The morning began like any other many years ago. A shower, a bagel, a cup of tea. Death was near. I just didn’t know it . . . yet.
“Time to get up, Sweetie,” I told Laura. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Do you want to wear your purple sweater to preschool? It’s very cold outside.”
“OK, Mommy. Could I have toast for breakfast?”
“Sure.” I padded to the kitchen and grabbed the Butternut.
Steve called from the bathroom. “We need more shaving cream.”
Then the phone rang. A phone call, now? Strange. No one calls this early.
I answered and heard a woman’s voice, all business. Her words made no sense. My mom? Dead? Looks like a heart attack?
“Is this some kind of sick joke?” I blurted. The woman repeated the horrible words I didn’t want to believe. I dropped the phone and fell to my knees. Tears dripped from my chin.
Life is filled with losses. In John 16:33, Jesus promises that you and I will suffer. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.”
Your trouble could come from the outside: criticism, poor finances, illness, death. Your trouble might be inward: anxiety, brooding, self-pity, despair, grief. Either way, trouble and suffering hurt.
“We live in a fallen world and it often falls on us,” writes Bob Kellemen, Ph.D. in God’s Healing for Life’s Losses. “When it does, when the weight of the world crushes us, squeezes the life out of us, we need hope. Brilliantly, the apostle Paul deals simultaneously with grieving and hoping. Do not ‘grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13).”
After the Funeral
Fast forward two weeks.
Life seemed somewhat normal again after the funeral. I returned to work. Steve too. Laura asked fewer questions about Grandma Carol. On my insides, the suffering was bad. Crazy-bad. I knew I was grieving. I just never knew it could be this bad. I sped from “this can’t be real” to flat-out asking God, “Why did you kill my best friend? Didn’t you know I needed her?”
You may think my questions were irreverent. Maybe they were. I don’t know. I only knew that I hurt deeply and that my God is sovereign. He picked the hour of her death. He was responsible. I didn’t like him very much right then.
Have you been angry with God? Did you step closer to him? Or step away?
Fast forward a few months.
It was Mother’s Day and emotionally hard at church. The ushers handed out roses to moms. I gave mine to Laura. I held in my tears and wanted out of suffering. My days grew dark. My nights darker.
Fast forward a few more months.
I visited my mom’s gravesite and traced the words on the polished stoned with my finger, slowly: Carol Gale Kuper ~ November 7, 1931 – January 10, 1994 ~ Through Death Into Life. And I cried. Again.
Yet something was different. I was different.
You see, on this day as I touched the stone, I made the decision to hope, to live again. I no longer allowed sadness and anger to rule my thoughts and feelings. I put them in the safe hands of God, the same God whom I accused of killing my mom, my best friend. He didn’t kill her; he called her home to heaven. When have you experienced a God-given breakthrough in understanding who he is and what he’s doing? How has this brought you peace?
God loves . . .
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (ESV)
Death visited my family again last September. My older brother died unexpectedly. He had been drinking and tumbled down a flight of stairs. The medical examiner completed an autopsy and in the preliminary report, there was a suggestion of heart problems. I haven’t bothered to obtain the final death certificate. It would only confirm what really matters. Ted is gone.
When my mom died I had hope I’d see her again in heaven. As best as I know, she had belief in Jesus, and belief is what truly matters.
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24 (NIV)
But when Ted died, I had no peace that Ted is with the Lord. Yet I have confidence in God that, whether Ted is with the Lord or separated from him, the Righteous One, who knows everything perfectly, knows my brother’s heart. I’ve prayed through the years that Ted would believe in Jesus, and perhaps, in his final moments, he called out to Jesus. I hold this thought tight.
What about you and your loved ones—do you anticipate the joy of seeing them in heaven? Is there someone with whom you could share the love of Jesus today?
Whether you’ve lost a mom, a sibling, or someone else dear to you, please be kind to yourself. It’s OK to ask questions. It’s good to grieve. “In suffering, God is not getting back at you; he is getting you back to himself,” Kellemen shares.
A few ideas:
- Open up to a caring person.
- Listen to music that soothes your soul.
- Look at photos.
- Remember happy times.
- Remember sad times.
- Talk to God about deep things.
- Expect days that are tougher than others.
When meaningful dates approach—the loved one’s birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or any day that has special significance to you—expect your emotions to fly any which way. You may be sad for no apparent reason, or you may be quick to yell.
Reminders of death may mess with you too.
A friend told me a story that he had become very upset when his young son’s pet duck died. He couldn’t figure out why he was distraught. He wasn’t attached to the duck. It was just a duck, he said. As we talked, I learned that he and his wife had a baby who died in utero a few years before. His mind made a connection between the duck’s death and his baby. He still grieved.
And that’s okay.
Welcome grief. God understands. He wants to comfort you.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3–5 (NIV)
photo credit: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon – Feral Pigeon via photopin (license)