known her in her prime.

She could be fierce in her faith and soft in her sweetness, and focused like a laser when she set her mind to do a thing.  Only in her later years did the burdens begin to outnumber and overwhelm her.  Even then, she was a fighter.  Her calendar is filled with appointments I am having to cancel–meetings with therapists, nutritionists, pain management clinic, physical therapy, a psychiatrist, and a few other things. She was not giving up, she was not going down without a fight.

Joe married a fighter.  April 13, 1962.  A Friday night in Birmingham, Alabama.

She would have to be a fighter. She was tying herself to a young preacher who hardly knew how to be a husband, breadwinner, pastor, or a father, and much less a caretaker, lover, best friend.  I would have to learn all of this, and some lessons came harder than others.

My wife would serve notice to pastor search committees up front, although not in a combative way, that she was no assistant pastor.  She would not be running the woman’s missionary program, and would take her own time before deciding what ministries to participate in.  And she held to her guns. Almost without exception, our churches treasured her.

People would say, “We wanted Margaret in our church, and the only way to get her was to call you as our pastor.”

Friends write to assure me that Margaret is in the arms of Jesus, that she is in Heaven, that she was a strong believer, and we shall see her again.

I know that. I said to one, “I’ve got the eternity thing down pat.  I know where she is. The only thing I’m having trouble with is Friday, January 30.  How to get through today.”

What was it Tom Hanks said in “Castaway”?  “Now I just have to remember to breathe.”

The tears will not stop.  How will I ever live without her.  I was 22 and she was 19 when we married.  We do not recommend marrying that young. We both needed a few years of aging.

I tell our grands, “Most lovers will tell one another ‘I love you.’ But in our case, I would tell Grandma, ‘You love me.’ She’d say, ‘I do?’ and I would say, ‘You certainly do.'”  Then later, if she volunteered, “I love you,” I would say, “See? I told you you did.”

Margaret and I were not exactly a matched set. We were opposites in a hundred ways and connected well in maybe twenty.

I will tell you a few things she brought to my life….

1) Reality.  Joe is a dreamer and needs a ballast to keep him anchored. Margaret was that.

2) Her family.  I loved her dad and mom and her brother and two sisters.  They were just exactly like my side of the family in that there was not a dummy in the group, everyone very bright, and each one an original.  One difference is that her family yelled at each other when they disagreed, and mine never raised their voices. That took a little getting-used-to when we married. The first yelling from her, I thought she was leaving. But it’s how she learned to disagree.

3) Our family.  She gave birth to Neil (he’s my junior) and Marty (he’s John Marshall, but was named Marty by his maternal grandmother when he was two days old), and and is responsible for our daughter Carla Jinoke.  In the early 1970s, when the Vietnam war was raging, a hospital in DaNang was working on little children horribly burned by napalm.  We began sending money to them.  One day Margaret looked up from an article she was reading with tears.  “Can’t we do more?”  The “more” she had in mind was to adopt a Vietnamese child.  Long story, a series of God steps, and in May of 1974, we flew to Kansas City to meet the plane bringing our 5-year-old Korean daughter.  Margaret used to say, “Neil and Marty were born in my tummy; Jinoke was born in my heart.”  Indeed.

4) Intelligence.  I loved for her to read my blogs (okay, I read them aloud to her) to get her input. If something did not sound right, she told me. If an area was weak or overly long, she said so. If a word was misused, I would know that in a heartbeat.  She read incessantly and looked up words she did not know..

5) Credibility to my ministry. Some friends in our churches who suspected I was too preacherish, too orthodox, and too righteous for my own good eased off once they met Margaret.  They knew she would tell me if I veered to the right or the left. If she doubted something I preached, I would learn it quickly.  Her questions helped me keep it real.

6) Love.  Margaret was not one much for theory.  Love had to be active, to show itself by deeds.  She believed strongly in Luke 6:27 that love was in doing good, blessing, praying, and giving.

