I received a phone call from my brother Norm earlier this week with the news that Mom did not wake up that morning. The assisted living staff where my parents have lived for the past two years found her while Dad was still asleep. Thankfully, Norm was able to be there when Dad woke up so that together, they were able to say tearful goodbyes to the wife and mother who we now sorely miss.
What is it about death, even when we know it is coming, that is still so very shocking? Mom was 87 and had been increasingly asleep since she had a stroke a week before Christmas. During our visit a week and a half ago she slept almost the entire time. Even so, the thought of not having her with us is difficult to comprehend. The larger question that keeps running through my mind since that morning phone call is, “How does one suffer the loss of a parent?” There is no way to practice for this and I cannot tell you that I have a definitive answer to that question. What I can share with you is the wisdom and comfort that has been shown me by the Shepherd, as I began to mourn the loss of my mom.
The process began with my brother’s phone call. As I sat in the den trying to take in the news, my mind went in a myriad of directions. I realized I would miss her laugh and her very quirky, outspoken ways. I worried about my dad. When I talked to him on the phone he kept saying, “It’s too soon!” and “I don’t know if I can live another ten years without her!” I told him what I was holding onto, “Today is a gift, Dad. Let’s just trust God and take it one day at a time.” As I reflected on my conversation with Dad, I realized that even though my parents were married almost 66 years, death would always come “too soon” from our very human perspective.
I remembered a song that was a favorite of mine when I first gave my heart to Christ Jesus. I looked up the words to the song and found comfort in the wisdom of Jeremiah recorded in Lamentations 3:22-24,
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in Him.” (ESV)
When we suffer loss it is no small comfort to remember that we are not abandoned by God. What a blessing to be reminded that in the midst of suffering loss, God’s love is “steadfast” and it “never ceases!” As I reflected on Jeremiah’s words I thought about my relationship with my mom. I would love to be able to tell you that it was all wonderful, but I can’t. There were times when our relationship was very rocky; times when I knew that living three thousand miles apart was actually helpful. But God used my mom to scale down the pride and unforgiveness I carried in my heart for many years. In the end, God freed me to love her in ways that I never thought possible. I have been grateful all these years for that gracious freedom. As I reflected on the miracle of love granted me by such a faithful Shepherd, the wisdom of Jeremiah pulsed through my mind and heart . . . HOLD ON TO THE GOOD . . . HOLD ONTO THE COMFORT OF THE SHEPHERD OF OUR SOULS!
This morning I am giving thanks to God as my faithful Shepherd. The thought of the coming days without Mom is still difficult to think about, but I am grateful for His steadfast love that keeps me on the right path. If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one or friend (or perhaps you are struggling with regrets that you can do nothing about) then join me in running to the Shepherd of our souls for the comfort and perspective only He can give.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
All to His Glory!