I went to get my hair cut today and was talking to my stylist (that sounds pretentious, but I can't think of a better way to put it!) and found out that her mom recently died in October. This stylist is the mom of a girl I worked with when I worked in customer service for the Body Shop, and I've been to her a couple times for a haircut. I told her that my mom had recently died too, very unexpectedly and suddenly, and she asked me the strangest thing. She asked me if I had any "signs" that she was still with me. I (somewhat naively) said "do you mean, like, pictures?" She replied that she felt that she had seen "some lights" and other things that made her think "her mom was still with her." When I mentioned wanting to have my Dad close by to take care of him, she asked "if they were together" as though it were safe to assume they were divorced, and then sounded surprised when I said no, they've actually been married for over 30 years. That made me sad, too. The only thing I could think to reply with was that I am a Christian and know my mom was too, and that I know she is in heaven. She isn't around here anymore.
I felt so bad for this lady who so desperately wants to hang onto the memory and presence of her mom in her life that she would take flickering lights or some such nonsense as a "sign" of her mom's spirit. Of course I can understand not wanting to let go, not wanting to be far apart from your mother. I believe that from even before birth, we have such a special connection to our mothers, both physical and through love, that we will never have something quite the same with any other person. A close friend or mentor can be "like a mother" but there is just no replacing the nurturing of a mother's love. Imagine the way a pregnant woman waits for nine months, dreaming about, preparing for, talking to, and loving on her baby before it's even born! And after it's born, well, that baby becomes her whole world. The mother/child relationship is so crucial and so impossible to re-create once lost.
I could talk forever about this subject, as I think of and miss my mom every minute of the day, but my real point is that I was shocked today at how I felt totally unprepared and inadequate to tell this lady that I know how she can not have to rely on signs and feelings and how she could have real hope. Honestly, it was an awful feeling to have while we're looking for a ministry position... if I can't tell my hair stylist how to have hope in the face of death when I've just been through it myself, how can I help Matt lead a whole congregation? I know I have to do my part so that these opportunities won't be wasted.
I came home and ended up reading the Talley's most recent post about Linda's condition. It breaks my heart to read their posts, because it's so painfully similar to our situation with Mom, but in extreme slow-motion. They are preparing to go through one of the hardest things there is to go through, and I can say for a fact that I know what it's like. But then, I also read our friends the Creech's blog... their grandma just found out that her lymphoma is back... and Faye's writing is so encouraging, I wanted to share a bit:
"But it is precisely the pain and suffering and aching and crying that make us more able to pray. And the prayers make us more able to hear God's voice in the midst of troubles. For after the shock and anger and tears these words have the most meaning:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33"
I've seen ways so far that I feel God has used such great tragedy in my life to prepare me for something... I just don't know what yet. He's used Mom's death as an open door to compassion for those who have lost loved ones and for those who are lost themselves. I'm continuing to pray that I will be obedient to Him and "faithful to the process" as Dad says.