Once when a young couple in our newlywed Sunday School class moved off to Newfoundland and then encountered several medical problems with their newborn, Margaret flew there, to the northernmost point of North America, and spent two weeks helping the young mother while the dad was off working. No one asked her to do this, and she certainly did not ask my permission.  It was the right thing to do and she did it.

I told you she kept her preacher-husband honest.  (In fact, she told me in the first months of marriage, “I will not be married to someone who is unemployed.  Get a job.”  So, even though my schoolteacher job started up that fall and I could draw unemployment for the summer, I went out and found a job.)  When I was learning to do our taxes, she didn’t help much–I say with a smile; this was my job–but she let me know, “Do not cut corners.  Do not lie or exaggerate. We will tell the truth.”

Every young husband should be told by his wife to be honest, tell the truth always, and that unemployment is not an option.

Some of the more painful parts of our 52+ years of married life include…

–Dancing lessons.  Being a city girl of the 1950s, Margaret loved to dance.  As the country boy whose other partner in my twosome was a mule, I did not dance and had no desire to learn. I was a preacher and a Baptist one at that. Ballroom dancing is not taught in our seminaries.  But on her birthday in 1988, a Thursday, we were driving through the lovely North Carolina countryside and she began to work on me.  “They’re having an open house at Fred Astaire tonight.  It’s free and you don’t have to do anything but go with me.”  I pointed out a barn in the distance.  “Margaret, you see that? I would rather stand on top of that barn stark naked than take dancing lessons.”  At 7 o’clock that night, we were at Fred Astaire (and I was fully clothed, for the smart alecks among us).  A year later, I was a regular Barney Fife on the dance floor. You thought I was going to say Gene Kelly? I took the lessons and learned the steps, but never danced with anyone but her. She loved it, I must say.  And was so proud of me. (Durn. There go the tears again.)

–A year of marriage counseling.  We would drive 90 miles from Columbus to Meridian twice a month and meet with Dr. Jack Follis in the Lauderdale Baptist Association building.  Counseling was painful, heart-wrenching (not to say gut-wrenching), easily one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Nothing about it was enjoyable, just so you will know. Sometimes we would ride home silently, wrung out from all the talk and tears.  But in the years since, I have recommended to many pastors and spouses they do this. With the right counselor, it can salvage a marriage, rescue a ministry, and even save a life.

–Difficulties with our three children.  I so envy pastors who bring godly children through adolescence into adulthood without the potholes we encountered.  Our three are doing great these days, and we all adore each other, so I’m going to say no more about this.  My longtime buddy Winfield “Windy” Rich used to send a Christmas letter telling how this child is now head of some department at Johns Hopkins Medical Center and that one just installed a computer system for a Fortune 500 company.  I would write back, “My three children are out of jail. At the moment.”

My wife was burdened all her life by the cruelest of masters: perfectionism.

If something we did was not perfect, it was awful and she was disgusted with herself.  When we tried to have family devotions, when she and I set apart a couple of hours a week for a picnic with “talk and a psalm,” when we did a vacation or renovated a house, she wanted to throw in the towel if everything was not ideal.  She found an article in Psychology Today magazine back in the 1970s that called “Perfectionism” a “script for self-defeat,” which it surely is, since no one is perfect nor can they be perfect. That helped.  I copied the article and over the years handed out hundreds of them to friends and counselees dealing with the same cruel standards.

The perfectionism, I need to say, was focused only on ourselves. She was fully prepared to show mercy to others who turned in substandard work.  But when she went to college, she had to make As.  (She graduated with honors, something her husband did not come close to doing.)

My wife was far more intellectual than I.  She would read heavy books, loved psychological thrillers in movies or television, and delighted in conversations with professors about deep issues.  Meanwhile, I’d be reading my western novel and turning out another cartoon for a Baptist publication.  I could discuss these heavy concepts with her for about 5 minutes. After that, my brain grew tired.  (smiley-face here)  And yes, she tended to interpret that as my not caring for her.

