Life was good. Loving husband. Two healthy, beautiful daughters–one was almost 4 years old, the other 1 ½. Caring, involved grandparents for my children. Thankfully, my husband’s job allowed me to stay home with the girls. I was blessed in many ways. It was summer and I was planning Kendall’s 4th birthday party: confirming guest lists, favors, cake, the works. On August 17, the day before Kendall’s birthday, I had just put the kids down for a nap. Ahhh, time to relax and wrap up the party planning. The phone had been ringing non-stop so I went to check who called. It was my dad. Just then he called again. I picked up the phone and listened to his trembling voice, “Stacey, it’s Gail (my mom). She’s on the kitchen floor. I’m waiting for an ambulance.” Fear pulsed through my entire body. I can’t even recall what I said. Then Dad added, “Stacey, she’s cold. I think she’s gone.”
Even now, tears fill my eyes as I think of that moment. The worst experience I could ever imagine was happening to me. But how? She’s only 62 years old. She still has so much love to give, so much life to live. Within the hour, it was confirmed—my mom was gone. Shock set in. Devastated and overwhelmed, I could barely grasp what had happened. How will I cope? Not only did I have to handle my own feelings, but I had to break the news to Gran (Mom’s Mom), and my children who adored their “MeeMaw.” Kendall didn’t understand. “But MeeMaw wanted to come to my party. She was on the list.” Of course she did. But God had other plans for her.
Over the next 12 months, in addition to Mom I lost 3 more family members. My faith remained strong through all of this and God drew me close. But with the loss of the fourth in less than a year, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why?” Why God? Why so much loss in such a brief period of time? How much can this family take? Amidst the sadness of losing so many, I was led to re-read hymns and Scriptures that comforted me after Mom left this earth. They reminded me that: 1) though I’m sad, our loved ones in heaven are anything but sad—they are forever in God’s glory, and 2) my life on this earth is a pilgrimage—it’s not my final destination. Life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever. God wants us to be with Him in heaven.
It was a very tough year, but I’ve come through these tragedies by the grace of God. He has lovingly taken my hand and led me through my valleys. I’d like to share two of the ways I was comforted during my grief journey (and it was a journey—it didn’t happen all at once).
First, I was comforted by others. Hugs, encouraging words, and loving support that friends and family gave. I specifically recall one sympathy card where a family friend wrote: I lost my mom at about your age. It took time, but I eventually realized that as much as I missed Mom, I would never wish her back to this earth for my benefit. What a beautiful thought. Heaven versus earth, I choose heaven for my mom. The timing was not what I would have chosen, but I trust God and His timing.
Second, I was comforted by generational faith. Faith passed down from Gran to Mom to me, and now to my daughters. Both Gran and Mom had an intimate love for God. This may be the most important legacy anyone can leave for their family. They planted the seeds of faith in their children. They lived their lives as godly examples of what it means to pursue Christ and love others, even when it’s hard. Both are gone now. They’re in heaven with their Savior. But somehow I know they’re smiling down on us. They will always be in our hearts. And I have the promise that I will see them both again because we put our faith in Jesus. Praise God for this eternal promise.
As the first year after Mom’s passing came to a close, I dreaded the “anniversary date” of her death. Tears flowed frequently just thinking about it. One day while crying, I felt God tell me—don’t dread this day, celebrate this day. Praise Him! I needed that nudge. Now we celebrate August 17 as my mom’s Heaven Birthday. We send up balloons to heaven with messages to Mom, and the girls blow kisses to their MeeMaw.
This week is the 4th Heaven Birthday for Mom. I no longer feel like I’ve lost my mom. What appeared to be a loss, well, it’s just a temporary separation. I celebrate where Mom is and embrace the promise through Christ Jesus that I will see her again.
I’d like to close with a comforting thought that was shared with me: Always remember, “Peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace is the presence of God.” I trust God and know He will continue to love and support me and my family. So even though the death of these loved ones represents a tragic loss for us, it’s a beautiful gain for them—for they are in heaven.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, there are people who can help you walk through your grief journey. One support group is GriefShare and they can be found at www.GriefShare.org .
May I pray?
Heavenly Father, thank you that You didn’t create us for earth, You created us for eternity with You. But we still have a part of us missing when someone we love dies and we’re left behind. Father, I ask a special blessing upon everyone mourning the loss of someone they love. May they come to You and find peace in Your presence. May they embrace the promise of heaven, where there will be no more pain and no more tears. Please comfort them with tender love today. Amen.
Q4U: Do you have a Rising Above Real Life story? You can encourage others by sharing the ups and downs of your journey. Please contact me at Joy@RisingAboveRealLife.com. Names can remain confidential.