I wrapped up part one of this story after I told you about the 200 tulip bulbs I had finished planting on an unseasonably warm Veteran’s Day in 2001. As I put the last few bulbs in the ground and cleaned up my gardening tools for the year (again), I had absolutely no idea the significance that this day would bring to me in just a few short weeks.
Veteran’s Day came and went and the reality that the holidays were upon us turned my attention, full force, in preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our children at that time were 15, 12 and 9, so our schedules were busy, busy, busy and organization was needed to maintain any kind of sanity. Maintaining our sanity during these years and the following teenage years might be open for debate!
Thanksgiving had now come to pass and late November was upon us. I went to bed one night completely exhausted but not able to fall asleep. I tossed and turned and tossed and turned some more. I remember laying there thinking about a family in our church who had lost a teenage son in a car accident just a few weeks earlier. My heart was heavy for them and the grief they were experiencing. Their lives had been turned upside down in the blink of an eye and I could not imagine their pain. I grew more and more restless and I just could not fall asleep. God’s Spirit nudged me. The thought to get up and pray entered my mind. Most of the time I have to pray out loud. Otherwise my mind gets distracted and the next thing I know, I’m running the next day’s schedule through my mind. I didn’t want to bother my hubby, so I got up and went to the living room to pray.
To pray for the people and lives that had been forever changed by this tragic loss. I tried to wrap my head around the indescribable grief and heartache this family was feeling. I remember thinking, how does this family lose a child, grandchild, brother, and find the desire to even get out of bed? How do you lose someone you love so much and not let the grief absolutely consume you? How does a parent lose a child and smile or laugh again? How does a person experience such grief and ever start doing “normal” things again? The lists in my mind went on and one. The only conclusion I could come to and begin to reconcile any of this, was God. God’s mercy. God’s grace. God’s compassion. God’s love. God’s presence. God’s loving kindness. God the Father. God the Son. God the Spirit. I knew that God and only God would be the answer to all those questions. I also knew that this family knew God. They didn’t just know OF Him, they KNEW HIM in a very personal way. This family, including their son, knew Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This family knew that they were sinners in need of a savior. They had put their trust in Jesus, turned their lives over to Him and followed hard after Him. Did this fact take their grief away? Not one bit! But, it gave them HOPE! Grieving with hope is an incredible gift.
WHILE GRIEF REMAINS, HOPE SUSTAINS.
HOPE LOOKS FORWARD WITH
CONFIDENCE THAT GOD’S PROMISES ARE TRUE.
My thoughts shifted to our own family. I knew if our family ever had to endure this kind of grief, God would be the lifter of our heads and the catcher of our tears. I made a request to my Heavenly Father that night. I asked Him to hold us close, and cover us with His compassion and love should something like this happen to our family.
I knew that the only way our family could bear the weight of death was through the power imparted to us through the relationship we have, with the One who has overcome death. I knew the relationship I had with Jesus would not make grief easy, but I prayed that night that He would sustain me with His righteous right hand if I find myself in a season of grief.
As I prayed for our family, a new heaviness gripped my heart. Michelle. Michelle was my younger sister by 4 years. Michelle was the spirited, adventurous type who let nothing or no one hold her back from what she set her mind to. Brave. Strong willed. Passionate about the causes close to her heart. All in, all the time. She lived outside the box and was her own person. Confident. Smart. Energetic. Spunky. Opinionated. She did not follow the beaten path, but blazed her own trail. A fantastic Aunt who loved my children with her whole heart. I admired her for these traits, many of which I did not possess.
So, why did Michelle bring a heaviness to my heart? She had abandoned Christianity. She had turned her back on God. She was embracing and putting her hope in something other than Jesus Christ. This burdened my heart. I had tried a few times to talk to Michelle about Jesus. I tried to explain to her that there was a HUGE difference between the legalistic ways of religion and Christ. I tried telling her that Christ wanted a relationship. I wrote her a letter once, pouring my heart out to her over this matter. It was met with silence, lingering ongoing deafening silence.
So in this night of sleeplessness, I prayed passionately and fervently for my sister and her husband. I prayed scripture over them, I prayed and prayed some more. I asked God to soften their hearts and remove the veil from their eyes so that they may recognize Jesus Christ and their need for Him in their lives. I told God that night, that should anyone in my family pass away, I wanted to be able to grieve with HOPE. When I stopped praying and lifted my head, the clock had moved ahead 3 hours. I returned to bed hoping to get some sleep.
Continued and concluded in part 3 of this series