Most husbands know.

My cousin Jacqueline Gordon (later Jackie Cordes Gentry of Jasper, AL) gave our family a great line when she was a child living briefly with our grandparents on the Alabama farm.  She grew tired of the heavy adult conversation going on around her all the time and blurted out, “I don’t like this! Let’s talk about good things–like candy and little calves!”

Margaret would say, “Joe does not like to deal with real issues.  He wants to talk about candy and little calves.”  Often, she was right.  In my defense, I would respond that I see so much pain and misery in  my work, my spirit needs a break from it occasionally.  I need to see a Disney cartoon, to read a western novel, to get with friends for no reason other than to laugh.

Margaret grew up in a household without a lot of laughter.  Mine was the opposite.  My mother sold jokes to magazines a few times.  My dad cut out funny stories to share.  My three brothers are all humorists in their own way.

Can I say, I’m thankful for the way my wife died? 

Margaret had driven herself that morning to the nail salon 2 miles from our house, and collapsed on the chair after a spell of coughing.  They dialed 911 and help came almost immediately.

1) She was not driving when she collapsed. We’ve all heard of drivers passing out and crashing into other vehicles and taking out whole families.

2) She was one block from the police station and a half-mile from the fire department.  She was already halfway to the hospital from our house, perhaps 3 miles.

3) We had had an hour at the breakfast table where I’m sitting now. I had made her tea and she was eating a bowl of rice while reading the morning paper. We discussed the lawsuit involving Saints owner Tom Benson and she wanted to hear the blog I was working on.  We sat there a full hour.  Then she went back to bed for a while. I finished the blog and told her I would be reading my novel on the bed in the back.  Around 10:30 she called that she was going to the nail salon–driving herself, which is rare these days, but not a problem–and she would be back.  At noon, the hospital called me.

4) I’m grateful she was being proactive about all the health issues she was facing.  Two days earlier, I drove her to the rehab for pool therapy and the day before drove her to her hour-long visit with Beverly, her longtime therapist and friend.  We ran by Mr. Poorboy on the way home and got takeout.

5) Over Christmas holidays, two of our three Missouri granddaughters came down.  Margaret and I drove them across the lake to the English Tea Room at Covington. She had a great time.  Then, just after Christmas, our Carolina son arrived with his family for a few days of love and laughter.  So, we have much to be thankful for.

I’ve found a little secret that helps me deal with the overwhelming pain of missing my wife. When I start counting the blessings she was to me, the pain recedes. When I start telling the Heavenly Father ways in which she blessed me and giving Him thanks, the pain disappears.

So far, I’m up to blessing number seven thousand thirty five.  But the pain keeps hovering around, trying to find a way back into my soul.

I know Margaret is doing just fine. She is seeing her mom and dad and sister, and my parents. She is seeing the Lord Jesus.  I cannot begin to imagine.

I’m just crying for me.

I keep reminding myself to breathe.

POST SCRIPT…. (written in the evening of the first day without her)

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon cleaning the bedroom where Margaret had been sleeping.  I removed all the medicines, the pamphlets on this condition or that program, the reading materials, the tissues, and a hundred other things. When I picked up the folder reading “Crohn’s & Colitis,” as I tossed it in the trash, I called out, “Goodbye, Crohn’s Disease! Goodbye Colitis! Goodbye knee pain!  Goodbye weight problems! Goodbye depression! The former things have passed away! He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes! No more suffering, no more death. He makes all things new! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

The Lord and I had an old-fashioned camp meeting right there on the carpet.

You and I live in anticipation of that blessed hope when our Lord shall return and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. So shall we ever be with the Lord! 

 

86 thoughts on “Margaret Ann Henderson McKeever (June 9, 1942 – January 29, 2015)

    • Thank you for this lovely tribute to Margaret. I’ve often thought about getting her to correspond through e-mail with me. And, now, she is gone. So I’m glad to hear about her life with you as a minister. I enjoy reading your website. I shall be praying for you in the future. His love surpasses all of our sadness and we can share the joy of our salvation as Margaret enjoyed. Thanks again for this tribute to her memory.

