8 1/2 years ago, I experienced the loss of my mom. Mother’s Day is less than a week away and my thoughts are with the woman who raised me. For better or worse, much of who I am is because of her. I have her eyes, her laugh and share her love for driving aimlessly around when there isn’t anything better to do. There are other mysteries about her and myself that I never figured out because of that sudden loss.
Because of those missing pieces, I’ve worked hard to make meaning from what I do have. I learned a lot from her while she was alive, but in losing her I learned some equally important lessons about life.
Loss Clarifies What You Believe About God.
Nothing challenges your faith like standing in an ICU, with your mother breathing only because of the wonders of modern science. We begged for a miracle. We had faith. We believed, but her brain had stopped working and God chose to not heal her. When the machines were turned off, there was no earthly healing. No chance to say, “goodbye”. On Wednesday she had been told by her doctor her head hurt because she had the flu and was dehydrated. On Friday, she died from the combination of an undiagnosed brain tumor and blood thinner.
That will challenge what you believe about God. Mostly, it taught me that all the “right” answers were meaningless. I knew the right answers and I still felt shell-shocked and lonely. In that moment, “she’s in a better place” and “God is sovereign” didn’t comfort me. Or rather, I should clarify, it didn’t comfort me coming from someone who hadn’t lived through deep pain and disappointment. It meant something from the gentleman, who even though he didn’t know our family well, chose to drive an hour to the funeral so that he could tell my dad he had gone through a similar loss. He signed his card, “a fellow journeyman”. That’s the person you want to sit next to when your heart is tore out.
Time Is Short & You Aren’t Guaranteed Tomorrow.
My last conversation with my mom would have been different had I known it would be the last one. After a day of waiting for her turn to get an MRI and her head aching, I thought it best to give her time to rest and give in to the sedative. I told her to get some rest. I would be back later. I’m not sure I even told her I loved her. I went and sat in a waiting area with my dad and a friend of my mom’s and waited to get a call from the doctor with the MRI results. The call came. As the doctor told my dad the findings and that mom should be moved to the ICU, we heard a code called and watched a flurry of nurses and doctors run down the hall. We stopped and prayed for the unknown family in crisis and then decided to walk back to Mom’s room. We rounded the corner, hearts dropping to see the destination of the running nurses had been to my mom’s bedside.
My daughter often asks to snuggle with me in the evening before bedtime. I’m always in the middle of doing something else when she asks. Sometimes I put her off. More often than not, I stop what I’m doing and say “yes.” My “yes” comes from a place of knowing I would give anything to have more time with my mom. I run it through the filter of this question, “If I didn’t have tomorrow with my daughter, what will I wish I had done?” So we snuggle. I tell her all the things I long to hear from my mom. I hope it all sinks deep into her heart.
Compassion Is A Gift That Often Comes From Pain.
Lysa Terkeurst, in The Best Yes, says, “There is a silver lining I’ve discovered in those moments: a compassionate kind of wisdom I can’t get any other way.” She’s talking about what we can learn from our mistakes, but it applies to those who experience loss too.
Losing someone changes you. Some changes you choose and some are forced on you. Change that comes from loss is inescapable, but the direction the change takes is in your hands. I’ve seen the transformation go both ways: an angry and cynical person emerges from the smoke or one with more compassion. I’ve been both. I hope I’m moving toward compassion and wisdom.
On this Mother’s Day weekend, my heart is with the motherless daughters. May God be near. May He bring you unexpected joy. May this missing piece be a catalyst to move you closer to Him and give you more compassion for others. May you have space to grieve and to celebrate in whatever way your soul needs. You are loved.
Other helpful links:
When you still need your mom and she’s not there anymore, by Lisa-Jo Baker.
Pre-grieving Mother’s Day, by Ann Voskamp