Have you ever gone to bed and woken up the next morning to find that a storm had blown through? Not just raindrops on the ground, but debris everywhere. Tree limbs laying in the yard. Leaves scattered across the driveway.
You may have known a storm was coming—the weatherman predicted it on the evening news—you just didn’t realize it was going to be so bad.
When I was 13, I woke up to that kind of storm. My room was in the basement, my bed near the stairway. I still remember waking up to the sounds of my father telling my brother at the top of the stairs that she was gone. I heard him crying. And I knew that I was going to have to walk up those stairs and face the debris of the storm.
My mom had been diagnosed a year earlier with an inoperable brain tumor. Cancer. From the moment I heard those words and realized their weight, I lived every day wondering if this would be the day the storm hit. If this would be the day that she would be gone. In my heart, I knew it was going to hurt. I knew that it would be hard, and I lived every day with the worst case scenario in mind. I knew the storm was coming, I just wasn’t sure when.
But that day was the day. I went to sleep and woke up to a world where everything was changed. From that moment on, everything was a blur. The funeral home, the family members, the guests, the funeral, the graveside . . . and then the silence.
A family of four became a family of three.
Before she died, my mom had written a verse on the message board by the phone, the fridge, and anywhere else she could post it—“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It’s from Romans 8:28. She loved that verse, but I hated it. It seemed like false hope. God wasn’t going to heal her. Things were not going to work out for good.
At the funeral, people had all kinds of answers.
She was in a better place.
God took her home.
God has His reasons.
None of them seemed to stack up. And the whole process of trying to attach an answer to the pain seemed so pointless. It still does.
I don’t know why she died. She just did. God says the days of our lives are numbered, and hers were determined to end.
But I quit searching for answers long ago. I just live. This is my life. I’m the guy whose mom died when he was young. I’m the guy who has been through a storm. And I’m different because of it.
I see the world differently.
When someone loses someone close to them, I don’t just hurt. I ache. And I know that despite the best efforts of those around them to define this tragedy in some way, some times the only answer is merely the God who walks through the storm with you.
I wish I could say that everything got better. And truthfully, the death of my mother was not the end of my story. I’ve had many more joys, and some more tragedies.
I’ve had moments when I’ve thought I moved on, and moments when I realize there is still so much healing to do. A wound like this is deep, deeper than you think. And some empty places will never be filled, no matter how good life gets.
Oh, and that verse, the one I hated so much. I get it now. You see, I’m a dad to three awesome little boys. And that verse . . . it wasn’t about God making everything good for my mom. I don’t think that’s what she believed when she clung to it so tightly. I think she was holding to the promise that whatever happened to her, her boys would be okay. God would work this for good in the lives of her boys.
My story isn’t a platform. I don’t speak about my story to people. I didn’t become the national spokesperson for kids whose parents die. I’m just a guy who went through something really hard. A guy who realizes that life can get really hard and really hurt. And even when there’s a lot of debris after a storm, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start building again.
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image courtesy of flickr.com/creative commons