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart and “your bride”! Praying for you and your family. You are so special to so many and my biggest prayer is that you feel the love from those that you and your family have loved for so long!

  2. Remembering the good times is what keeps us going. I know when my significant other passed away it was what kept me going. Remembering the last night when he wouldn’t let me leave his bedside to go to the bathroom, when he told me he loved me, and when he asked me to pray. They are the last memories, but there are so many over the years. As I enjoy watching his grandchildren grow and enjoy their sports activities I often remark how proud their Pop-Pop would be. We were together 29 years. He was only 72 and too young to die as you well know, but God had other plans. It has been almost 9 years and I still get teary-eyed when I think about it. However, my faith in God along with my friends has kept me going.

  3. Thank you for sharing your pain with us and it hiding it. Thank you for letting us know Margaret in this way. You were blessed. You are blessed. May Gods arms wrap around you tightly right now and in the days to come.

  4. Joe, thank you for being God’s example to all of us for dealing with the passing of a loved one, particularly a spouse. Your tributes to Miss Margaret have touched our hearts and reminded us of the truths of our eternal hope in Christ Jesus. Our continual prayer is for the comfort of God’s Holy Spirit to flood your soul with the joy of your salvation and to uphold you with a joyful spirit.

  5. What a dignified, true-to-life tribute that honors your wife and the Lord so well! Despite the her pain and sufferings in the body, Margaret is fully healed now. Bless you brother Joe.

  6. Wow….such heart felt words and I think Margaret would have loved it. Going down memory lane, tears and all. I never had the privilege to meet Ms. Margaret but I know from reading this, we would have gotten along famously! Keeping you in prayer my friend for today, and all the tomorrows ahead. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  7. Often I thank God for for our lively friendship which came about when The Daily Encourager posted one of your writings….it had to be a God thing…..how else could this northeast Louisiana lady who loves the Lord and has a heart for missions, get in touch with a retired Director of Missions in the greater N. O. area? You are your family have a very special place in my heart and I continue to pray, asking God to get you through this day. I wish I could be with you today and since I cannot, I’ll keep right on praying. Thank You, Lord, for

  8. oops…Thank You, for Joe, and for his godly influence on me and many others. Please fill Joe’s life with Your peace in Your time and in Your way. I trust you to get him through this sad day. Amen
    Love and prayers from your northeast Louisiana friend.
    Pat

  9. Doc,
    That was the most beautiful tribute about your sweet wife. I like how you wrote that when you thank the Lord and list the ways she blessed you that the pain subsides. I think that when we lose our Christian loved ones, we already know that they are in the presence of Jesus but learning to move on in this earthly realm without them can be unforgiving at times. You’ve been a real friend to me, non judgemental, loving, supportive, direct. I am grateful that He brought you into my life as a pastoral counsel and friend. I wish I had known Ms. Margaret. Thank you for sharing her with us, for sharing your history together. When mom died, I knew where she was. I knew that I would see her one day but the day she died (ironically June 9th), I was on auto pilot. I knew things had to be done, family was coming in, house had to be packed. It was hard, lots of tears, lots of stories and fellowship, lots of prayers. Remember to be kind to yourself, take time to breathe deep from the abdomen (most of us don’t really know how to breathe correctly), and most importantly, keep sharing these stories. What a wonderful legacy she is leaving through you, your words, your children and grandchildren. She will live on, not only in Paradise but here….through you. You are never out of my prayers as I know you have prayed for me many many times. God bless.

