In Memory of Mike Gower
I first met Mike back in 1991. He and Caroline had taken on the Resident Directorship for the men’s dorm at Simpson College and none of us knew then how much their presence would impact our lives. We knew him then only as Gower, the big voiced, gregarious general with a strong handshake and a ready laugh, but we soon knew him as the compassionate, loving, wise and patient mentor who directed young men and women into a deeper life with God.
I remember being a resident assistant under his leadership, learning more about what it meant to serve others from him than I did in many of my theology courses. He was an artisan with relationship, becoming the right person at the right time for each person under his care. His prayers were insightful, purposeful, and always available. He loved Caroline “as Christ loves the church” where all of us could see it and aspire to the same love.
I remember visiting Mike in the hospital the day after his open heart surgery with a fellow resident assistant to see how he was doing. He spent most of our visit asking about how everyone was doing in the dorms. He seemed indestructible, focusing his will on getting back to what and who he loved.
I remember the premarital counseling sessions that he did with Molly and me, challenging us to love each other more every day. He pushed us to ask the hard questions and encouraged us to accept the hard answers. He helped us lay a good foundation for a life together and we are both very grateful.
Choices and changes took our family away from Redding and the Gowers, but each time we returned we looked forward to seeing them and re-connecting. And each time they made us feel like the connection had always been there, strong and true and genuine. We finally moved back to Redding a few years ago and stepped back through the doors of our old church, Risen King, to be greeted again by Mike.
It was good to feel that handshake again, strong and true and genuine. Mike put as much love into a single handshake as many people put into their deepest friendship. If you were fortunate, his handshake would be followed closely by a hug from Caroline, God’s love and joy in each gracious embrace. Together they not only welcomed people into a service, they extended an invitation to belong and be loved. I don’t know if there are greeters in Heaven, but I certainly know someone who can do the job.
I miss Mike. It will be some time before the sore spot in my heart and spirit go away, but if that is the worst I have to suffer for having called him friend, so be it. My prayer is that I will not forget that handshake and the loving attitude of service that was extended with each simple greeting. I hope that someday I can have that same love and grace toward others. I want my marriage to be a reflection of God’s love for His people. I want to be like Mike.