My mom died suddenly when I was 23. Even as I sit in my kitchen typing these words, I’m struggling to begin the story that started nearly 13 years ago now. I’m trying to remember her voice, but mostly what comes to me are her idiosyncrasies like the way she sneezed (loudly) or her catch phrases (“I’ll leave a size 9 on your backside” or “ruh roh”). It seems like I’ve been cheated out of a lifetime of learning from her and having her around to spoil my kids. If I could have even a small consolation, remembering the sound of her voice seems easy enough, but it’s not. It’s all faded.
I wrestle with how much pain is appropriate to feel. It’s been 13 years since her death. How long does it take to get over a parent’s death or anyone we love dearly? My wife, in her incredible thoughtfulness, bought me flowers for Mother’s Day to let me know she’s thinking of me. It seems backward though, for my wife to get me anything on Mother’s Day. I was taken aback. I should be showering her with gifts. Instead I’m trying to keep myself together for her sake and the sake of the kids. My mom is gone, and there’s no cheering me up.
It’s such a strange thing, suffering. I face down my enemy, my struggle for days, weeks, years, and some days I wake up and think I’m good. I go about my life as if there’s nothing wrong, and I feel stronger for having gone through it. As a Christian, I’ve even thought that God has given me new strength, so that the next time I face suffering I’ll be better prepared for it. But that’s not how it goes. Losing my mom was not the Lord trying to make me a stronger man. It was the enemy sowing seeds of weakness and fear.
I’m confident enough in who God is to know that God can turn my circumstances into good. He’s God after all. Even Jesus, seeing the suffering of Jerusalem under the oppression of Rome and the tyranny of religious legalists lamented,
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
An exercise I like to do is to read myself into Scripture. Here’s what it looks like:
Chip, Chip, the man that wastes away in grief and suffering, and ignores the help I’ve sent to him. How often have I desired to wrap my arms around you as your mom used to, and you were not willing!
I’m sure it’s just the fact that it’s Mother’s Day, and this darkness will pass. If I could draw an analogy from Lord of the Rings, it’s like when Frodo was stabbed by the Nazgul on Weathertop. Every year on the anniversary of his stabbing, he feels the pain fresh and clear in his mind as the darkness covers his heart and shrouds his eyes from the truth of the sunshine all around him. The words of Gandalf ring true,
“Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured,” said Gandalf.
“I fear it may be so with mine,” said Frodo. “There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?”
The first and greatest thing I must do is turn to Jesus and let him comfort me. There might not be any cure for my burden. There are some wounds that never wholly heal, but there is a Healer who can comfort me, bring salve to my hurts and peace to my soul. I’m beat today, but I’ll not cede victory to the Enemy over tomorrow. Today, I’ll lie down in weary anguish, but tomorrow I’ll stand in strength and joy.
Other than Jesus, Solomon was the wisest man to ever walk the earth. He looked under every stone for fulfillment, and he gives us these words of realism in Ecclesiastes 3:
1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
I lost my mom 13 years ago. I have a wonderful wife who has given me 3 beautiful children. I have a fantastic mother-in-law who is an excellent stand-in for my mom. I have friends who love me and wrap their arms around me as Jesus would.
But today is a time to mourn. There’s always tomorrow for laughter.
Maybe you know what it’s like to suffer through Mother’s Day. Maybe your mom is dead like mine, or maybe you and your mom don’t have the relationship you want to celebrate. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.