    Katie

  10. Praying for you and your family during this great time of loss. You would never know me but I will always remember you from my college days at the “W” and attending FBC, Columbus while I was in school there. You were such an inspiration and blessing to me during that time. I grew up in Eupora at FBC under Bill Stewart’s leadership. Thanks for sharing your heart during this time of pain and sorrow….that’s so like you to be so transparent for the world to see. People need to see reality yet the love of Jesus shining through in Christians today. You have done that so beautifully through your precious wife’s death. May God continue to bless you and bring comfort and healing to your heart. You are loved by many and countless people have been blessed because of your and your wife’s commitment to our Lord Jesus. Thanks for blessing others even through death and tears!!!

  11. The memories are what will get you through this. Each day will get a little easier. Touch your heart and you will feel her presence. Her spirit lives on through you. She is only absent in body. Bro. Joe I pray for God to ease your pain and give you strength to carry on. Let your tears flow. Cherish each and every memory. God bless you.

  12. God blessed Margaret, as well. I deal with many of the same issues with which she struggled, including growing up in a house of screamers and yellers and marrying a man who never heard a raised voice. I’m sure she so appreciated that you accepted her as she was. I am thanking you for sharing that very personal part of your life together. At my home, these issues are shamed, so to me, she was blessed to have your support.
    God has blessed many as you’ve shared this journey through the last week. May he bless all your family through this weekend and especially on Monday.

  13. Thank you, Joe, for this powerful tribute. Your transparency and humility has brought strength and encouragement to my soul. Praying for you and the family, my friend!

  14. What a beautiful tribute to your wife. She was as blessed to have you as her husband, as you were to have her as your wife. Keep counting those blessings and allowing God to ease your pain. Keeping you in our prayers. The Louisiana Fields.

  15. Joe,
    There is no doubt that Margaret was amazing! I cannot take away your pain, but I can pray for you each day and ask God to be especially close to you during the hours, days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Only He knows how to help you during this time. As the footprints in the sand, may He carry you through this, and may He set you down went you can walk on your own. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Glenda Suggs

  16. Joe, just read your “heart” … about your “heart!” She was just the woman you needed. No question about that and no words for how you will miss her. Thank you for sharing the whole story of your love. Hope I can be as encouraging in my marriage. Love you, karen

  17. Beautiful! I will always treasure the time I had with Margaret helping her with college algebra. That was our “just us” time.

  18. Many blessings And prayers my dearest brother Joe and family!!! Its unimaginable to me to know what you’ve had to endure this last week, but it’s clear to see that The Lord has carried you thru this journey. Thank you for sharing your story and life with Margret. God is using you and it’s beautiful! Eddie Joe and I wish we could attend the service, but will continue to pray for you and your family. Much Much Much Love to you!!! Jen

  19. Thank you for sharing your love for your precious wife and your memories with us. Praying for you during this difficult time and in the days ahead. Knowing she is with Jesus is a comfort but it won’t completely take away the pain in your heart. I think remembering the ways she blessed your life is such a sweet way to help ease that pain. Grace and peace to you and your family Brother Joe.

  20. Our hearts are so heavy as we share your grief. We wish we could be there but can’t. There certainly are more prayers for you and the family coming from Northeast Louisiana. You know how special both of you have been in our lives.

  21. What a testimony! I would expect nothing else from you. I remember so much of those years of which you write. I so remember FBC waiting for Carla Jinoke to become part of our church. You all are such tremendous witnesses because, although called to the ministry, you all are us. God’s blessings on you all.

  22. Thank you for the wonderful snapshot into your lady’s life (who by the way, sounds a lot like mine). She is in all slender and glory now. You know sometime You hear people say,”ttime heals all wounds” well I don’t know about that, I think you will remember this special lady with good thoughts. Joe day those thoughts will be turned into reality when we shall look upon the faces of those loved ones who’ve gone on before us. To God be the glory

  23. Beautiful, a realistic, humorous and poignant look at your wife, partner and fellow laborer with God. She was your balance through life and I know your heart is broken for mine is broken for you. May God continue to remind you of the blessings so the pain stays away.

  24. Dr McKeever, I just finished reading this after Leslie McAllister posted it on Facebook. I am more sorry than I can say to know you’re going through this, and I will light a candle for Margaret tonight. You have my love and prayers always.

