I studied her small, wrinkled hands. Their roughness testified to the fact that these eighty-five year old hands had worked hard through the years. I rubbed them gently, hoping she could feel the love flowing from my hands to hers. Glancing out the sliding glass doors, I watched the geese swimming on the small pond. The reflection of the trees on the water was fading with the sun. My brothers and sister-in-law were hovering quietly, waiting. Soon it would be time for me to move, and let Wayne say his good-byes.
My heart was breaking. I had so much to say, so much I wanted to tell her. But the lump in my throat blocked all the words. Even if I could squeeze them out, would she hear me? Her first dose of morphine had left her unconscious.
The long, wooden dining table had been replaced with her hospital bed. She would have wanted it that way. Her special spot was at the table, watching the hummingbirds feed and the antics of the squirrels. So many meals were shared there. Memories were written in every stain and scratch of the light oak. But no more. Silently I waited while the oxygen machine screamed disapproval at me.
Click, hissssss “You sssshould have been here more.” Click, hisssss “You sssshould have come home more often.”
How many times had Mama waited for me to come home? Now, filled with regret, I silently waited for her…to go home.
I walked the few feet into the kitchen area to warm our supper. It may be a long night. We would need to eat. Bebe and Wayne were bedside, talking softly.
“Look, she’s smiling!” Bebe said.
Wayne called to me. I hurried over, expecting to see the smile on Mama’s face. But instead, this:
“But…how do you know?”
“Because, darlin’, she stopped breathing…”
And just like that, the waiting was over.
Regret consumed me after Mama died. Ever so slowly, Regret’s hissing voice turned into condemnation.
“Why didn’t you go home more? Why did you always rush through your phone conversations with Mama. They were just something to check off your to do list. You should’ve done more for her. You were never there for her.”
Rocks of guilt tumbled down my mountain of grief and buried me. I was crushed.
All too quickly after the death of a loved one, the world returns to normal. My heart ached, but I had to do normal things like go to work each day, grocery shop, attend church. Thankfully, one of the habits I had developed over the years was daily time in prayer and God’s word.
Each day, I continued to plod through my grief and the scriptures. I read devotions on grief. I know as Christians we grieve differently than those who don’t have the hope of Jesus. And yet…my grief didn’t subside, and the voice of criticism increased. Finally, one day I stumbled across this familiar scripture in Romans:
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. None.
In my grief, I didn’t realize the hissing voice was the enemy of my soul, wanting me to wallow in regret. The evil one didn’t want me to rejoice in my Mama’s life and remember all the good times we had. He wanted me beaten down, too grieved to share the hope I have in Christ. No more. After reading that scripture, I put on the armor of God and began to do battle. I fought with the sword of truth – God’s word.
Slowly, ever so slowly, over the weeks and months after Mama died, His words saturated my soul. Slowly, my grief began to lessen. Words from the Psalms comforted me:
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Oh, yes, my spirit was crushed. But the Lord is near to my broken heart! He will save me from my grief!
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Ps 147:3 Oh, how my heart was broken. But His Word bound all my broken pieces together. He splinted my broken heart and spirit with a cast of His love.
Healing takes time, and must be from the inside out. But character is built in the valley.
Is there a loss that’s left you feeling broken?
Grace be with you,
This post originally appeared on The Consilium.