There are certain words that come with an understanding of pain when spoken. Death, disease, accident, foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce. None of those need an explanation to convey the severity that typically accompanies them. And many times, when you’re the person experiencing one of these obstacles in life, even saying the word out loud can bring forth a flood of emotion that cannot be contained. Many moments in our life are pivotal, and these words represent those moments that are full of pain.
I can think back to so many pivotal times that felt like I was enveloped in darkness. Death – specifically the death of my father and years later my mother. When Dad passed, I was a baby Christian. I had said the sinners prayer weeks before and didn’t fully understand what a relationship with Christ was. I received the call that after years of battling, my father was not going to make it. I drove the 5 hours to the hospital alone. As I walked hastily down the corridor of the hospital toward the room he and the rest of my family was in, I could hear screaming. The closer I got, the louder it got until I realized it was my Father. By the time I got there he was not coherent because of the morphine, yet he struggled with something – screaming frantically for hours. My mother and siblings had been there all night. Some of them couldn’t take it any longer and went home. After I had my own breakdown in the hallway outside his room, I went in and opened the bible that I had received from Mary when she prayed with me before I left to see my Dad. She told me to read scripture to him, and that it would be like running cool water over his spirit. I had no idea what that meant but I opened the bible none-the-less, and began reading through my tears. I remember how shocked I was to be reading that particular passage. At the time, I had never even opened a bible outside of church. The passage was:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23
There are some scriptures that transcend religion, and this is one of those. Even though the only scripture I knew for sure was John 3:16, I recognized Psalm 23, as did the rest of my family. Dad calmed down, just as Mary had told me he would. Then, the screaming started again. He screamed unconsolably until his last breath.
Years later, I received a similar call about Mom. It was different though. I had a rough start with my relationship with her, and it took years to forgive and reestablish a connection that I felt was close. I would call everyday to check in and see how she was doing. I started that pattern long before Dad had passed away. Although we lived in a different state, I wanted to make sure that she knew everything that was happening in her grandchildren’s lives. I also felt so sorry for her because she was alone much of the time. A few months before she passed away, she had taken in my adult niece’s who had left their parent’s home (my sister) after an ugly disagreement. The dynamics surrounding this was reminiscent of the difficult relationship I had with my mom in my childhood and early adulthood. One thing led to another, and when I did not condone her actions, I was asked to not call her again unless I could honor her. I suppose it was stubbornness, but I didn’t call. For 2 months I didn’t call. For over 10 years I had called faithfully Monday – Friday … except for those last 2 months.
So, one day I got the call that she had been admitted in the hospital. It was a Saturday. I didn’t worry too much. For 15 years we had been on stand-by for my father to pass away, so I didn’t really expect much more than tests and possibly scheduling a surgery for later in the week. A few hours after she went to the ER, she was admitted and given hours … days at best. She had cancer throughout her body. They never were able to identify the cancer’s point of origin.
I spent that night in the hospital so my siblings who lived in the area could go home and get rest. I could only stay in town for the night, and wanted that time alone with her. I prayed over her many times, read scripture, apologized, cried, prayed more and cried more. That cycle continued throughout the night. Mom didn’t talk to me. She didn’t tell me that she forgave me. She didn’t ask me to forgive her. I remember thinking that it was ok because she was in so much pain and couldn’t talk. It wasn’t until after I got home that I realized she talked to the doctors and nurses, but not me. I honestly don’t know if she spoke to anyone else in the family, but I do know that I wasn’t spoken to. I went home, and the next morning I received a call that she was close to the end. My brothers and sisters that were in the room with her asked me to say goodbye and pray for her over the phone. I could hear the labored, raspy breathing and choked out a prayer of salvaton and a expressed my love for her. She passed away a few hours later.
Those pivotal moments in life don’t come with a do-over. One way or the other, they are what they are. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be redeemed. God is still in the business of redemption and restoration today. My life, my marriage and my family are all proof of that. Unfortunately; even after acceptance and forgiveness; pain can linger. It’s almost as if pain is all somehow linked. When I experience deep sorrow now, I tend to reflect on those times in my life when the pain has run deep, even if they are unrelated experiences. I suppose that is how we muster up the courage to keep moving forward. We need to remember the obstacles that have been overcome in the past so that we can find hope for the future. Those reminders that are not only imprinted in our memories, but also on our spirits.
I miss my parents. They weren’t perfect, but they were mine. I wish I had the opportunity to ask their forgiveness for the offenses that I didn’t even realize I had committed until my children reached adolescence. I regret my stubbornness for not calling. I regret the anger I felt toward my niece’s for their part in losing those months, and changing how I remember my mom. With so many things, I regret.
Death, disease, accident, foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce. There are so many more life altering moments that are not on this list. They are all devastating, and take a long time to heal from. Yes, some just happen to you, and others are a result of choices that are made. Pain is pain regardless of who, what, when, where, why or how. But pain is also limited, and will never extend past it’s usefulness.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3-10