  25. Bro. Joe..such an amazing memorial to your wife Margaret’s life here on this earth…and her extended life for an eternity in heaven. You may not remember me…but your cartoon’s have brought a smile or acknowledgement of agreement on content to me so many times that I feel that we all know you pretty well. My wife, Clarenda, and I are praying for your hard days and for all of those breaths you will have to shutter through. The pain will ease…the memories will remain..and Brother, it won’t be many days until we all will step into our eternity to be forever with those that have gone on before.

  26. Joe, thanks so much for sharing such a beautiful journey. Margaret was everything you shared and more. A very-very special lady. Please know of Sandy’s and my prayers for you, Neil, Marty and Janoke during this time of loss. We are holding you close!

  27. You do not know me, but my daughter, Carrie Keene is a member of Westwood Baptist Church and I have attended their services many times with her. I am terribly sorry for your loss of your wonderful wife. I know just how you feel. My dear husband, Tim, passed away 3 years and 4 months ago, and I still miss in every moment of every day. It is not as raw as the first year, but the grief is still there all the time. We were also a young married couple. I was 19 and he was 21. So I feel as though he was with me and my very best friend all of my life. I don’t have any easy answers for you or any great advice. I know that I just thank God for all the precious moments he blessed me with him and I hold unto all of my memories as tight as possible. My life is forever changed because a huge part of me died with him; but I know I will see him again when God calls me home. I cling to that promise of eternal life with God. I will hold you up in my prayers and just know that your precious Margaret is watching over you all the time.

    God Bless You and Your Family,
    Carol J. Massey

  28. I am so very sorry for your loss. You’re right, it’s the hallway between now and when you’ll see her again that’s tough. Thank you for sharing such a beautifully touching love story. You and your family are in my heart and prayers. Much love…

  29. What a beautiful and honest tribute to Margaret. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.
    Joe, you are so very lucky that you Know where Margaret is and where you will one day see her again. That is such reassurance mingled with all our pain. But knowing Margaret is no longer in pain is also a blessing. Know that you are in so many peoples’ thoughts and prayers during these difficult times. Stay strong.
    With love, Jo Ellen

  30. Dr. Joe, I was a teenager living across the street from you in Columbus. My parents are Charlie ( deceased) and Bonnie Boyd. I remember when Jinoke joined your family! What a beautiful and inspiring tribute, I’m so sorry for the pain. Prayers for a swift healing and a bounty of wonderful memories.

  31. What a beautiful tribute. A beautiful love letter you have written to Ms Margaret, your beautiful wife. Thank you for sharing your love for her with us. Even though we have been married 54 years you & Margaret taught us a lot in this tribute. Dr. Joe we.are praying but you just don’t forget to breathe.

  32. “In all things give thanks”. You just did and are doing that beautifully and moment by moment. Thank you for your heart felt sharing. I know it has helped me on several levels and am sure it has many others. Praying for you as you learn to journey on. You are a blessing to me! Praying you through,

  33. So beautifully said! I was telling a group of my friends , just last night, about how much you helped me out of the weeds of leaving the church of my childhood. You’ll never now how much you helped me through that time! God bless you in you loss.

  34. Love this. You described the Margaret that I knew and admired. One of my best memories is the smile on her face announcing the arrival of “her daughter”. I also recall the day Jinoke played the beautiful piano solo and you looking at Margaret in surprise when you realized who was playing. She was a strong lady who walked to the beat of her own drummer thank God for women like her

  35. What a wonderful tribute to your wife. So sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time.

  36. Even in her death…through your writing…Margaret is continuing to help others. Thank you for sharing. Columbus Ms. Loves you .

  37. no better descriptive than “beautiful”. The same word we use to describe the butterfly or the humming bird or the skyline over the mountains or quiet streams or the newborn baby or Gods gift of a loving partner of a lifetime. Your tribute toMargaret is beautiful and its beauty is inspirational. Thank you for sharing your very personal thoughts. Praying for you, Dr Joe. God bless you.

