The Last Picture Isn’t the Last Word: Grieving with Hope
This is the last picture I will ever take with my oldest daughter, Lindsey. But the last picture isn’t the last word, because both of us gave our lives to Jesus Christ. This isn’t a hope I have, it is a fact I know with certainty- the same way I know the sun will set tonight and rise tomorrow.
Early one morning a few weeks ago, I answered the phone. When I heard the woman identify herself as the Houston medical examiner, I began to sob. Over my cries, I heard the dreadful words: our daughter, Lindsey, had been killed in a terrible motorcycle accident.
One of my sons heard my cries, and came downstairs. He hugged me, and we sobbed together for awhile, before waking the other children and breaking the news to them. My husband, Dennis, was at work. There was no way I could tell him on the phone, so my son drove me to his office. During the forty minutes there, I prayed, desperately dreading to tell Dennis. How could I watch his heart break the way mine was broken?
That day was the most awful day we’ve had to live through, yet there were arrangements to be made to get our family to Houston. I kept moving from task to task numbly throughout the day, stopping to cry and to beg God to change this reality and turn back time. I was so mad at my daughter for getting on a motorcycle, something I’d plead with her over and over not to do. Finally, I decided to go walk along the water by our house. I ignored the thought to take my cell phone with me, and began walking down the long flight of wooden stairs praying out loud. I almost reached the last step and I began to declare my acknowledgement that God is the One who gives and takes away and I was going to bless His name even through this loss. Then I fell off the last step.
Hot pain shot through my foot, and I fell to the ground. I knew right away it was bad and I couldn’t help but cry out, “Why, God? Really!?” Managing to crawl up the steps, I made my way back into the house. Although we only had three hours until we had to be at the airport, my husband was convinced I’d better have a doctor see my foot before we left. We got to an urgent care and my foot was quickly x-rayed. Sure enough, it was broken. I dreaded sitting squished in an airplane for hours with no way to put my foot up, but determined to not complain. In light of everything else, it didn’t matter.
So, the Lord’s ministry to me during this trial began with a broken foot.
Once we got to the airport, my husband and children carried all the bags while I tried to hobble on crutches. Thankfully, a wheelchair just “happened” to be waiting by the entrance. I sank into it gratefully. We got to the gate, and talked to the representative behind the counter. She told usI couldn’t sit in the seats they’d given us, because they were on the exit row, and with a broken foot, I definitely couldn’t give anyone assistance. I sat in a wheelchair for about twenty minutes before the airline representative came over to us and said she’d upgraded my husband and me to first class. I was able to stretch my broken foot out and even sleep for a while, cuddled next to my husband.
People couldn’t see my broken heart, but they were kind towards me because of my broken foot.
Over the next week, as we prepared for Lindsey’s memorial service, there were many instances of God’s kindness and goodness to us. Dennis and I were touched by every one of them. Friends and family came from far away, and helped with the difficult task of packing up her apartment, of setting up the memorial service, and sharing their love and grief with us. There were moments of intense sorrow, and holy grace.
I’m not surprised by the Lord’s care and provision, because I’ve experienced it for over 30 years. He is faithful and true to keep every one of His promises to us.
Through the pain and sorrow of my grief, I see His mercy and grace are even greater than I knew before.
I have every expectation that there will be joy born out of this pain, that some of those who loved Lindsey will come to know the Savior, and that some who know Him and who play in the world’s emptiness will turn back. Even in my pain, I’m sure that there are a myriad of good reasons and purposes I don’t see, but my heavenly Father does. I’m grateful for the good foundation of truth that the Lord has built in my life-often through other trials. From that foundation, the Holy Spirit pulled truth and applied it to my heart in the days when I couldn’t even open my Bible. I’m grateful that my daughter’s salvation didn’t depend on her worthiness of it, but on the worthiness of Jesus. He suffered more greatly than any one of us, as He bore our sins on the cross. Because He lives, I know that she only experienced death as a shadow with Him at her side. Because He lives, I know that every day draws me closer to the day I can see her sweet smile and hear her delightful laughter.
This morning I read a letter a pastor named Samuel Rutherford wrote to a grieving mother in the 1600’s. The wording was so old, that I rewrote it in a more modern phrasing:
“You have lost a child; no, she isn’t lost to you, because she was found by Jesus. She isn’t sent away, but only sent before, like a star which vanishes from our sight, but is shining in another hemisphere.”
Because of the joy set before me as a follower of Jesus Christ, for the love of Him who is God over all, in my grief I also hold onto the abundant love and grace of God. For me, the challenge isn’t to lose hope in those truths within the Scripture, but to allow His truth to mingle with my sorrow-to grieve well, like one who does have hope.
“Brothers, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who are without hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him…”
~1 Thessalonians 4:13-14