These widows often struggle with PTSD like flashbacks surrounding the death during the first days after and often after even months pass. Grief takes time and that makes it hard.
Right now I’m personally feeling surrounded by the reality that suffering exists – alot. Not only in my office but personally. We are fervently praying for my sister in law who just lost her husband because she also has Stage 4 cancer. Praying that her scans this week will show no new activity. I have an uncle with Stage 4 cancer, who after fighting with alternative regimens and clinical trials, is now entering chemo. My 90+ year old grandma recently had a blood pressure scare that sent me running to my home town in less than 24 hours and then through a close friend, I get the call that one of my previous clients who has faith to move mountains has been hospitalized. It all just seems too real.
My brother in law Dwight’s death is also becoming ever so slowly more real. The walk down memory lane continues in my head as I remember our first double date was to a musical with his wife and my husband. During moments of stillness, I remember other interactions with him – silly moments of teasing when I lived in their home after an ugly church split where I was a staff member, hospitals visits as his children were born, holding his babies, family dinners, holidays, and birthday celebrations. I recall spiritual discussions and Interactions in various churches we attended together over the years. He had so much life, humor, and gentleness and now in what seems like a flash, he is gone. “People shouldn’t die so young” once again runs through my head. I never dreamed our future together would end so soon.
Even my Facebook feed seems more full of prayer requests than vacation photos this past week. It is a blessing as I can join with others to support through prayer the needs of friends both near and far but sometime the needs seem too great and the list too long. The single mom with a special needs child, my own classmates both in high school and college that are now widows, and babies in the hospital struggling to simply breathe.
I remember when I used to teach English in the classroom, the phrase “Death surrounds you.” and there are seasons as we age when this reality is one in which we’d all like to escape. It is a common theme in both literature and art. My husband and I on our date night this weekend had already purchased tickets to see the musical Les Miserables, and again we were surrounded by the theme of death and suffering and how people cope. Afterwards, I was talking to our nanny (one of our babysitters holds this title because she is a person we embrace as family who saves this working mom with a traveling husband on a weekly basis from insanity by changing her schedule once again or folding laundry that would otherwise sit on the dining room table forever). We were discussing all our current family challenges when the conversation turned. One of the themes of this musical is redemption. We began talking about my belief that good comes even out of the worst suffering if we join with God as we walk through it. Romans 8:28 promises us this and I’ve born witness to it hundreds of time both in my own life, the lives of those I love, and those I’ve walked beside in my office during the last almost two decades now.
When we love and serve others, we experience redemption even in the midst of the worst suffering. We also experience it when we receive the love, prayers, and support of others. I have to admit this independent spirit prefers being the giver than the receiver but I am being challenged once again to receive with gratitude and grace. God’s people are so amazing and in the midst of suffering, we often bear witness to the generosity of so many. My family is surrounded by enough food to feed a small town, financial support comes in the most unexpected ways and sources, a mom’s group that provided care in December is back in action, and I can almost literally feel the prayers of what seems like a huge army of kingdom warriors surround us all.
One of my favorite singers Babbie Mason has a song called “Trust His Heart” that encouraged me when I felt very lost in my late 20s during that church split. The chorus is this:
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart
In moments of suffering, sometimes that is ALL we can do. I recently asked a widow I’ve been supporting for years which book helped her most (I was scared maybe my recent Amazon order for my own family wasn’t complete.) Her reply was simple: “the Bible.”
Tonight as I try to sleep in the midst of suffering, I’m thankful for the love, support and prayers of many as my family now joins the already packed prayer requests in Facebook feeds. I’m also eternally grateful for the word of God hidden deep in my heart through scripture memory and Bible study. For I am confident that just as it has done for the many widows I’ve journeyed with in the office, the combination of God’s grace, truth, and time evident in many sources and ways will see all of us through this season of suffering as well.