2 Kings 2: 11-14
Philippians 4: 6-7
Her red Rav was sold. Her clothes given away, some of which hang in my closet. Some of her jewelry also now hangs in my closet. Her Bible and journals found their new home on my bookshelves. Furniture will be sold and rooms emptied as Dad closes the final chapter on the condo he shared with Mom for 15 years. He is downsizing and eager for a smaller living space. How does one reduce memories, photos, letters, and so many sentimental items and gifts after 55 years of marriage? Mom created such a sacred, welcoming space in that condo. It will be difficult to see their home change ownership. It’s overwhelming for me at the moment.
My heart continues to break.
On November 30th it will be exactly 365 days since she passed away.
But it still feels like yesterday.
The sale of the condo brought a fresh wave of grief and sadness this month to the point where it has been challenging to deal with ordinary things. To add insult to injury, her gravestone has finally been erected in the cemetery. Her funeral was in December, eight months of backlog from a cemetery for veterans and their spouses.
I was told by a couple of people shortly after her death that the first year will be the hardest, and to give myself a lot grace. Wow. They were spot on. I was also told that everyone grieves differently and all grief journeys need to be honored.
I have also read that it’s okay to allow sadness a seat at the table for a season. We cannot ignore it or avoid it, as tempting as that might be. By definition of a season, it is temporary. This too shall pass. Processing sadness is the pathway to joy and peace.
I’m alternating between gratitude and heartbreak. She is with Jesus, completely healed in eternity and catching up with her parents, two sisters and other friends who went before her and playing piano in that heavenly choir. Yet she’s still missing birthdays, anniversaries, first days of school and all sorts of other important things way down here on this fallen, broken planet.
Why doesn’t heaven have visiting hours? We’re still trapped in time here.
What did Elisha do after Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind? “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated them the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Irael!’ And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.” 1 Kings 2: 11-14 (NIV).
Elijah was like a Father and mentor to Elisha. Elisha wanted to spend every possible second with Elijah before he was taken to heaven. Even though Elisha knew his mentor was in a better place, he still tore his clothes – a symbol and action of grief at that time.
But what happened next?
Suddenly Elijah’s cloak comes floating down from the sky. “Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from Elijah and stood on the bank of the bank of the Jordan.” (verse 13). That cloak was also a symbol of authority. God was answering Elisha’s request when he asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. (verse 9). Elisha was requesting to carry on Elijah’s work with the same amount of authority. He was asking to be Elijah’s successor, and God granted him his request.
What is the next step when Godly people receive their heavenly promotion? We carry on their legacy. We apply their examples to our lives. Am I appointing myself “Mom’s successor?” I prefer to think of it as reminding surviving family and friends who she was and what she believed in.
What were Mom’s lessons?
She left a “road map,” if you will, in a 12.7 cm by 7.6 cm black spiral notebook which contains her cursive handwriting of scripture verses and quotes from authors regarding how to suffer well. How to suffer in dignity and grace. Although she prayed for physical healing often, she had come to the point of realizing that her Lord was going to heal her illness in heaven and she was clinging to all scriptures of comfort and belief.
Mom didn’t see herself as “losing” to ovarian cancer. She made that clear to me, and she wrote it in her faith story. Losing your physical life is tragic only from a worldly perspective. She knew she was about to gain so much more in the heavenly realm, especially meeting her Savior!
She was peacemaker, not a fighter. She learned how to suffer well and knew that in suffering she was becoming more Christ-like. She was able to accept God’s will for her life and she surrendered to Him as he used the illness to draw her and others closer to him. She drew her strength and courage from her relationship with the Lord. That’s the beautiful example that I intend to follow when my turn for suffering comes, whatever form that might take.
“Have you prayed about it?” This persistent question from Mom gradually took on more meaning when I became a mom myself. No matter what the issue. No matter what the concern. She always urged me to obey Philippians 4: 6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV). She drilled this verse into my mind for 20 years, and she did experience peace that surpasses all understanding.
Mom held a Ph.D in writing encouraging notes and letters to family, friends and me. I took most of them for granted until I became a mom myself. Why she kept so many of those letters, I’m not sure. But everything that was meaningful to her was bound in rubber bands and carefully stowed in boxes and deep drawers. Should they simply be thrown out, or carefully read and made digital for my kids when they’re old enough to understand it all?
Have you prayed about it, my friend? Have you encouraged someone today, despite your own troubles? Are you at peace with your own mortality? Do you know exactly where your eternal destination is?
I ask for peace and comfort during this season of grief. Help me be a comfort to others who are also grieving. In Jesus’ name, Amen.