In terms of bad news, this has been a rough week. Many people I know and love are going through some tough times. Times of uncertainty. Of pain. Of grief. Of fear. Cancer, car accidents, unknown illnesses and symptoms. The heartache of trials in this life are more than we bear during these times.
The shooting at Parliament on Wednesday shook many Canadians to the core. The rug has been pulled out from under our feet. The rug of security and safety is gone. If random shootings can happen to our government in Canada, it can happen anywhere. If you are like me, you realized it was only a matter of time before our beloved nation experienced the loss of an innocent life from a public shooting. Where will it happen next?
But despite these terrible things, I choose not to fear. When I begin to think about what kind of world my kids are growing up in, I choose not to be afraid. When I wonder which one of my family members will be struck next with a life threatening illness, I choose not to live in fear of the enemy.
Although the shooting at Parliament this week did not turn my world upside down as it did for many others, I have experienced pain and loss that changed my reality in a drastic way.
When my sister-in-law called my in-laws place on Christmas day evening 2010 to say that my mom had taken a turn for the worse, I knew it was bad. I knew from those words came the possibility that she wouldn’t make it. After giving quick instructions to my in-laws on how to care for our two kids while we were away, Jonathan and I raced to the car and sped off toward the Clinton hospital.
A few minutes into the trip, I broke down. How could this be happening? I said out loud, “I thought she was going to be ok.” She had to be ok. I had no idea my visit with her the previous day would be my last. Although it was confirmed that a heart attack had occurred, I knew many people survived it and I assumed she was going to be one of them.
During the first hour and a half into the two-hour trip, I looked up at the sky and had a heart-wrenching conversation with God. I kept my eyes glued to the stars and I begged for him to let her live. I needed her. I couldn’t live without her. God, in his gentle voice, quietly answered, “Yes, you can.” But…
During that car ride in the cold, clear night, I had gone through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Yup, even acceptance. About a half hour before we arrived at the hospital, a peace had overcome me. I felt warm. I knew it was going to be ok. No, I knew deep down inside it might not be ok, but I knew I could face whatever it was waiting for me at the hospital. I was really hoping it wasn’t the end, but I wasn’t afraid. God had assured me he was with me and he was all I needed.
As you already know, the news wasn’t good when we arrived. My brother-in-law stayed behind to wait for us and broke the terrible news. I remember saying something like, “I know.” He was surprised that I knew she had died even though no one was able to reach me during the car ride (for some reason, my cell phone never rang even though I was being called!?). I was prepared. This “hashing out” I had with God in the car prepared my heart for the terrible pain that I was to encounter in the next few hours, days, months, and years. I am so thankful for that feeling of peace before I entered the scene of knowing the person I was so close to had died.
Yes, the rug had been pulled. My mom and I were very close. As close as a mother and daughter can get. Because I grew up several years behind my other siblings, I was alone with my parents for a large part of my childhood. My mom and I were friends and I loved being with her. She was a person who made you feel comfortable instantly and she cared about what was going on in your life. My friends always enjoyed coming over and hanging out with my mom. My mom never hesitated to share her struggles and her sins. She was open about her relationships with others and with God. She was the one I went to for wisdom and for advice (although she’d give it to you whether you wanted to hear it or not). Even that week before she died, we had hung out, shared a recipe over email and she tried to give some advice over the phone on potty training.
I didn’t think I could live with out her. I really didn’t. She was so much a part of my everyday life, I just couldn’t imagine it. But here I am. Almost 4 years later and I am a living testimony to God’s great love and faithfulness. What I did discover after her death? That God is the only constant. He is the only being that never changes and he will never leave us. For me to put so much weight on another person is foolish. They can be taken away at any time and what is left? Memories. But these too can fade with time. The only thing left is not another human relationship, but my relationship with God. He is the only thing in this world that will remain.
This is why I do not fear. When I hold on to earthly things too tightly: my relationships, my husband, my children, my things, I recognize the danger and I try, with His help, to loosen my grip. I have to gaze at the stars once more and realize that God owns these things, not me. He is in control, not me. It is liberating. It helps me face the terrible news, whatever it may be, with confidence, that our world belongs to God.
(A song we sang in church this morning):
In Sweet Communion, Lord, with You
In sweet communion, Lord, with thee
I constantly abide;
My hand you hold within your own
To keep me near your side.
Your counsel through my earthly way
Shall guide me and control,
And then to glory afterward
You will receive my soul.
Whom have I, Lord, in heaven but you,
To whom my thoughts aspire?
And, having you, on earth is there
I can desire?
Though flesh and heart should faint and fail,
The Lord will ever be
The strength and portion of my heart,
My God eternally.
To live apart from God is death;
‘Tis good his face to seek;
My refuge is the living God;
His praise I long to speak.