  38. Remembering the good times, the good talks, the wonderful things you did together, and your love of our Lord together will help get you through this difficult time. I know it has helped mother and helped me with daddy when daddy passed. We are praying for you and your family, because this is a very difficult time for all of you. Keep resting in His loving arms and it will help.
    Barbara Dyer
    Bertha Methe

    • Helene Toney
      Bro.Joe: I am not able to find the right words to express how your tribute to Margaret touched my heart. You were so blessed to have her and I shall never forget when my world crashed she came to my house and prayed with me. I will continue to pray for all of you.Helene

  39. Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute. It makes those of us who didn’t know her wish that we could have. May God continue to give you strength, peace and comfort.

  40. You are such a special and loved man by our family! We pray that you will find the peace you deserve knowing Mrs Margaret is with her Lord and Savior!! JESUS!!!! Love you so much! Harold and Brandi Troxel

  41. I have followed your updates each day and your story has touched my heart. Your tribute to your wife is so beautiful and yet so perfect. Please know that I have never been in your church but because of your story I feel blessed to know you and pray your pain will lessen with time. Your pain will never be gone but its the memories of our life that give us hope of a better hereafter. Thank you for sharing a very personal story that will truly touch many hearts. God Bless You and your precious family.

  42. Thank you for sharing. Though we have not met and you don’t know me, we are both children of God. You have my prayers of comfort for your heart and soul. God bless you and your family.

  43. Dear Br. Joe, my mother (Betty Gilbert) and I prayed several times for Ms. Margaret. Mom loved you both so much and truly appreciated your love and ministry.

    My heart and prayers go out to you and your family at this time of grief. May you receive from God the peace that surpasses all understanding.

    In Christ’s Love!

  44. Jewish people mourn in stages. For the first week after a death in the family you do nothing but grieve. Other people in the community, or more distant relatives, bring meals for you and come by for a while and mourn with you. (This comes from Job when his friends come to him in his pain and sit with him in silence for seven days. When they started talking that did not help matters. But we too quickly skip over their coming to be with him in silence. That was brilliant.) Then after the overwhelming intensity of that week there’s another less intense stage for the first month where you get back into the world on a limited basis, and then still another, milder stage for the first year. And then after a year your mourning time is done and you’re back to life as usual. But it takes a full year to get back to life as usual.

    Also, interestingly the distinctive Jewish prayer for mourners, the Kaddish, isn’t a “prayer for the dead” like you might see in some Catholic circles, or even like the Psalms of lament but it’s entirely a prayer of praise to God. Because in our darkest moments we need to be deliberate to still be praising God. (Sounds like you’re already all on top of that.)

    We’re Christians, of course. And we have knowledge that we live on this side of Easter. And OF COURSE these customs aren’t binding on us at all. Of course! But something along those lines may be helpful, and we may be the poorer for not having such customs. Too often it seems like in our society we’re supposed to be more or less back to normal the day after the funeral and that’s insane. We need to give ourselves time and lots of it.

  45. Pastor Joe,without knowing,I know you are the Pastor I came to love and miss very much.From First Baptist Charlotte,N.C.I have often thought and wondered where you were.You had a wonderful wife in Margret I remember her as much as you.If I have the right Pastor Joe and I know I do,just by the writing.Please keep in touch-this is an easy day to remember as tomorrow is my 75th.Birthday.Thank you for all you have meant to me.
    Larry

  46. “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
    The Lord Make his face shine upon thee,
    and be gracious unto thee:
    The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee,
    and give thee peace.” Numbers 6: 24-26

  47. YOUR PRECIOUS MEMORIES WILL CARRY YOU THRU MANY DARK TIMES

    ALL GOD,S PEOPLE SAID AMEN AND PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!!!! THANKS FOR ALL YOUR POST WE HAVE ALL BEEN BLESSED !!!

