On February 6, 2016, our 17 year-old sons, Jordan & Evan, died in a tragic tobogganing accident. This shocking loss of life reverberated throughout Calgary and beyond. Our family has been permanently altered; the cost has been indescribable.
Because this loss was so public and evocative, I feel that the heart-journey afterward should also be a public one. My desire is to share words of hope and comfort as we journey forward.
I hope that my words will be a gift to some others who are struggling, as I walk this journey of loss with authenticity and openness. If that person is you, please receive these words; I trust that some of them will resonate in your heart. Be assured that you are not alone in your journey of grief. I hope that you will receive some validation and encouragement in the midst of your own personal storm.
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My friend was looking for candor. He genuinely wanted to know how I felt about the concept that “it was their time”.
This is not an easy question to entertain. The more untimely the death, the more painful it is to consider. Our boys were just about set to launch... How could anyone subscribe to the idea that this was their designated time to die?
The idea of a set time to die is so hard to accept - especially when it involves a child, a poor judgement call or death at the hand of a perpetrator. How could this be God’s will? Our inclination and desire for fairness shrieks to be heard.
I acknowledge two things that enable me to live with this un-ease:
There is a wrestling with God’s sovereignty. As my friend puts it, “God didn’t see fit to consult with her on this” when her son died.
I take special note in Psalm 139: David talks about God ordaining the length of days for me, and he follows that statement with, “How precious are your thoughts to me, O God. How vast is the sum of them.”
God has our days set out for us before we even take our first breath. Despite the length of time we are given, we have the assurance that we are indeed precious to Him. Not an ounce of our darkness or suffering goes unnoticed by our loving Creator. He is present with us in it.
Note that David mentions “leading us in the everlasting way” at the end of the Psalm. Ultimately, this is our hope and assurance, that there is eternity yet ahead for those who love God, whose hearts are yielded toward Him.
Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Thy book they were all written,
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
We are so thankful for the photos we have, AND hearts that are packed-full of precious memories. The photo evidence reminds us that Jordan & Evan lived abundant lives. So many of us were touched by their presence, their love and laughter in our lives. After losing a loved one, those snapshots are SO treasured! Interestingly, I had not given much contemplation to the fact that each of us will have “final pictures” of those we love. It is sobering and undeniable.
DO YOU HAVE A “LAST PICTURE” IN YOUR MIND?
Do you have a “last perfect picture” in your mind, before the news of loss came to you?
...a snapshot before a terminal diagnosis.
...a family photo taken long before a painful divorce.
...a picture of a fabulous career before downsizing cuts.
...a grad portrait of your child before a drug-overdose or suicide.
These are very real losses, and the journey through them is fraught with bumps and unexpected detours. Most of the time, you are only seeing about 3 feet ahead on the path. I am learning that the loss of loved ones – especially children – is going to be a lifelong journey.
My brain and heart have a full-time job examining:
That is the journey, my friend. Perhaps you too are on that journey. You are in good company.
I am weary with my groaning:
All night I make my bed swim;
I drench my couch with my tears.
It has been a record-breaking season of snow in Calgary. Recently, I was navigating unfamiliar residential side streets and I suddenly found myself stuck in very deep snow. I gave it some gas going forward; I tried it in reverse. I vainly tried to get some traction with the sheer ice underneath me. I searched our vehicle for some kind of implement to help me dig myself out. All I could find was an ice-scraper snowbrush. Arg!
I tried in vain – with the brush - to flick some snow out from under the vehicle. It was a losing proposition: lots of sweat and no progress. I was able to call two young men who lived nearby to come dig me out with shovels, and give me a push in the right direction. What a relief!
There are times where I take an honest inventory of myself and come to the conclusion that “I’m not able to do this on my own”. (That is the honest journey of a Jesus-follower.) It involves a great deal of humility: an admission to God that – despite my valiant efforts - I fall short. I am needy. I’m in need of rescue. I’m in need of so much from God: restoration, healing, power to turn away from sin, strength to face huge challenges, wisdom in making decisions… My own “snowbrush” just isn’t doing the job!
Interestingly though, it’s often not until I experience great storms in my lives that I am FORCED to take inventory and admit that I can’t do it on my own. We live in a society where we aspire to be self-reliant and ruggedly independent.
Since our boys died, I personally have found myself in a place of crying out to God, “I can’t do this!” It is very evident to me that I desperately need God’s help to navigate this road. It has been a regular cry of my heart to God: “Please, take control. Please, carry me. Please, give me peace and comfort that will sustain me. I need you.” That is a daily prayer and continues to be...
Fear not, says the Lord, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will lift you up with the right hand of my righteousness.
I was struck by a comment that a friend made. Widowed at a young age, he is quite a few years further ahead in his journey of loss than I am. He shared with me: “Sometimes God does not answer my questions, but He answers with His presence.”
How true I have found that to be. There are no complete answers that will satisfy me on this side of heaven. A person cannot make sense of tragic loss. We can ask God. We should ask! We are designed to look for answers and to seek things out.
However, at times there needs to be a willful and humble submission that I don’t understand (and that is okay). I cannot grasp the mind of almighty God, nor fully understand the things He is working out in my situation. He is authoring my story; He will bring that story to a full and complete conclusion as He desires.
What I do experience though is the answer of His presence. God has been answering me with His presence over these last 2 years. He gives a supernatural peace that I truly could not have conjured up myself. He comforts my heart in the deepest moments of despair and I know from His Word that He weeps with me in my sorrow. Sometimes He prompts people to drop a text or send a word of encouragement. These are tangible demonstrations of God’s love and presence in my situation.
I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.
“IS faith enough?” I was asked this very heart-felt, beneath-the-surface question recently. Perhaps there are others wondering that too.
YES, YES, YES. It is my ONLY thing and it is my EVERY thing.
It is super important though, to clarify what faith is to me personally. There are two things to consider:
Object of my faith:
The size of my faith:
Personally, my faith is in an object, found to be trustworthy and reliable. I do not have the strength to conjure up a state of mind within myself called “faith”. My faith is anchored only in Jesus.
I lean heavily on Jesus for many things: comfort, reassurance, eternal hope, forgiveness of my sins, much-needed clarity as I stumble through the darkness, knowledge of His presence, assurance of heaven… Where do I gain understanding about the object of my faith? Through His Word, the Bible.
What about the size of my faith? There are times in life where my faith seems so small and inadequate! Does Jesus require a certain quantity of faith from me in order to remain reliable and steadfast?
We all remember that common childhood experience: being picked up by daddy and being tossed in the air, only to be caught again. What at thrill! One child can absolutely LOVE that exhilaration. However, another child will have much more reservation…as much as he enjoys the thrill, he will stiffen up and ask not to be thrown very high.
Does that child’s smaller amount of faith in his daddy’s ability to catch him affect the father’s reliability? No, of course not…his Daddy is always steadfast to carry him.
Please Note: Due to the journey I am on I may not be able to respond to your message.