Concordia Seminary Newsroom
Sharing a Love of God Through Words
by Melanie Ave
Linda Koch met her husband, Bill — the love of her life — while working on her English degree at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 1970. She was in her senior year and about to start student teaching. He was home for a few months, awaiting word on a draft letter for the Vietnam War. His father was Rev. Alton Koch, who was pastor of a Lutheran church across from the student union and a 1937 graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. “It was a real God thing as we were in the same place at the same time for all of about three months,” she recalls. “That was sufficient. I then learned what it was to be a Lutheran.”
Linda and Bill’s love for one another grew and they married a few months later. Fast forward in time. The couple began their life together in San Diego where Bill had begun his career as a financial planner with General Dynamics. They had two sons, and Linda became a stay-at-home mom. They enjoyed life together as a family and later as a retired couple as they remained committed to their church family at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Poway, Calif.
After Bill’s death in 2022, Linda — in honor of her father-in-law and the faithful Lutheran pastors she has had through the years — established an endowment to support student scholarships at the Seminary and an endowment to help the Seminary create a future faculty pipeline. “What an exciting thing to be a part of,” she says. “It was a real gift … and so uplifting to be in a position to do that.”
As a special treat to our readers, enjoy this excerpt of a devotional she wrote, which is included in a collection of devotions that were published this summer by Lutheran Women in Mission, Life After … Devotions for Widows.
“I love words. I love God’s Word and they go together very well,” she says.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). In the eyes of the world, April 4, 2022, was the day I lost my husband. Bill went to sleep as always Sunday night, April 3, after a completely normal day of worship with Holy Communion, reading the paper, taking a walk, enjoying a supper of homemade chicken noodle soup with me and watching some television. At 7 a.m. Monday, April 4, I discovered that he had completed his days here on earth (Ps. 139:16) and had awakened in heaven. Although this was a total shock to me and our family, we knew without a doubt where he was, as we — and he — trusted God’s promises to welcome His faithful servant home.
Bill was not lost, but enjoying eternity with His Savior and all the saints in heaven (Rom. 6:23). In my grief, however, I did feel a bit lost, although I certainly felt the power of the prayers being lifted for me and my family, and often felt that I was being carried on them as I and my family planned the memorial service, wrote Bill’s obituary and dealt with banks, insurance, our attorney and other seemingly endless tasks. But I still struggled with the new and unwanted title of widow. I felt like a juggler trying to take care of all the details that required my attention … and also have time to come to grips with this surreal but all too real death of my husband and partner of nearly 52 years.
I looked to other widows in our congregation. One practice I noticed was the wearing of their husband’s wedding ring as a necklace — a simple way to keep his memory close. So I found a silver chain, put Bill’s ring on it and determined to wear it day and night. It was a comfort. A few weeks later, a friend invited me to lunch after church on Sunday. She had been widowed for some years. After lunch, I was horrified to notice that the chain holding Bill’s ring had broken and the ring was gone! My friend, Marilyn, and I searched the restaurant and the area around the car in the parking lot but found nothing. We looked again in the church parking lot where she had left her car, but again came up empty. With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I realized that it was lost, and I had very little chance of finding this memento that helped me feel a connection with my husband.
I grieved that loss, praying to God to help me either find the ring or accept the loss. Another week went by, then another couple of days with no sign of the lost ring. Life went on with all the usual activities. On Tuesday, I visited a dear friend and on the way home had a thought that I should stop at the restaurant where I had discovered the loss to see if they had found it. No, they had not. I bought lunch to go, and had another thought that the parking lot where I had met Marilyn was also on my way home. When I pulled in … I half-heartedly looked around, but saw no ring. Again, a thought popped up in my head, reminding me that I had first parked at the other end of the lot. I started looking in the area and had yet another thought — almost like a voice — saying, “Things don’t roll uphill. Turn around!” I turned, took two steps, and there was Bill’s ring! Weeping tears of joy, my knees nearly buckling at this gift from God, I retrieved it from its dusty resting place and thanked God through my tears for this wonderful reminder of His grace-filled love for me, a love so personal that He directed my thoughts and my steps to the exact place where what was lost could be found.
I carefully placed Bill’s ring in a secure pocket, vowing to find a better way to keep it. I took the ring to our family jeweler to ensure that it was cleaned, polished and properly secured, and ended up with a treasured reminder of the closeness I shared with my husband and also of the closeness of my Heavenly Father, whose love sees my every need, guides and directs me, and who never loses any of His children. I may not wear this memento every day, but I will never forget how God blessed me through this experience, strengthening my faith and trust in the promise of His Son Jesus to be with me always.
*Note: This version of “Found, Not Lost” has been edited for length by Concordia Seminary magazine.