  48. I understand…I know those same feelings…you celebrate for her, yet you grieve the absence of her presence. Amazingly…our Father’s presence becomes more real than it has ever been. Praying for you as you walk in these days with Him.

  49. I wish I could have know Margaret we know she is happy today .I know Lynn is but tears are still coming 3months later .But God gets me through.All of y’all are in prayers wish I could there Monday .love forever Neta

  50. You Have An Extraordinary Gift For Sharing Your Loss And The Love Of Your Life. Keep Writing Joe. ForYour Sake AND Ours.

  51. Oh, Father, in Jesus’ name, please baptize this unique, genuine and wonderful servant of yours in your overwhelming supernatural comfort. Amen

  52. Joe, oh, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. What a beautiful tribute to Margaret and your life together. Thank you for how you have ministered to me (and still do) over the years. Love you, Joe!

  53. Joe, this is Eva Hart. Our church has lifted Margaret and you up through all this. Mu senior adult choir, REFLECTIONS, sent a card to you on Thursday. Many of them remembered you and Margaret when you both ministered here. Continued prayers for you and your family. Eva Hart, First Baptist Church, Jackson

  54. May God bless you and your family with His Love and peace during this time. Praying for you all and praising God for the ministry with which you and your wife have blessed us all.

    Kim & Steve Wood
    St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church
    Cullman, AL

  55. Praying for God’s continued comfort and help to you in this day and the days ahead. Thanking God for you – and for all the ways you have encouraged, instructed and inspired me through your blog. Your ministry and wisdom has helped me (and undoubtedly many others) to walk with the Lord more closely and serve Him more enthusiastically. Today I shed tears along with some smiles as you shared about Margaret and learned a lot about love, faith and hope. I along with you, thank God for Margaret. God bless you, brother.

  56. Dr. Joe, I knew you from Lowndes Baptist Association. I always admired you for your “Monday’s belong to Margaret’s”. Now I enjoy your cartoons in the Alabama Baptist. Having lost my husband of 51 years, I sympathize with you in the passing of Margaret. I won’t say in the loss of Margaret for you know where she is. May God grant you peace and comfort in your heart, and put a song in your heart as you relive the wonderful store of memories you and Margaret built together.

  57. Bro. Joe, we love you and Ms. Margaret so much. We only knew you for a brief couple of years, but we still have your cartoons of us. We were young marrieds back then, but we loved watching the interaction between you and Ms. Margaret, learning how to do life as a married couple. Our hearts go out to you as you grieve her loss.
    I still remember the Sunday evening at church at First Baptist Kenner, when we had to leave service just as you were starting to preach, because the time of our firstborn’s arrival had come too soon, and Ms. Margaret ran after us to make sure we were OK. We assured her that all was fine, we just needed to get to the hospital. I think she was comforted that we were not leaving due to the preaching! She was an amazing woman and she will be sorely missed. We love you, Bro. Joe.

    From the Hamiltons,
    Chris, Adeliza, Alex, and Victoria

    • What a blessing to hear from you Hamiltons. And do you remember helping us host the foreign family with the baby who had to have heart surgery at Children’s HOspital? You weren’t here long, but you left an indelible imprint on our hearts. Thank you. Love.

  58. Joe,

    What a testimony if God’s faithfulness in both your lives. I was never privileged to make Margaret’s acquaintance, but I feel like I know her for all the ways she influenced you. We menfolk each one marry up.

    You are in our prayers.

  59. I heard you on the radio today. I was able to catch a small part of your interview. I heard the word grieve. This has been a part of my heart since April 20, 2015. My husband of 11 years was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. The first chemo didn’t work and we will find out next week if this one is combating the disease. He is 51, turning 52 on Sunday, and I am 45. I always thought we would be like you and your wife…having a long life together. Now I’m not so sure. Grieving is what I have been doing. And then there are days I think, no need to grieve now as that will come in its own time.
    I’m so sorry for the loss of what sounds to be a beautiful woman.

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