I’ve lived through my second Mother’s Day since my middle son went to heaven. I’ve thought, so many times, that I would not, indeed could not live this long after he was killed. But, I have. This road doesn’t get any easier. In fact, I would say it has been harder since the first anniversary of his death. I’m not sure why this is, unless it is that the shock of his sudden death is wearing off, and the reality of our loss is setting in. It is so permanent. And, that is so painful. There are so many “nevers” and “if onlys” and, worst of all, unanswered “whys”. I would like to have a sit-down talk with God and get some answers, and maybe I will someday. In the meantime, I will make it my constant aim to trust in Him and believe that He is good and that He loves us.
This Mother’s Day I did not wake up sobbing like last year. I was more aware of the need to prepare myself, in advance, for the onslaught of emotion the day would bring. This is one of the odd things I’ve learned while grieving the past 19 months – I must prepare myself for days that used to be celebrations. I’ve always loved holidays, birthdays and anniversaries; any day that calls for a celebration. But, now those days, though still filled with love, joy and happiness, are tinged with a deep sorrow and a longing I’ve never known before. I missed our son when he was in the Navy, stationed in Japan, and longed to see him when he came home on leave once a year. But, that longing was nothing compared to this; the rest of my life seems like an excruciatingly long time to wait to see him again. This longing, this constant unfulfilled desire, is suffering, to me. The grief brought about by the sudden loss of our son makes sense; I suddenly and unexpectedly lost a huge part of my heart. Of course I’m deeply grieved. But, this unfulfilled desire to see him, touch him, hear his voice, enjoy all that is him, is an unexpected measure of suffering that takes my breath away.
His absence is earth shattering to me, to our family. It makes my world feel tilted at such a paradoxical angle that I can’t find my balance. I find myself having to deliberately hang on to everything I thought I believed before he died. Everything has changed. But, has it? Or, has my vision changed? I don’t know. I can’t tell if everything is different, or just my perspective is different, or maybe I didn’t really see the world as it really is before he died. I simply don’t know. I do know, I don’t know anything. Nothing. I thought I knew a thing or two before my son died. I didn’t. It was all arrogance and empty blustering. This puts me in mind of 1 Corinthians 13:1 – “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Maybe that is it, the answer to everything. Love. I think that is all that matters. Love. Relationships. God, because He is love.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
I taught my daughter, in her teen years, that if a man did not treat her the way 1 Corinthians 13 tells us love is, then he is not loving towards her. Patient. Kind. Not envious, boastful, proud, rude or self-seeking; not easily angered; never making a list of wrongs committed; rejoicing in truth; always protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering. This is real love; this is the kind of love that God sheds abroad in our hearts when we give ourselves to Him. This is how God loves us, and how He expects us to love one another.
I realize as I ponder this exquisite passage of scripture that this is not how I behave towards myself. For the first time in a long time, I am not patient with myself; my self-talk is unkind. I’m envious of people who are not grieving or suffering. I have nothing I can boast of, or be proud of, as I feel like a failure most of the time. I am extremely easily angered, and I have a list a mile long of all the things I did wrong in my parenting years. I have read that this feeling of worthlessness and failure is sometimes a part of the grieving process, but I am very impatient with it. I’m wrestling with the truth like I never have before. I’m struggling to believe what I took for granted that I truly believed in the past.
Recently I was reminded of the story of Jacob and how he wrestled with the angel of the Lord until he blessed him. What a remarkable guy! It takes some serious boldness and tenacity to wrestle with an angel, refusing to let him go until he blesses you. Jacob got his blessing, but he also got a permanent limp when the angel “touched his hip”. He also received something he didn’t expect to receive – a new name. “Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.'” Genesis 32:28
When we were in the BC (before children:) years, I loved the name Jacob, and thought I would name our firstborn that. Obviously, Kimberly did not need to be named Jacob. So, I expected to name our next child, Joseph, that. The Lord spoke to my heart and told me to name our second child Joseph. So, I was sure I would name our next son that. Again, the Lord spoke to our hearts and told us to name him Israel. We did. At a baby shower for Israel and I, someone gave me a card with Genesis 32:28 on it; she was somewhat embarrassed as she told me the Lord told her to put that scripture on it. That is the scripture the Lord spoke to our hearts the day Izzy was born.
I’m struggling with God and with men, and I want to overcome. I need a new name. I don’t want my name to be “sorrow” for the rest of my life.