SHARON KATHRYN LOUISE MORRIS (November 28, 1939 – February 2, 2022)
My Sweet Sharon, well, she wasn’t really mine, just loaned to me for 60+ years. She actually belonged to Jesus.
Over the years I realized how precious a loan it was, and that I was responsible to treasure her and take care of her in the manner that the One she belonged to had entrusted me to do.
I was always attracted to her physical beauty, and was drawn as well to the warmth of her personality. At first I tried to possess her just for myself in insecure and controlling ways. I was threatened by her closeness to her family, and especially her relationship with Jesus. I wanted to cut her off from those relationships so that she would love me only. The result was that I was shutting down the deeper, inner part of her, even more beautiful than her physical attractiveness. Her family attachments and her relationship with Jesus (that started at age five) were what produced her inner beauty.
My selfishness and insecurity toward Sharon were a reflection that deep down inside of me I was dead spiritually. She tried to point me to Christ but I resisted in anger and continued to suffocate the deeper part of her. As I did, we drifted further apart, and increasingly, the emptiness of my soul gnawed away inside me.
After three years of relational decline with Sharon, God broke into my calloused heart through a dream, and two months later, I received Jesus. The spiritual presence of Jesus that made Sharon so attractive was now in me. The Bible calls this being ‘born again.’ I began to grow and change, and as I did, the wounds I had inflicted upon Sharon began to heal. So too, did our marriage.
It took some years for the kernel of new life in Christ in our marriage to burst into the flower that by God’s grace it became. The saying “Jesus did not come to make bad people good but dead people alive” was now true not only of Sharon, but of me…and of us.
Over the next 50+ years we had six children and they had seventeen more. Sharon’s primary focus was on nurturing and guiding them. But Sharon’s impact radiated out more, as in addition to our own children, we had numerous others stay with us for short and long periods, from a few days to several years.
Sharon’s faith was instrumental in our moving to Chicago and Los Angeles for student ministry, Switzerland and Canada to study and grow in our knowledge of the Bible, and to France (four years) and Holland (five years) to launch international churches that continue to flourish today.
Wherever we were, Sharon opened our home and provided hospitality for meals, Bible studies, small group gatherings, even church meetings before the small churches we started in Europe grew large. She was part of one-on-one discipleship meetings, community group gatherings, and all kinds of events we organized to reach out to people that they might know Christ and grow as followers of Him.
Sharon created beauty and welcome wherever she went. Her smile was genuine, disarming, and contagious, a window into the beauty of who she was within. While she encouraged and partnered with me in ministry across continents over years, her love for me, her three siblings and our family members was always foremost.
In the past several years of her life sweet Sharon struggled health-wise…but her faith in Jesus never wavered. She looked forward to being with Jesus in heaven. She wanted to go (I wasn’t ready for her to). She suffered from an autoimmune condition over her past fifteen years, then suffered two brain bleeds and pneumonia twice in the last four years. She fell twice, cut her head both times, broke her femur the first time, and three vertebrae the second. As she recovered and went forward each time, her smile never left. Hospital staff always remarked about it.
The last few years and especially the last few weeks, we knew she was in decline. As I tucked her into bed each night, she would light up my heart with a smile and say “Thank you.” I was doing my best but felt so unworthy. The smile and thank you surpassed anything I could do to help her or felt I deserved.
Just two weeks ago, something changed and the little bit of mobility she had froze. She spent a week in the hospital and another in a skilled nursing facility but continued to decline. Saturday last, with all six of our children joining me in her nursing room, we realized she was nearing the end. We communicated to the doctor that we wanted her to come home. She so wanted to come home and be with her family. The doctor ordered hospice and later that night she was transported back home where she was surrounded by her six children, three grandsons, her daughter-in-law, and me.
The next day another ten of our grandchildren, some with spouses, arrived and told her how much they loved her and how much she had impacted them. Alternatively, we prayed over her, sang (including, “In my Father’s House there are many mansions…”), told stories, laughed, cried, and sat in silence. Her slight responses let each one know she loved them and that she knew she was loved.
A caregiver, two nurses and a doctor attended and interacted with us as she grew dim…and then she was gone. My last moment with her, just the two of us, was at 3 am. I was able to whisper to her once more, as I did each evening, “You’re home; I’m here; I love you; I am so thankful for you; you are safe; He’s coming for you.” Somewhere between 3 and 4:30 am with her children sleeping on the floor around her, she slipped away. It was our youngest daughter Kathryn’s birthday.
NO—NOT THE END
That’s not the end of Sharon’s story. Jesus came that we might have life to the full…and so Sharon did, we did together. But Jesus also came that we might have eternal life…and Sharon does. Scripture tells us that Jesus died and rose again and that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. Scripture tells us that Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Scripture assures us that in the twinkling of an eye these perishable bodies will be raised from the dead imperishable.
The night following Sharon’s departure I was praying and pondering, “Lord, what took her? Was it the autoimmune condition? Was it the brain bleeds, the pneumonia, the falls? Was it an accumulation of all of these? Lord, what took her?” Then I was startled by a distinct voice I have heard from time to time along the way; I heard the voice of God himself say, “I did!”
I was filled with joy that it was God who took Sharon home, her eternal home, the one Jesus promised, and that Sharon will be with Him forever. I am filled with joy that Sharon is in what the Bible calls Heaven, that the Bible also calls “the Third Heaven” and “Paradise,” and as an Alan Jackson lyric says, “by the stars and moon, and past where no one sees…and she walks with Jesus…and her loved ones waiting”.
Because Sweet Sharon pointed me to Jesus, I will be there too. When I am, I will recognize her by her smile. Between then and now, I will seek to honor her, and I will continue to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us when He drew us to Himself, healed our marriage, and called us into His mission many years ago.
Grieving with gratitude, tears, hope, and joy,
Linus, our 6 children, our 17 grandchildren, and our 10 great grandchildren