Margie Hord

Expat by Default


Gone but Still Present

brown wooden rocking chair inside dark room

Photo by Anthony Delanoix (Unsplash)

You’ve lost a loved one: a parent, a spouse, a child. A huge hole seems to have been gouged out in your heart. Their absence is overwhelming at times. The empty spot at the table or in the bed… Special holidays will never be the same again; they tend to bring memories flooding in more than ever, and the hole is bigger than ever.

Yet… those people live on in our memories! Our lives have been enriched by theirs. Reminders pop up unexpectedly, constantly.

Recently I returned to the home where my parents lived for decades. Its new owner, my sister, has left her own imprint on it, and yet there is still so much of Mum and Dad that endears them to me.

person opening photo album displaying grayscale photos

Photo by Laura Fuhrman (Unsplash)

Going over albums of photographs galore is a bittersweet experience. They cover decades of achievements and family times. Pics of Air Force times in Great Britain, others of glowing newlyweds or proud graduates, a bushwhacking biologist, babes in arms, a beaming Mum greeting the President of Peru, and so much more.

On occasions classical music wafts from the kitchen, in homage to my Mum.

As we scrub the window screens before putting them in for the summer, I recall how as kids we used to sing songs we learned from Mum to pass the time away, sometimes while one washed dishes and another dried them. My sister pulls one out from the recesses of her memory–White Coral Bells, which I may not have heard since childhood– and the words come back as I join her!

pile of spinach

Photo: Monika Grabkovska (Unsplash)

In a recipe book, a note in our mother’s handwriting reminds me where I might find an alternative concoction when I decide to bake something with fresh rhubarb.

selective focus photo of shovel on sand

Photo: Markus Spiske (Unsplash)

The gardens are no exception to the rule. We owe the yumminess of rhubarb and berry plants outside to Dad, as well as the rich colors of flowering shrubs and perennials. My sister’s painstaking work on the garden he toiled over for so many hours is a reflection, too, of his labor of love. The special touch of fresh blossoms in some nooks of the old home reminds me that his spirit lives on.

Fine furniture and old clocks tell stories of my father as well; some he designed himself.

person wearing pink crew-neck shirt with hand clasped together

Photo: Ruben Hutabarat (Unsplash)

Memories aren’t always triggered by that which we see, hear, or touch. Occasionally, my family members will use one of “Dad’s prayers” for grace at mealtime, concise and simple. These are imprinted in the mind and heart.

Even away from the old home, there are moments which remind me of my heritage. A woman who has never met me before tells me, “You look like your Mum!”

Not all that comes to mind is warm and fuzzy. There’s the room where Dad suffered for so long, and his spidery signature barely recognizable once his sight failed him.

forest with fogs

Photo: Stanislava Stanci (Unsplash)

The details of our stories will be different, but surely there is a common thread: Gone but still present, are those loved ones we recall. More than a memory, they remain in our physical resemblance, the objects they left, the habits they instilled, the songs and stories, the recipes and prayers, and even the values that set us on our way.

Indeed, they are knit into our DNA.

From Mourning to the Morning Light

“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” These words came to mind as the sun and wind caressed me there in the cemetery. Not in traditional mourning garb, I wore a long, loose white native “huipil” with small colored designs woven into it, one my husband had loved. The workers had begun the long process of filling the grave, as off and on friends sang beloved hymns and choruses of hope.

Just one day after my life companion took off on a new journey, I was overwhelmed by the loss, but at the same time upheld by those “everlasting arms”, sensing the freedom that Refugio’s soul now enjoyed.

It was the rainy season, and in the afternoons a downpour was almost inevitable, but my heavenly Father cared enough to make that day different and the sun shone gloriously.

Divine “coincidences”

There had been innumerable “divine coincidences” that had come together to cushion the blow. Knowing that my husband’s health was fragile with a chronic disease, I had asked if he thought I could visit my aging mother, for those last years can be so unpredictable. He felt he could get by without me, so the long-distance tickets were bought… and not long afterwards my Mum passed away! The memorial service was set for a few weeks later, when I had already planned to be there.

Two weeks after my return, our daughter and family arrived from afar, by surprise. Their presence was so special and perfectly-timed. “Pa” decided to leave us the day before their departure was programmed, just a month after my arrival. Well, our heavenly Father had his hand in it, of course, and they changed their tickets to be with me for the funeral.

These incidences and more have helped to bring rainbows to my life as the sun– and the Son– shine through the tears.

Person waering neutral colors walking through a field of wheat

Only Smiles?

This week I shared a Scottish poem someone had posted in social media about losing a loved one but instead of crying, smiling with the memories of their life. It seemed appropriate. Then a friend commented, “Doesn’t the author accept the reality of grief?”

He’s right. Denying the reality of sorrow, in fact, the need for grieving, is hurtful in the long run. It may mean pushing down those feelings that are natural, real, profound. Releasing those emotions in the form of tears is part of the healing process.

Even so, the glimpses of light filtering through the darkness are more frequent, I believe, when you can cling to the Easter message of resurrection. This is not the end. This life is, in fact, only the Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called it, where we prepare for true Life.

Lessons on Mourning from the Word

  • Mourning and grief are an integral part of this fallen world, with the inevitability of death. I am always touched by the tears Jesus shed upon the death of his friend Lazarus. Surely he, who promised eternal life and indeed was LIFE, knew the end of the story. Still, he understood pain. At the same time, he showed there could be victory over death when he raised Lazarus from the dead… a foretaste of his own more permanent resurrection.
  • Two people in mourning or grieving on a couch in a living room



  • God is with us in the process, and can show us “the light at the end of the tunnel”. Much as there may seem to be no end to our pain, there is hope:


You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,”


  • The “nighttime” is real; the weeping should be allowed to wash the soul. There is a “morning” ahead:


Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

  • It is natural to mourn, and it is a time in which our presence is most needed… much more than words. Even crying with them is identifying with their loss.


Mourn with those who mourn”.


  • Those of us who are people of faith do not make light of grief, much as we hold a hope beyond this life’s sorrow.

       “Godly men… mourned deeply for him.”


The day of the funeral, I was able to catch a glimpse of the light beyond the grave. In the days following, there have been tears, often at unexpected times. Friends have been a strength, as has been God’s Word. Joy is not a stranger, however, and is richer now that it can be sensed in counterpoint to the grief.

May you who mourn… find there is “joy in the morning”!

© 2020 Margie Hord

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