I believe grief is most profound in the expression of losing someone you care about. Experiencing the death of a loved one can prove to be very challenging. Amidst the various trials life is proven to offer, none are met with as much trepidation as is death. But, death can be confounding in its own right. Some accept it, some deny it, many do not think about it, and some run headlong toward it. The consensus is a mixed bag that has little effect on the end result of death's presence in our world.
Ten out of ten of us have to face death, no matter what.
Today marks one year since the passing of my beloved mother Jeanette. Her final breaths were drawn struggling with Cancer and other complications on March 25th, 2010 at approximately 6pm. She expired shortly after my brother and I had been able to say our final goodbyes, choke back the tears and acknowledge that our loss was inevitable. For the first time in our lives we were going to be without the backbone of our family and readily, we would both admit, it was scary knowing that we would no longer have her strength and resolve to fall back on in times of need.
The comedy of the relationship my brothers and I had with our mother is comforting. She was no gentle, dainty, and parasol toting woman who giggled shyly while handsome gentlemen passed by. She was a Harley riding, cigarette smoking, factory-rat whose perfume was hydraulic fluid from a General Motors transmission plant. But on the flip side, she was our best friend, confidant, counselor, inspiration, and gentle nurturing mother. She was the best mother we ever had. She was a strong foundation on which we were able to inherit strong values, work ethic, and determination that pushed for justice, equality, and devotion for the things we loved. Most importantly, she taught us the importance of sacrificing yourself for the welfare of your family.
She is deeply missed.
Coming to the thirtieth year of my life, I would have never guessed all that has happened, was happening, and was going to happen, would culminate in the events that took place one year ago today. I have not written about these events prior to today out of various respects, but mostly, because I have not known much of what to say about it all. I do know that of all that my eyes have witnessed in the realm of life and in death, there is no way to sufficiently answer all the questions that arise when we lose someone.
Reflecting back on that day, one year ago, I recall vividly the silence that shushed the room, and the great distance from my mother that I experienced as I sat next to her bed. She was gone, but her body still lie beside me. I kept waiting for her to take another breath, and it never came. I wanted to cry, but I was also relieved she was no longer gasping for air. I was confused and unsure of my emotions and wanted to be angry, but could not muster the strength to express it. All I knew was nothing, and nothing sure felt different than having everything all figured out.
You see, that day was a sober reminder. It was a visit to the house of mourning, a solemn reminder that hit so close to home that I could do nothing but call on Jesus Christ, and the Father in Heaven, and beg for comfort, or else I would have not made it through that night.
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecc 7:2-4)If someone would have came to me that evening and spouted off Romans 8:28 and said everything is going to be all good because I am a believer, I might have sneered and gave a puzzling look. At that point, telling me that this working out of my mother's suffering benefits my good makes her a means to an end for my own purpose. On the other hand, the author of Ecclesiastes demonstrates that a visitation to the house of mourning is more purposeful, if not rewarding, than laughter and festivities. But for me, reflecting on the death at the very moment death entered the room through the final breath of a loved one, my own mortality quickly came into view. Fundamentally, the wisdom found in the house of mourning does work good in the heart of he who is found there. But going there is not always the first, or preferable choice. We all too often are there involuntarily.
Standing at the doorstep of reality, my spirit was thrust to its lowest point and I could no longer rely on the flesh, but only hope in Christ. No longer having an opportunity to plead the truth of the redeeming sacrifice of the Christ to my mother, her eternal state was then placed into the hands of a just and merciful God. I no longer had to wrestle with uncertainty because I had resolved to trust God in all his goodness, and accept that which he has given me to handle.
I always think about my mother, her life, and what it meant to my brothers and I. And in her absence, I find myself leaning evermore confidently in the consistence of Christ and his mercy. That day my mother died, I became more intimately aware of why the Savior lives. He has come to proclaim that in order to have life, we must first die, and to die with Christ allows us to be raised in newness of life with him. Going into the house of mourning at the cost of my mother's earthly life granted wisdom for some that day, and I pray, it continues to hold its testimony, that all man shall perish, and reflecting on that encourages our need for a savior. We may lose our breath and our flesh may pass into death, but for those in Christ Jesus, death is no longer a dreaded event or consequence, but a great reprieve from the afflictions of this world.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Mat 5:4)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (Jas 1:12)
Jeanette M. Lee December 16th, 1955 - March 25th, 2010
We miss you.