Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 4, 1960
NUMBER 13, PAGE 2-3b

Her Final Gift


A traveling editor does work in many strange and unusual places. This article is being written (not written, exactly, but composed in my mind; it will be reduced to written form next week after I have reached my destination) as I travel in a tiny compact car over the towering ridge of the continental divide. Roy Cogdill, seated beside me, is driving the car. We spent last night in Denver, and are now crossing the snow-capped Rockies over famous Loveland Pass, headed toward Paonia, Colorado, where I am to start a gospel meeting tomorrow morning. (Today is Saturday, July 2.)

One week ago today Roy and I, along with several hundred others, looked for the last time upon the pitifully thin and pain marked features of the woman who had been his companion for more than a third of a century. She died just four weeks short of their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. For more than three months prior to her death, she had lived in constant agony, dying by inches; while Roy in anguished desperation had watched some of the greatest medical specialists on earth wage a futile and losing battle for her life. He had maintained a constant vigil at her side, alternating between brief hours of hope and crushing days of utter despair.

And now the battle is ended. Under the blue skies of Texas and surrounded by the "big pines" of Angelina Country, all that is mortal of Loraine Cogdill will await that final call. She was not afraid of death; indeed, for many weeks before her life ebbed out was obvious that her only regret at bidding farewell to this world was the heartache and desolation which she knew her going would bring to those she loved.

And What Of Roy?

As I ride beside him this beautiful summer day, climbing steadily ever higher and higher into the majestic Rockies, then coming down through the awesome grandeur of Glenwood Canyon, I marvel at his self-control. His marriage with Loraine was a supremely happy one and some of his friends have expressed the fear that her death might completely destroy him, rob him of all will to live or concern for things of this life. Their anxiety is needless. This man has preached the gospel of Christ too long, and has felt its power too much in his own soul ever to sorrow "as the rest who have no hope." His heart is broken, to be sure; but his life is not shattered. He has work to do, a service to God which must be discharged. No personal grief, however poignant, can blind his eyes to that duty. As the endless miles of highway ribbon out beneath the wheels of our tiny Karmann Ghia". Roy keeps singing over and over again the words of an old, old hymn, "Walk Beside Me." It was a song he often heard his widowed mother sing as she worked about the house. It was sung at Loraine's funeral. I know he is oblivious of my presence as he softly sings to himself. I feel a lump in my throat, but I say nothing. I know he is not only singing, but from the depth of a tortured soul he is praying for strength, pleading for God's help.

For thirty-five years Loraine's chief interest in life had been her husband's work. She took a fierce pride in his strength, his ability, and his great usefulness in the cause of Christ. So closely were her religion and her marriage intermingled that it might be hard to tell where one stopped and the other began. She loved Roy because he loved the Lord; she accepted joyfully whatever sacrifice or hardship might be necessary to further his work. For in loyally supporting the work of her husband, she was faithfully serving Christ. Far more than most of their friends ever realized, Roy depended on her and was strengthened and encouraged by her through the years.

Am I being fanciful to suggest that she may have made the greatest contribution of her life to Roy's usefulness in these last four months of her life — months of physical agony for her, and of mental and spiritual anguish for Roy almost beyond description. For many years Roy Cogdill has been recognized as one of the greatest preachers of our generation; but the sorrow and grief that now come into his life may well change that greatness into true genius. And those who hear him henceforth may thrill to the kind of preaching that few mortals are ever privileged to hear. We are told that the Son of God was "made perfect through suffering"; and no one can deny that suffering, endured with the right spirit and understanding, can immeasurably enrich and strengthen a child of God. Perhaps, under God's providence, Loraine has crowned her life of devotion to Roy with the greatest gift of all — a broken heart and the true greatness that can come only from suffering. Roy has preached often through the years of heaven, of the glories of the world to come, and of the blessed hope of the Christian. But those same sermons now from his lips will have a ring of reality about them that they could never have had before. For heaven has become infinitely more real to Roy now that it could ever have been before. And the help that God can give his children in their suffering will be a matter of firsthand knowledge with him. For many years, with Loraine beside him, he has preached these truths with power and conviction. But now he will preach them not only with power and conviction, but with the pathos and deep feeling that can come only from suffering. Somehow, I conceive that his towering determination to reach heaven, his total dedication to God and His cause, will communicate itself to his hearers.

Well, these are the thoughts that keep going through my mind as Roy and I cross the Rockies. There are long silences between us, broken now and then by varied bits of conversation — much of it about Loraine, much of it about the future of the church, and the responsibilities and obligations that lie ahead. The high mountain peaks, still having great patches of snow upon them, give a sense of serenity (and eternity); the soft fleecy clouds drift through the skies. Roy is remarkably calm. He seeks to hide his grief, and only once or twice have I seen the tears in his eyes. I am not sure that is good. Perhaps it would be better if he gave expression to the overwhelming sorrow that grips him. Last night in the Denver motel when the lights were out and we alone I heard him weeping softly to himself. He thought I was asleep, but I was not. My heart ached to speak some word of comfort, but I held my peace. Any word spoken would have been an intrusion on his grief. There is a healing in tears that cannot come from words, no matter how well spoken or how well intended.

Our journey is nearly ended. We have crossed the divide, passed through the mighty chasm of Glenwood, traveled on through the valley of the Colorado River into Grand Junction and Delta. We have now turned back toward the mountains and the little village of Paonia is only a few miles away. Roy will stay with me here over the week-end (and longer if I can persuade him), and then will head back toward Texas — back to an empty house, but not to an empty life. He has known great happiness and now he has an overwhelming sense of loss; but his life has a purpose and a meaning far transcending any personal joy or sorrow which may be his lot. Like the aged apostle to the Gentiles he can say, "But I hold not my life of any account as dead unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." So may it be with all those who love and serve the Lord.

F. Y. T.