Today, somebody, somewhere is commemorating the passing of someone dear to them. They are wiping tears and trying to swallow grief before it swallows them. They are sad and maybe even bitter.
For the rest of us, it’s just Wednesday.
We must keep in mind, the shadows we pass on the sidewalk every day are carrying their own weight, and many times it’s more than we ourselves could bear.
My cousin, Lisa Weddle, wrote about her boys, Cain and Cole (the two handsome gentlemen in the bottom of the picture), who both passed away as young men, nine months apart:
“When it first happened, at times the grief was so bad that dying seemed like an easier solution than trying to live without them. If we had done things differently, would they still be alive? All the should-haves, would-haves and could-haves made no difference now, however, because they were both gone and nothing would ever bring them back. For months I went to church on a consistent basis, but I still had so much guilt and condemnation that I needed set free from. I needed to forgive myself for all my past mistakes. In May, 2014 I attended a women’s conference, Ashes to Beauty, and was set free from all the guilt and condemnation. I had an encounter with God and I knew from that point on I was moving forward. God has taken my ashes and given me a crown of beauty; instead of mourning I now have a joyous blessing and I no longer live in despair. My life is filled with praise.”
When I was working at the Assemblies of God Headquarters in the early 2000s, a co-worker forwarded a prayer request for her nephew, Travis (top-right of the picture), who was in his early 20s and dying of cancer. His mom, Mari, also worked in the building, and it honestly flabbergasted me that this wonderful lady was carrying so much fear and grief inside her. I never even knew. For reasons still unknown to me, I wrote him a poem—which I framed and gave to his family, and was told he kept near his bed until he died—and made him a mix-CD of my favorite uplifting songs. His story touched me deeply.
I only met my young brother one time, but we embraced as family, and I greatly mourned his passing a few months later. He was gone at twenty-five. So much life to live.
This is a family member speaking about Travis:
“I think of him often and fondly and wonder what he would be like today. I celebrate my birthday on the day he went home. Away from the hospitals and doctors, and pain and suffering. We were blessed to know and love him and I know he’s watching over us every day. And it is a pretty decent birthday gift to know his spirit is healthy and happy. Miss you Trav.”
I work at a Christian college which specializes in correspondence courses, and it was here I began talking to a man who would go on to become a great friend to me. Pastor Mike Singo and his wife, Tammy, had their 18-year-old son, Nate (pictured top-middle) taken from them quite unexpectedly in a 2011 car crash. Though it was six years ago, the wounds are still fresh, and to the Singo’s, it might as well have been yesterday.
Here are some gripping words from Tammy about her son:
“I’m so happy Nate came into our lives…. even for the short time he was allowed to stay. We will never be free of the ache until heaven. This is the worst pain to this point I’ve ever endured. We suffer in different ways every day, the three of us (his dad, his older brother Matt, and me). We mourn every day, all day. I don’t know if he remembers much of his old life here but I remember every second. Our hearts were ripped out in a matter of minutes and it won’t be mended until heaven. So I am mad. I’m mad my son is not here. I’m mad I wasn’t there with him on that horrible road. I’m mad at the young man who was driving the other car. I was mad at God. I’m mad my son, Matt, doesn’t have his best friend to share the rest of their lives together. I’m mad my husband is grieving and I’m mad my family also grieves. I’m mad I can’t hug Nate anymore or see him off to college or get married. He didn’t even get to graduate high school. I’m mad I have to wait to see him… I’m mad. Just mad! I’m mad that family photos are sad times. I’m mad that Christmas and the holidays are sad because there is an empty seat. I’m mad I can’t give him a card or gift on birthdays. I’m mad I have to say, ‘Happy Birthday in Heaven, Nate.’ I know he’s good up there but I’m mad he isn’t here. I’m mad. I’m held to a flame every day of my life. So my day will go on and this month will end and then soon it will be 2018…another year without him…. but one more year closer to Heaven. Yes, I’m mad, but God isn’t shocked by my emotions; He created me. He’s my Father and I can talk to him bluntly. Nate left a mark, he left a legacy. What are you going to leave for the ones who love you now? I have anger issues at times, (and I want) to lash out and hurt certain people… but I can’t. The grief in me is so strong but God’s strength and love in me is stronger. He is the reason I’m still here. I’m barely surviving this but the key is that I am surviving.. my husband, my son and I are surviving!!!!!”
I met Bookie when my family visited his mom, Christy’s, family at a barbecue a couple years ago. He’s the one pictured top-left. He was in a wheelchair, his spine twisted in a way that made my chronic back pain seem trivial. One thing about this man, however, is that he always seemed to be smiling. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, yet Christy would carry on an entire conversation with him. Amazing.
He passed just a few months after our visit. My family and I went to the hospital while he was making his transition, and Christy was playing Bookie’s favorite song, “Life Is A Highway,” by Tom Cochrane. She had the song on repeat, so it played over and over and over, as the family prayed for a miracle that never came. The angels welcomed him home a few hours later, and for the first time, Bookie was able to run and play in the fields of the Lord.
Christy speaks her mind about Bookie: “It tears my heart to shreds and haunts me all the time. I never wanted this day to come. He took so much of me when he left; my heart, my soul, my joy, everything. I haven’t been the same since. I ask myself, ‘How can I live without you?’ Then God takes my hand and leads me through the day. Son, know that no matter what, you still live in me. OMG! I wish you were here. You have been healed and made whole. You deserve that. Miss you, son, more than you will ever know. Wait for me and I will be there soon. Love you more than all the words in all the books in all the world.”
So, I implore you, hug the ones you love today. Laugh with them, and don’t take even one second for granted.
When grief comes calling, like an unhallowed beast, remember that somewhere, someone is fighting the same villain, and winning. Remember Bookie, Nate, Travis, Cain and Cole, and remember Christy, Mike and Tammy, Mari, and Rick and Lisa have warred successfully against the monster, GRIEF, for years.
This burdensome fiend will only destroy you if you let him. You must go to battle, for your own survival.
So fight him with joy. Fight him with laughter. Fight him with happiness. Fight with smiles and kisses. Fight him with love. Fight him with the peace only God can give; a peace so calming, so reassuring, no human mind can comprehend it.
And remember the young.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).”
“The Lord is there to rescue all who are discouraged and have given up hope (Psalm 34:18).”
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [healing their pain and comforting their sorrow] (Psalm 147:3).”
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you (Matthew 5:4).”