Lenten Reflections: Excruciating Joy

Today’s guest blogger is my mom, Jean Roberts Knox. It’s hard to write a “bio” for her since she raised me, but I’ll try! Mom has taught piano, been a file clerk, been a missionary, and currently is an administrative assistant/office administrator at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. She rocks at her job. She is also a great mom! She has always been a pillar of love and support in my life, and she is an amazing grandmother to my two kids. Evidently Mom has been hiding her writing talents from me – today she has written a poem. A poem to Mary.

Excruciating Joy

Mary, remember with me.

When my son was born, I also pondered many things in my heart.

I remember how soft he was when I first cradled him in my arms.

His beautiful little head was covered with dark hair.

He was my seven pound, one-and-a-half-ounce precious baby boy.



Mary, listen to me.

When my son was six-and-a-half years old, I took him across the world.

He started first grade in a home school cooperative with other American children.

My skinny little boy wore glasses.

My brilliant little boy read on fifth grade level when he started kindergarten.



Mary, laugh with me.

My little boy was picked up by an elephant!

My little boy’s glasses were stolen by a monkey!

My little boy’s foot was bitten by a little green snake!

After each new adventure, my son had another unbelievably true story to tell!



Mary, pray for me.

When my son was seventeen years old, he wore size 13 Nike tennis shoes and played basketball.

He loved drama, speech and journalism and was the school’s yearbook editor.

Girls called him “Sir Lancelot” and lined up to dance with him during social dance classes.

My son believed in God.



Mary, wail with me.

After my son graduated from high school, he went to the beach with his friends.

There was a motorcycle accident, and I lost my son.

A sword pierced my heart and my mind and my soul.

My sweet baby boy’s spirit was no longer in his body.



Mary, weep with me.

I can’t live without my son Will.

The pain is unbearable, and I need to find an escape.

My counselor says the depth of the pain equals the depth of the love.

Why, God, why? Why couldn’t it have been me?



Mary, walk with me.

Each Sunday after church, I go to Will’s grave.

I clean the marker above his body that records what I believe happened on June 8, 2000:

“I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

The precious body that I once carried inside my body is now at rest.



Mary, mother of my Lord,

My Will has been in Heaven for almost twelve years.

Did you witness his spirit leaving earth for Heaven?

Did you behold your Son greeting my son when Will came home?

Does my child feel that love is stronger than death?



Mary, bearer of the One who has the power of eternal life over death,

Pray for me, a sinner, as I choose to walk in faith, believing in what I have not yet seen.

Pray for me, a mother, as I seek to follow the path my only son has laid out before me

In his writing about encountering the Risen Christ

In his first grade school journal:



“I go to church and I am sitting in the sanctuary alone.

And suddenly Jesus comes!

He says come with me! And I do!

He says we will go to heaven! I say I will go with you!

And he takes me by the hand and leads me to heaven. The End.”

Mom and Will at his high school graduation in June of 2000.
My kids at Will's grave marker
Will as a teenager


  1. Karla Wardlow says:

    what beauty…and sadness. Thank you Jean for making Jesus’ death so much more personal and approachable. To see him as a boy, a wonderful boy like Will was…what pain not only he, but his mother and family and loved ones must have faced. What courage you have to continue to face that kind of pain and death every day and yet continue to face heavenward and remember that death has been conquered! Love you Jean! Happy Easter and thank you for sharing!

  2. Bertie DeWane says:

    Your Mom’s poem is beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. Please thank her for sharing such a personal story. I loved Will’s journal entry from first grade.

  3. Marianne Robbins says:

    I love your mother’s beautiful heart, and I love you for providing the forum which allows it to be expressed. Once again, I am touched to the quick…My heartfelt thanks to you both.

  4. annreese says:

    Oh, what a beautiful poem! Thank you for sharing that with us. I can still picture Will as that skinny little boy–so cute! I have fond memories of your family when we were kids in BKK. I pray that God continues to hold you close as you celebrate Will’s life and as you miss him always. Love to all of you. Beautiful post.

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