The Message (MSG)
8 You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.
It seemed somewhat appropriate, that while a storm brewed on the distant horizon, another raged within a mother’s heart. Her oldest son-her first born-had been found dead…probably a drug overdose. He had fought his demons of addiction for years…and now that battle was over. Lost in this world, but won in the next. His mother was, of course, distraught…she wept, sobbed, pleaded, and questioned. Had she done everything she could have done to help him? Yes, she had. She had loved him, unconditionally; and when his life required tough love, that was what she had given him. But love, always, love. But there was no more she could have done to help him…and now, her children-younger than this one that had passed…one grown, and one almost grown, but still, her children, still living under her roof, and in her care. She had to be strong for them.
It seemed only fitting that as a mother’s tears fell, so did tears from Heaven. Heaven’s tears were not for the wayward soul-for though he had lost his way, he was a Christian, so his Journey led him to Heaven. No, I think Heaven’s tears were for that distraught mother. For the sleepless nights spent worrying and praying-and for the sleepless nights ahead. Thunder shook the heavens, as sobs shook her body. She was spent. And yet, the tears still flowed, the sobs shook her body, and the guilt racked her mind. She begged to see his body, one last time. We told her that would not be a good idea; that she would want to remember him as he had been in her mind. Smiling, joyful. But, she would not be dissuaded. She had to see him. She must. There was a small part of her that wouldn’t believe, could not believe, that he was dead, until she saw him. So the police and the funeral home personnel arranged him on the stretcher, covered him up, and brought him out to be put into the hearse. They pulled the sheet back so she could see his face. Yes, it was true; it was her son. She screamed and cried with disbelief. Yes, that was her son. So young; not yet thirty years old. And yet, he was gone. It seemed unreal to her; to all of us that watched her as she went through this living nightmare. And yet…through it all…she called on God. She praised God. With one breath she would beg God to hold her up, and help her through; with the next she would praise Him, voicing her knowledge that He would, indeed, see her through this storm.
Her son’s body was loaded up and taken away. The mother, and the step-father, got in their car to head to their house…where friends and their other children waited. She had not made it but a few blocks when the car pulled over. She was sick. Physically sick. Her body rejecting the truth of what was going on. A nightmare that no parent should ever have to face. We all kept repeating “It’s not right to lose a child. It’s un-natural.” This sweet mother was not the first to go through this, nor would she be the last. But right now, at this moment, we focused on her. Lifting her up. Praying for her; praying with her. Letting her cry, or crying with her. What mattered was just being there. Letting her know that, whatever was needed, we would do.
We stayed from late that night until early in the morning. We left hoping she would sleep, but somehow knowing she would not. Later that morning, some of the friends went to the funeral home with her and the family. To help pick out a casket, and make other arrangements. The younger son was going to help make a video for the funeral at the church. He was talented in that area, and it was a beautiful way for him to say goodbye. He also wanted to speak. We wondered what he would say, but mostly, how he could possibly get through it. Only with God’s strength and grace.
Arrangements were made, and we met back at the house. Some helped go through and dust off pictures to be used. Some brought food, drinks, and paper products. Some shared stories of her son; his smile that could light up a room. His laugh that was contagious. His heart for bringing others to Christ. We tried to get her to rest, but she couldn’t. When she closed her eyes, she saw his face. She repeatedly asked if she had done all that she could have done. She repeated, over and over, “I should have done more…” But there was nothing else she could have done. It had all been done. He had just come out of a short term rehab, and was set to go back into a long term one, when the overdose happened. A young life, stopped so suddenly, and so early. It didn’t seem right. What could possibly be the reason? Would we ever know? And then….
Within 24 hours of his death, at least 2 people that we knew of had come to know Christ. Turned their lives over to Him. Because they knew this young man, or had heard of what had happened to him. Two lives changed forever; to destinies, two eternities, forever blessed, forever changed for the good, because of the life and death of one young man. It didn’t mean it was worth it…but it did mean that he didn’t die in vein.
On through the week we went…all of us just putting one foot in front of the other…trying to get through this difficult time. The visitation the night before the funeral was difficult; seeing a body in a casket puts such finality on a life. The “children”- his step brothers, and his younger brother and baby sister- one by one, at the end of the visitation, wandered in to spend time with him, one last time. Until they were all in there; sitting on the floor, holding hands, crying together, sharing memories together. Grieving together…and healing…together.
The day of the funeral was, of course, impossibly difficult. And yet, the service was beautiful; tears flowed, but so did laughter. Praises went up to God, thanking him for the strength that He had given us all. The mother sat on the front row; crying, laughing, and praising God for bringing her through this. But mostly, praising Him for the knowledge that her son, this young man, was at peace, and in the presence of God.
The little brother spoke; with tears, but also with laughter. The young man’s life had been many lessons in one. A lesson of how to reach others and bring them to Christ. A lesson of what happens when you turn from Christ and try and live your life your own way. A lesson of love for that young man. A lesson of how the choices we make, the decisions we make, affect others, especially those that we love the most. Those that love us the most.
It has now been over a month since this young man left us. His mother is still distraught, still crying, still not sleeping well. Still waking up crying, or with nightmares, when she does sleep. If there is a positive to this experience, it is that it has brought this family closer to one another. It has brought this husband and wife closer than ever before. It has brought at least two souls into the Kingdom of God. It has brought many of us closer to this family, and closer to God.
As I have gone through this valley with my friend, I could not help but think of another mother that lost her son. A mother who shed tears for a life that was, in her opinion, I would think, over too quickly. A mother who loved her son. Who had conceived her son out of love and obedience to God the Father. A mother who had given birth to this son, the Son of God. A mother who had bathed his small, helpless body, nursed him, soothed him to sleep, sang to him, and kissed his tiny hands. A mother who hurt when he hurt, and rejoiced when he rejoiced. A mother who loved him as only a mother can…but also, grew to love him as her Savior and Lord. A mother who hurt as only a mother can hurt when he was mocked, beaten, nailed to a cross, and died. But not in vein. No; he died for our sins. All of us. And all of our sins. And of course, that’s not the end of the story…but the beginning. He rose three days later, out of a borrowed tomb, and ascended to Heaven, where he now sits with the Father. I have a feeling that when His mother died, she sought Him out first. I have a feeling that my friend will seek out her son quickly as well. I’m not sure who she will seek out first; Christ, or her son. But I know that, whoever she seeks out first, it will be a joyous, wonderful reunion. And there will never be another tear shed, another parting, another death.
Lord, help us to be strong for one another. Help us to remember that we are never promised the next breath. Help us to remember to always tell others about you. Help us to remember to live for you. And remind us, dear Lord, of our eternal reward. Amen.