"In His Feathers" Celebrates Life Lived to the Fullest
- Saturday, November 11, 2006
Author: James Calvin Schaap, Editor
Title: "In His Feathers"
Publisher: Dordt College Press
The opening of Erich Segal's novel "Love Story" asks the question, "What do you say about a girl who died?" – a question that came back to me as I tried to come up with a way to describe a very different kind of love story I recently read.
Instead of some fictional soap opera of lost love and remembrance, "In His Feathers: The Letters and Journals of Sharon Bomgaars" (Dordt College Press), tells a true story of how one Christian wife and mother dying of cancer confronts her fate, not with "rage against the dying of the light," but with thankful celebration of the glory of God's creation, His gifts of life and love, and every bit of light His grace affords until her final sunset.
"In His Feathers," edited and introduced by Iowa-based Christian author and Dordt College professor James Calvin Schaap, paints a poignant picture drawn from the journal pages of a Jackson, Mississippi, woman of faith, of how her own faith and the love of God and family helped sustain her during the tumultuous journey from a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 1999 to her death three years later. This important compilation details, in Bomgaar's own words, her thoughts, fears, and hopes; her pain, sorrows and joys, as well as her prayers and praises.
Sharon (Wagenaar) grew up in Iowa, where she also married Dennis Bomgaars, and where the two attended Dordt College together in Sioux Center. However, Sharon gave up her studies to become a mother; and after her husband graduated, they and their two children moved to Mississippi, where he attended Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, and she gave birth to two more children.
A devoted mom and homemaker, Sharon homeschooled all four of her kids through high school. She enjoyed her family, tending their healthy growth and development even more carefully than she tended the gardens, trees, and the birdhouses around their home. As an avid birdwatcher and nature enthusiast, Sharon loved the outdoors and was almost fanatical about proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, which was one of the reasons her cancer diagnosis at age 43 struck her as such an ironic surprise.
Not one to indulge in self-pity, Sharon faced her doctors' ominous prognosis with realism and determination. While not ruling out the possibility of a miracle, she saw the importance of teaching her kids how to accept whatever the Lord decides with humility, grace, and a thankful spirit. "When God's will seems so clear," she observed in her journals at one point, "I cannot dig in my heels and drag my feet. It seems best to me to talk with my children of my death, to prepare for it calmly, and to use this time to put my life in order and smooth the path for those I love."
Sharon Bomgaars – 1956 - 2002: "Only, I Am Not Weeping"
Also, Sharon consciously determined to make the most of the time she would have with her family, however long it might be and to establish some important memories for them to cherish in her absence. So she organized a series of "Make-a-Wish-type" trips to visit places and see sights she'd always dreamed of seeing, traveling more than 25,000 miles with family members to destinations across the United States and Canada.
Sharon said she took her inspiration for these trips from the prayer of Jepthah's daughter in Judges 11:37, whom when condemned to die asked that she be granted "two months to roam the hills and weep" with her friends. "Only, I am not weeping," she admitted in her journals.
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