It was a Friday morning. I was running late for work because I had stayed out late on Thursday night on a date with Sarah. Mom had babysat for us that night as she did so often. I remember coming home after our date to find mom asleep on the couch. She sat up in a haze of stupor when I walked in the room and I asked her (in a pitch of fun), “were you sleeping”. She replied in that same haze, “I don’t know”. We laughed as she spent the next 15 minutes regaining consciousness, readying herself for her drive home. It was about 11 o’clock. As she stepped out our front door I told her to drive safely. Those were my last words to my mom.
That Friday as I was driving into the office down Lawyers Road approaching Wilgrove/Lebanon dad called. “Your mom is dead” he said. The first register in my brain was that she was “dead tired” after staying at our house so late. Dad clarified, “your mom is dead”. Like a ton of bricks. That’s what it felt like. Shock descended upon me in waves- quick waves that would not let up. One after another the wave of news splashed over my mind that could not settle on the reality of this truth. It was hard to breathe. I pulled into the first parking lot I could find to hear the news and to compose myself enough to keep my car between the lines. Then I headed home.
When I got back to the house Sarah was having a hard time with the kids. I pulled her into our bedroom and hugged her tight as I told her the news. Disbelief. That’s the best way to describe it. How could this happen so suddenly? I headed over to dad’s house to help make phone calls. I called my brothers and mom’s best friend. I walked in the den, kissed my mom on the head and said goodbye before I made my way into dad’s office where he had settled in for the day. One by one people came bringing coolers of food and flowers and condolences. That was a hard day.
It has been ten months now. The fastest ten months I’ve ever experienced. Most days I don’t think about the loss, or experience the grief. For some reason this past week has been especially hard. My brothers all came to town for Labor Day weekend with their families. We had a good time together, but our loss was palpable. The new reality in which we live is so very different. Mom was our prayer warrior. She was so selfless- always thinking about us and how we were doing; always going the extra mile for our kids. Mom was always there for us- and suddenly now, she isn’t.
I used to quote the verse from 1 Thessalonians 4 when speaking with a grieving family or individual, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope”. This is a great verse that reminds us of our hope in Jesus even after death, but honestly, despite the truth of this verse, it didn’t bring me any comfort. Comfort is what I needed. Grief and loss- these were my friends now. I didn’t need truth. Mom is in heaven with Jesus. She’s in a better place. I’ll see her again one day… I got it. What I needed were people who cared for me to just hug me and love me and tell me they care. That’s what I received at my church, and from my former church. People were so relentless in their compassion and kindness. I cried like a baby in the arms of Dan Shearer and Jan Myers. It was two months before I got my last card in the mail. The love was overwhelming.
I’m not sure why I’m having a hard time this week, or why I’m balling my eyes out while I type this. I guess I’m still feeling loss and grief and I don’t know what else to do with it. What I do know is that I have people who love me and who weep with me. Not necessarily because they feel my loss, but because they know I do. I long to be that empathetic; to sense and care more about what and how people are feeling. I’m thinking now that I will change the verse I use when comforting people in grief, and even though it’s the shortest verse in the Bible I’ve found it gives me great comfort. As Jesus visited with his friends from Bethany, Mary and Martha, and seeing their grief after losing their brother Lazarus, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). It’s so comforting to know that I serve a God who weeps with me when I mourn, even as He is fully aware of the truth of mom’s new glory.