I flew home to France yesterday after almost six weeks in the States. Six unexpected weeks in my old home. Never would I have chosen those weeks which proceeded and followed my mother’s death. If the Lord had somehow whispered to me ahead of time, “Would you like to have the heartache now?”, I would have responded with a resounding “NO!” accompanied by “Never!”
I am thankful He didn’t whisper that to me a few days before Mom’s stroke.
And yet, and yet, how He has whispered to me in my spirit—even shouting at times over my grief—during these past six weeks. He has spoken such words of comfort and love.
And I have felt carried. Carried along by God’s Spirit, carried in the midst of deep emotional pain, carried through the numb moments of disbelief as well as the slew of fresh tears at the most unexpected and inconvenient times. Carried through the corridors of the ICU, carried when the nurse practitioner took me aside and stated in a blunt but compassionate way, “She is going to die and you must let your father and brothers know.”
The Spirit carried me on that bright and balmy spring Atlanta day as I took a break from the hospital and took a walk around the block, those roads of Nancy Creek and Ridgewood that I have walked so many hundreds of times before. “Bring her home,” the Spirit whispered. And I knew we would do just that. Somehow, by God’s goodness, we would contact Hospice and bring Mom back to the home in which she was born, and she would spend her last days in the spacious den, with the wall of windows overlooking the backyard, filled with flowering azaleas and dogwoods and tall hickories and, most importantly, horses. Horses nickering from the barn so that Mom could hear them.
And then the Spirit carried me, carried the whole family, through those precious last days as all of us at different times, oldest to youngest, spent sweet moments with Mom, and then in the last hours, we gathered around her bed and sang those old Baptist hymns and prayed her into glory through buckets of tears.
The Lord carried us through the mind-numbing process of writing the obituary and making decisions about caskets and internment and memorial services and a thousand things that seemed so overwhelming.
And yet, we were carried.
And through it all, I felt in my spirit the sweet, sweet presence of Jesus, and I wanted to run, arms flung out, eyes wide with hope, and lips singing, “It works! It works. Really! Jesus DOES give me the peace that passes understanding in the midst of the hardest days of my life. He DOES carry me as a shepherd carries a little lamb. He IS with me through the valley of the shadow of death. And Halleluiah, death IS swallowed up in victory!”
These things I have shouted in my spirit, and then I have sobbed them out loud to whomever would listen.
And oh, how you have listened. Because, as Jesus has carried me and my precious family, one of the main ways He has done it is through you.
We’ve been humbled, blessed and amazed by the ways people have helped us carry this grief, from the purely practical to the perfectly extravagant: you’ve brought toilet paper and plastic cutlery and you’ve sent gourmet meals and gorgeous flower arrangements. And orchids, ah, orchids!
One wonderful friend brought me a new wardrobe from her closet, another sent me for a manicure and pedicure, several came to the house on the day of the memorial service, leaving the reception early, to prepare the house for the family and closest friends who would drop by later. They got out Mom’s silver and made the table lovely, just as Mom would have done. One of Mom’s closest friends came to the house while we were at the private internment and freshened up the flower arrangements, adding azaleas and forsythia from the yard and plucking out the wilted flowers. My cousin quietly took photos at the internment and service and reception. My parents’ god-daughter (and dear friend of the whole family) painted me this beautiful bouquet of flowers in memory of Mom.
And so, so many called and emailed and sent Facebook messages and gave gifts in memory of Mom. And then the cards, so many beautiful cards of sympathy and condolence! In this age where we rarely take up a pen to sign our names, where most of our words fly through cyberspace, what a joy to hold in our hands these carefully crafted cards.
It all added up to hundreds of people offering Daddy and the rest of the family their words of comfort and love. And how we loved it when you shared a memory of Mom! Yes, these things made us cry—sparkling tears of heart-wrenching pain mixed with a smile on our lips as we remembered Mom being Mom.
And prayers. I don’t think any of us fully understand how prayer works, but during these weeks, I picture the hundreds, even thousands of prayers for Mom and now for her family, as lilies, multitudes of Easter lilies, spread around the Lord’s throne, so abundant and glorious. And the Lord in His mysterious, omniscient way, acknowledging each lily as He stoops to smell each one. And as He does, we feel His peace.
God has given humans amazing creativity, generosity and practicality for such a time as this, and we, the Goldsmith and Musser families, have been the beneficiaries of this richness in the past six weeks.
You who have walked this path of grief KNOW. You just know what to do, what helped you in the past. And we have treasured your active caring and whispered words of advice.
Mom always told me that if there was any way possible to attend the funeral of someone I knew, to do it. If I couldn’t attend, send a sympathy card or flowers. Or take a meal. Do something to let those left behind know that you care and are praying. This I have tried my best to do.
Mom would be a bit shocked to see how many people have followed her wise, practical counsel in the wake of her death. And this time, I and my family are the recipients of her advice.
Thank you. Merci. It has meant the world to me, to us.
And please keep praying for my father, for all of us.
If ever you wonder what you can do to help a dear friend through such heart-wrenching grief, it is quite simple: when someone dies, do what you can. Whatever that is, do it.
But you already knew that, didn’t you?