May 18, 2014
Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Letter #331: Home Sweet Home
I am sad. Some days, there are no words for how I feel, but not today. Today I have no emotion; I have no feeling. Joe’s mom passed away yesterday. This remarkable, strong woman who called me her “other son” is gone. And I am sad.
I am sad for my buddy, Joe. He’s just 29 years old, yet lost his father six years ago and now his mother; both were much younger than my own parents. I am grateful for their lives, for the time I get with them, for the impact they have on this world … and I can’t imagine them not being in my life. Surely, that day must come, and I won’t be ready for it then. I won’t understand it, and I won’t have to.
Yesterday, Joe called his paternal grandmother to see how she was doing and to see if she’d been over to the hospital to visit Karen, Joe’s mom. Near the end of the conversation, Joe’s grandma said he should talk to my own mother, Cathy. Then, she said unexplainably, “Just be prepared, Joe, in case you hear bad news about your mom.” He hung up, puzzled, and I immediately called my mom. She told me Joe’s mom had just passed away within that hour, but that Joe’s grandma hadn’t wanted to tell him and asked my mom to please let Joe know. I put Joe on the phone.
Mommy had visited Joe’s mom a few times in the hospital and developed a mutual friendship with her based on their deep love for their boys. Karen couldn’t hide how proud she was of her son who is, like me, not ashamed to be a Momma’s Boy. Joe was extremely close with his mom, which made telling him the tragic news all the more difficult. My mom told him through tears that his mother had passed away, and Joe just thanked her for telling him.
We hung up and just sat, stunned, the breath knocked out of us, the wind out of our sails. Question after question bombarded our minds, the answers hidden around corners of life we’ve not yet traveled. “Why now?” Six months to the day from when Joe paroles, finally free to see her. “Six months, God! Why, after such an inspirational journey, would You let her die?”
Karen had just seen Joe’s life transformed and dedicated her life afresh to God. Coming through a difficult surgery and rocky recovery, then placed on life support, we’d thought she was gone. Clearly, she wasn’t done yet, fighting against all odds to make a comeback, during which she spoke with Joe last week on Mother’s Day. This would be her final blessing to Joe, a parting gift before saying goodbye for the last time.
In all of this unknown, in all of this loss and uncertainty, Joe is standing strong. He knows he is not alone in this world, comforted by the Holy Spirit and strengthened by the prayers of the Body of Christ. The Lord prepared him for this possibility, and his mother did her absolute best to prepare him as well. For that, he is grateful. And he’s grateful for a few more moments with her by phone on Mother’s Day, of all days … what a nice touch, from a gracious God.
Joe is not your typical orphan. He has no silly red curls, nor is he begging for food in India. But he is an orphan, nevertheless, and God promises to step in as a “Father to the fatherless.” And he is now part of a great big family who helps bear each other’s burdens, weeping with those who weep.
And though we are still sad, still stunned, because loss isn’t easy, “we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope.” Now, because of a gracious God, I get to meet Karen someday. And Joe will have eternity with her.
Life is difficult, and life can bring sadness, but eternal life brings joy that lasts forever. Thank you for your reminders to us that we are all part of Christ’s eternal family. We are grateful for your prayers.