Tribute: Deborah Swanson Webster

by Phil Johnson

Deep sadness and unbelief overwhelmed the husband and family of Deborah Webster at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota when Deb, the new mother, wife, daughter, and beloved relative died 12 hours after giving birth to Kelsey Marie Webster.

Unbelief and shock. Deb was a superbly conditioned person who played soccer relentlessly and ran marathons. Strong in every way, she had had no problems during her pregnancy.

Sadness. The sadness can hardly be imagined—at least by those of us who have never lost a child. Here was a new beautiful baby without her Mom. Here was a young husband, Justin, without a wife or mother for their daughter. Here was a father, David, for whom Deb was the apple of his eye. Here was her mother, Marion, for whom Deb was the love of her heart. Here were brothers Joel and Dan who thought it their calling to protect younger sister, Deb, all her life and here was Nikki, beloved sister-in-law. Here, too, were little nephew, David, and nieces, Arielle and Elizabeth. The dreadful absence was upon them all.

The funeral home Chapel was filled and people stood. We all wanted to give whatever we could to this family. Justin and the Swanson family were strikingly present and they welcomed each one. The pastor spoke of Love as God and God as Love. Her words were to the mark. Little Kelsey stayed home with Grandmother Webster. We were assured that Kelsey is beautiful and doing well. Proof of her beauty can be seen here.

People spoke about Deb as an expert on movies who had definite opinions about actors. In fact, folks agreed, she had definite opinions about many matters. She was eternally committed to the underdog and when injustice rankled her, she did not hesitate to make it known. Deb saw and did things with a clear eye and mind. Sally Johnson, a friend, asked: “What do we remember about a woman we love when she is gone?” Among other things she wrote:

“What it felt like to make her smile and how her whole upper body shook when she laughed real hard.”

“The look of disgust on her face when she saw injustice.”

“Her compassion for a person and the way it made her suddenly that much more beautiful.”

We mourn Deb’s loss of motherhood. She had a scant half-day as a mother and it was filled with the urgency of trying to stay alive. We pray that when Justin, the Swansons, and Kelsey experience a wave of the dreadful absence, they may find Deb’s blessing coming through her presence in the things she touched and did and may the light of Kelsey’s face cheer their hearts.

Phil Johnson is Editor Emeritus of Pietisten.

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