What seemed like a normal stop in the laundry room last week turned out to be a devastating downpour. This is the challenge in losing a loved one. One little photo can spark a thousand emotions…
Growing up a lonely only was super swell in my book. My petite universe swirled around me. No wonder sharing wasn’t in my vocabulary. (Can you say, “spoiled”?)
My Mother and Father married in 1952, but I wasn’t born until 1960. After eight long years of waiting, who wouldn’t be fearful of a brand new baby girl? I still believe they had no idea what to do with me.
(Note most of our pictures were either of Daddy and me or Mother and me as with the three of us, who else would take the picture? Please don’t miss Daddy’s very svelte argyle socks. This was 1960. My sweet sister-in-law got all our boys rockin’ with svelte socks last Christmas. Yeah, 2015. Thank you, Nordstrom Rack.)
Mom and Dad perfected helicopter parenting, not wanting a scratch or a bruise to mar my little self. The day I rode my Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon down our neighbor’s hill, crashing on the asphalt in our driveway, depositing some skin on the pavement, freaked us all out. Odd, there was no flying in that wagon.
Once in school, I began inviting friends over. Many of them were lonely onlies too.
God provided the best kind of friend directly across the street from us. She was ultra cool because she came with the bonus of having two older brothers. They were boy scouts and there was nothing they couldn’t do. Each visit was a new lesson.
Her name is Meredith Myers. She and I are only one year apart, so for several years, we’d ride our bikes together to Glendover Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky. God graciously protected us because we never paid attention to cars near us as we talked non-stop all the way to and from school.
(Note these little girls are wearing helmets. Helmets weren’t invented back in our day. Yes, we are old.)
Meredith’s parents and mine also became close friends and “those were the days” as they say. Elementary School evolved into “Junior High” (now Middle School), on into High School.
Meredith and I went to different colleges, but we managed to visit each other, staying in touch. We married three weeks apart and were in each other’s weddings. She and her husband settled in Nashville while John and I settled in Louisville.
Meredith lost her parents first. Both deaths seemed too early and too sudden. Thankfully, we were able to trust in a Sovereign God.
Two favorite Scriptures which help are:
My folks stayed in their home, still across the street from where the Myers lived, as long as they could. Multiple illnesses plus my Dad having a stroke landed them in an Assisted Living facility in Lexington.
Unfortunately that was a short term band-aid, causing us to move them to Louisville into a nearby nursing home. Our three boys swear they’ve never moved so much furniture so many times. God bless their strong backs.
Daddy had a heart attack that ultimately took his life, followed by a seventeen-month progression of health deterioration in my Mother. “Only the Lord” is how we answer the question of, “How did we survive those difficult years?”
Deuteronomy 31:6 is one of our favorite “life-lines”:
“So be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will never fail you nor abandon you.” (NLT) Somehow that little word “panic” resonates. But look at the promise that follows…God will go ahead of us, never failing nor abandoning us. Isn’t that the best?
Many of our friends are losing their parents too. I find myself buying sympathy cards by the box.
Visitations and funerals are not at the top of my list of most desirable activities, but of course, who wouldn’t go for a friend? The greater challenge of attending these services is offering the right words of condolence. Not a gift of mine, rest assured.
I’m embarrassed to admit that often, the bereaved winds up comforting me because I’ve dissolved into a puddle of tears. Thus, I’ve resorted to borrowing words of encouragement from a few of my favorite authors: Max Lucado, Bob Russell and Kerry and Chris Shook.
The Shooks help with a good perspective when a death seems to happen too soon. They tell about a young couple in Owensboro, Kentucky. The wife discovers she has terminal cancer and soon will be leaving her young children and husband behind. (This is in their book, One Month to Live—30 Days to a No-Regrets Life.)
She asks her pastor, Jess Moody, about the below verse:
2 Peter 3:8 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”
She did the math, and “figured if a thousand years is like a day, then forty years is like one hour…my husband may live another forty years, but that will be just like an hour to me in heaven. When he gets to heaven, I’ll greet him and say, ‘Where have you been for an hour?…I’ve missed you.’”
“My children may live another seventy or eighty years, but that will be like two hours to me. When they get to heaven, I’ll greet them and say, ‘How was school today? Mom misses you when you’re gone for a couple of hours.’”
Jess said, “Now that’s an eternal perspective.”
Max Lucado, in his book, When Christ Comes, quotes Bob Russell. He tells about Bob’s father’s funeral.
Bob said the day of the funeral was a “cold, blustery, Pennsylvania day”…The Funeral Director told Bob the roads were too treacherous to take a procession to the burial. He said he’d take the body to the grave.
Bob couldn’t bear to not be at the burial, “so he and his brother and their sons piled into a four-wheel drive vehicle and followed the hearse.”
Bob said, “We plowed thru’ ten inches of snow into the cemetery, got about fifty yards from my Dad’s grave, with the wind blowing about twenty-five miles per hour, and the six of us lugged that casket down to the grave site…”
He continued, “We watched the body lowered in the grave and we turned to leave. I felt something was undone, so I said, ‘I’d like for us to have a prayer.’ The six of us huddled together and I prayed, ‘Lord, this is such a cold, lonely place.’
“And then I got too choked up to pray anymore. I kept battling to get my composure, and finally I just whispered, ‘But I thank you, for we know to be absent from the body is to be safe in your warm arms.’” (2 Corinthians 5:6 KJV)
Max concludes with what I hold onto today:
“We don’t like to say good-bye to those whom we love…It is right for us to weep, there is no need for us to despair. They had pain here. They have no pain there. They struggled here. They have no struggles there.
“You and I might wonder why God took them home. But they don’t. They understand. They are, at this very moment, at peace in the presence of God.”
This is an older picture of my parents, but it’s how I like to remember them. It’s the one staring at me over the washer and dryer. It’s the one that triggered the unexpected tears.
On days when those of us who’ve lost our parents are homesick for them, I pray these words of these great authors plus The Author of the Word of God bring us all comfort.
‘Til next time!