Wednesday, May 3, 2017
“Grief does not change you, it reveals you.” ― John Green
A little over twenty years ago, I was coming home from the first church I was serving as a full-time pastor when I found two teenage girls in my driveway, and they were both crying. Another teenager from the church, a young man, had been in an automobile accident and was in the hospital. I drove the forty miles to the hospital where he had been taken and found him in a coma. He never regained consciousness. He had been riding in a jeep that went off the road, and he was the only one badly hurt. Several days later, I held his hand in one of my own and held his mother’s hand in my other hand as the doctors turned off the machines and let him slip into the waiting and loving arms of his God. It was a moment that I will never forget.
The loss of a child is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a parent. Marriages seldom survive and one or both of the parents change in ways that affect everyone around them. Just a year earlier, another teenager, a young woman, was killed in a car wreck, and her mother threw herself on her daughter’s grave in the middle of winter, dressed only in a nightgown and hoped to freeze to death. She didn’t, but she never recovered either. This young man’s mother seemed to know that famous quote from Dr. Seuss, “When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” She chose the last one. She fought for and helped establish a scholarship in her son’s name to keep his name alive and connected with something good. She became very active in support groups for parents who had lost children, and she became the youth leader at our church. She became the role model for loving parents who lose a child, in my opinion at least. I am proud to say that we have remained friends for all these years even though I haven’t seen her in person in this century. She is now a part of my heart. Every year on the anniversary of her son’s death, I will get a message from her that makes my heart smile. Sometimes it’s just a few words or a picture, and this year it was an emoji (she does keep up with modern technology). She became stronger while others were destroyed or forever defined by a terrible moment in their lives. Christ calls us all to be more than we think we can be as He gives us His strength to sustain us. We cannot avoid tragedy, but we can triumph over it as Christ did that Easter morning so very long ago. Don’t let floods or school shooters or even deaths due to disease destroy or define you. You can, like that young man’s mother, become a stronger Christian than you thought you could be. Christ has that kind of strength to offer you, if you but ask.