Three years ago, at 3am on May 1st 2009, I sat in a room with two women I have known since birth and held the hand of the woman who raised us all, as she drew her last breath. If I live to be 100 years old, she will remain the greatest woman I have ever known and the single greatest influence on my life and the woman I became under her love and care.
On this, the third anniversary of her passing, I share with you these twelve things I know to be True:
1. The greatest gift and the greatest responsibility
Too be the person that God has chosen to help send someone Home, is the greatest gift and the greatest responsibility that God can bestow. And just as surely as she did not leave her Earthly Life alone, I know with the deepest conviction, that she did not enter her Eternal Home alone. As we grieved the loss of her Earthly Life, a crowd awaited her in the celebration and joy of welcoming home a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter and a friend.
2. Life does not happen TO us, it happens FOR us.
God will ALWAYS do the most generous and loving thing. When we truly understand this, our prospective and our world will change forever.
If God takes me Home tomorrow (and I hope he does not), I rest in the knowledge that it WILL be the most generous and loving thing he could do. He chose to call her Home, and though I may not know the reason why and I surely feel the loss of her Physical Presence, I know that it was the most generous and loving act He could do.
3. Love and Gratitude and Guilt and Pain cannot exist in the same Spirit and the same State, at the same Time.
I will say this again, because it is important: Love and Gratitude and Guilt and Pain CANNOT exist in the same Spirit and the same State, at the same Time.
We subjugate ourselves to the Story in our head – “I lost the woman who raised me and if I think about her life or her death I am and should be sad and grieving.” That is a Story made up in our head and just as we can invent one story we can surely create another story.
So here is MY Story: “God so loved me that He delivered me to His Adopted, Redeemed, Cherished, and Beloved Daughter. He delivered me not by birth, but by Love, to a woman who knew to the very fiber of her Being what it meant to Live each moment of each day as a Child of God. A woman whose words, service, actions and life reflected this Truth and this Light that shown THROUGH her and FROM the ultimate Light of the World. I came to know the Face of God through her Life and her Love. God Gifted me with this Blessing for a Reason and it is my Duty, my Calling, my Purpose as His Adopted, Redeemed, Cherished, and Beloved Daughter to use this gift to pursue with open arms and an open heart, His Plan for my Life. And to live each and every day so that others may come to know the God I serve through the Love and the Light that He shines through me.
4. We are not our thoughts. I will say this again: We are NOT our thoughts.
Think of your mind as your home. You control who and what comes into your home. You do not let burglars or snakes or messy mud soaked dogs run through your home, so why do you allow messy, nasty thoughts to run free through your head?
Our thoughts do not control us or define us. We are the observers of our thoughts. Just as we get to create our own Story so to do we get to welcome and release the thoughts in our head. If the thoughts entering your head today are ones of grief or stress, release them and watch them fade away.
Choose to say this: “This thought brings me stress and grieve. I do not like this thought. I want a new thought.” Welcome into your mind a thought that brings you peace and joy.
In the beginning you may have to do this dozens or hundreds of times during the course of a day, but eventually your will train your mind that it is a space for peace and joy, not for messy and nasty.
5. Whatever I feed will grow
Whatever we put our attention to, whatever we feed with our thoughts, and our energy will grow. If we feed our sadness, our anger, our pity, or our loss that is what will grow in our lives. If however, we turn our attention to Love, and Gratitude, and Joy that is what will grow exponentially in our lives and overflow through us into the lives of everyone around us.
6. Get out of God’s way
God is not just the God of your miracles. He is the God in between your miracles. He is not just the God of your mountain tops. He is the God of your valleys.
If we spend our time thinking of what could have been, what we think should have been, what we have lost, or why we are sad, we will never be open to what God is doing in us and around us. We MUST get out of ourselves and out of God’s way.
We must stand still amidst the ruble and ask God – “Show me the way. Show me where to place my feet next. Show me which direction to walk. Show me what to do and guide me on Your plan.” And we must quiet our own thoughts so that we may hear His voice.
7. God’s plan is not always our plan, but it is ALWAYS the right plan
God did not heal her in the way that I wanted, the way I envisioned, or the way that I prayed for…but he did heal her. He freed her from pain. He freed her from suffering. He freed her from sickness. He delivered her from one Life into a greater Life.
We are not physical beings having an occasional spiritual experience. We are not flesh and blood bodies chasing after some spiritual meaning to the universe. We are Created Spiritual Beings having a Temporary Physical Experience. If I believe this, then I MUST choose to celebrate her life. I MUST choose to rejoice in the Life that she now Lives. I MUST choose to honor her and all that she brought to the world. I must REJECT and REFUSE to turn my attention inward and away from Truth. I must REJECT and REFUSE to put my energy into grief, or loss, or guilt or pain.
9. She is not gone from me
If I truly believe what I profess in all that God has revealed, then I MUST believe this –
She is no more gone from me than the moon is gone from the noonday sky. I do not mean this in an existential way. I do not mean that her memory lives in my heart (although it dose). I mean that she is present and alive and existing with me now as surely as she did when I was a child. And though my human eyes may not perceive her, my soul sees her and recognizes her and hears her voice.
10. How I bring her honor and us BOTH joy
If we believe the promises of God, then she is with me and can see and hear me at this very moment.
I do not bring her honor or pleasure by mourning the loss of her Earthly body. I do not bring myself healing or happiness by turning inward to my own pain and sorrow.
I bring her honor and us both true joy by waking up each day and asking these questions:
- How can my life be of service to others?
- What can I do today that furthers my purpose on Earth?
- How can I be open to the Blessing of being used as a tool for God’s plan today?
- How can I keep alive those Earthly things that she gave love and energy too in life?
- How can I align my words, my actions and my life to all that she taught me and ultimately all that God desires?
- What values, and rituals and loves and ideals formed the foundation of her life that I can have the privilege of keeping Living and Breathing in my life today?
11. I believe this with all of my heart – God loves us THROUGH people.
God’s love for us is so very often express THROUGH the people that He brings into our lives. I live each and every day with the full knowledge and conviction that He loved me though her and I came to know Him through her.
Just as a baby cries when it is weaned from receiving nourishment in the way it was accustomed, so too do we weep from the loss of receiving His Love in the way we had grown accustomed. But beyond our tears is the realization that God is going to feed us His Love in another way. When we stop crying for how it used to be, and how He used to give us Love, we can discover how He is going to give us Love.
His is an everlasting and unconditional Love. It cannot change or fade simply because He welcomed home someone through whom His Love had so brightly shined.
12. It is easy to be grateful in the moment of joy, but it is harder to be grateful in loss.
She was a woman who had lived through the poverty of southern Kentucky during the Great Depression. She had suffered the loss of a child, the death of her husband, her parents, a nephew, many of her friends and all five of her siblings. Yet she lived each day with great joy and gratitude.
She had learned the greatest secret to life – to be Real and Present and Alive in the moment. She took with her the lessons of her past, but she chose not to live there. She had hopes and dreams of the future, but she chose not to live there.
She did not live in the space of “What if…,” “What could have been…,” “What might happen if…”
She lived in the space of gratitude for the here and the now. She lived in the space of joy for what God had provided. Now, she knew there was evil and darkness in the world, but she knew that which she put her energy and attention towards is what would grow in her life. So she turned her attention to Love, and Kindness, and all that uplifted and all that was of Beauty. She suffered the pain of tragedy, but she trusted that God had always done the most generous and loving thing in her life and just as He had provided in the past, so too would He provide in her present and her future.
So I leave you with this passage from 1 Thessalonians, that was read at both at her funeral and six month earlier at the funeral of her youngest sister Edith:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)