It took about fifteen minutes.
From seeing the sun just barely above the horizon, to it dipping down below the fields, signaling dusk, we buried my mother in fifteen minutes on an unusually cool summer evening in Kansas.
No service. No big memorial. Just her children and some grandchildren in a place special to my mother. Just how she wanted it.
It took about fifteen minutes.
Mom had been on hospice for barely a week before she left this earth. The night of her death, I remember it was about fifteen minutes after the last of her six children said his goodbyes when she took her last breath.
It took about five days.
Mom passed on Sunday night and we had her apartment cleaned out by Friday. Grief hadn’t actually hit me yet. I was too busy still taking care of her even after she was gone. Years ago I moved us into that apartment and I was going to move her out. It took us five days to clear everything out, like she was never there.
It took about two weeks.
I had been busy getting all of mom’s accounts in line and organizing everything, that grieving for my mother had taken a back seat. I was avoiding my grief, keeping it at bay. Afraid of the torrential waves that might not stop. About fourteen days after my mother left this world, I realized for the first time that my world was a lot more empty without her. As I reached for my phone to call her during our morning ritual, the truth sank in. Truth that said I hadn’t fully grieved the loss of Mama.
I had had my moments of tears and bursts of anguish. I would see a picture of her and quickly lose my breath. As my son would toddle into the room, my heart would ache, wishing my mother was here to see him. Then it really hit me.
All this time I had been grieving, I had been telling myself it will get better. I reminded myself that God would give me peace and comfort. I remembered the kind words of others to help ease my pain. I worried about the rest of my family and their grieving process, praying for all of us nonstop. Yet. I realized my prayers were empty. My words were powerless. My belief was robotic and formulaic.
Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is a time for everything under the heavens. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance (NIV). And in the New Testament we are constantly reminded that God will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, NIV). When I remembered these verses I saw my emptiness for what it really was.
I was allowing myself to grieve without God.
I was expecting Him to fix me. I was waiting on Him to fix my heart. All the while I was blind to the truth that God was actually grieving with me. The Creator of the universe had a broken heart for the loss of my mom and He wanted to grieve with me.
While I truly believe my mother is in heaven, the hole that gets left behind when you lose someone seems unfillable. So wide does that hole seem that I pushed away the only One who could fill it. My Father of the fatherless who has always held me in his hand, even when I was blind to His grasp was pushed to the backseat as an afterthought.
I had placed Him so high on this pedestal as the “fixer” that I forgot the reality of His love.
The moment I decided to actually feel His presence and to recognize His tears for my loss, that was the moment the Prince of peace filled my heart. I had placed Him so high on this pedestal as the “fixer” that I forgot the reality of His love. The love that says I will never leave you nor forsake you. The love that is truly sad when we are sad.
A love that gets angry with us.
A love that will stand up for truth with us.
A love that pierces through all the darkness that can so easily shroud around us during grief.
When you are grieving the loss of someone that you believe is in heaven, sometimes the saying “well, at least they’re in heaven” gets thrown around as a platitude because, as humans, we don’t always know how to respond to grief. Let me remind you of the great power and real peace that can come from the deep down gut belief that you’re loved one is in heaven. You’re loved one is with the Spirit who holds the world. She is with the One that was with Jesus on the cross when he came to save us just so she could one day join Him. She is dancing with the One who placed the stars in the sky and created a world so full of life and diversity that we may never know the full extent of it.
She’s free and whole for the first time.
It took me countless moments of unsatisfying tears to realize that grieving without God is an endless road, empty with no restoration in sight.
It took me losing my mother to understand what it really means to believe in heaven. And that is something I will never lose hold of again.
This post also appears on onlyaseason.com.