Seventeen years ago tomorrow (October 20th, 1990), I had my first real encounter with intense grief. Yes, I had seen other people grieve. Yes, I had played the piano and sung at funerals … but nothing this close to home …
It was the day my mother passed away – Joyce Conner. My parents had flown to the USA and my dad had left my mother in the LA airport where she was waiting to catch a flight up to Portland, Oregon to spend time with my sister, Sharon. My dad flew on to Chicago for some meetings. While alone in the LA airport, my mother had a massive heart attack. She was rushed to intensive care. My dad had to come back to LA and Nicole and I flew over to be there too, along with my sister and her family. My mum went into a coma and after 10 days we agreed to switch off the life support. She kept breathing on her own for a few days, while still in a coma, before breathing her last. We didn’t get to have a conversation with her – she had gone.
It all happened so quickly – the phone call from my dad, the sudden trip to the USA, the days spent praying and waiting and hoping that she would wake up from her coma, and then coming back home … without her.
We were in shock for many weeks – it seemed like a bad dream that we were all going to wake up from any moment. It couldn’t be happening. She was just here. Surely, she’s coming back. This can’t be happening. She as only 65 years of age. We weren’t prepared for this. We didn’t have time to say ‘goodbye’.
Over time the stark reality that my mother was gone … and that she wasn’t coming back … began to settle in. We had to let her go. Her time on earth was finished. She had run her race. As much as it hurt, we wouldn’t see her again … in this life.
Eventually, we had to reach out to the future … a future without her here with us. We had lives yet to live. We couldn’t live in the past. The memories lived on, as did her impact. But we had to move forward.
This whole process (shock, accepting reality, letting go, and reaching forward) took many months … even years. Emotions were unpredictable. At times the loss would hit me like a tidal wave and I would cry uncontrollably. At other times, I couldn’t cry, even if I wanted to. Just when you think you’re through the grief … something would trigger a memory and the tears would be there again.
Any time you lose something or someone you love, you experience grief. It’s a normal emotion – it’s the way we respond to ‘loss’ … of any kind. Understand that it takes time to work through the process of healing and grieving. Be patient with yourself. Lean in to your emotions. Feel them deeply. Don’t be ashamed to weep. Pour out your heart to God. Don’t rush the process. In time, you will be able to move forward … to see the light of a new day … maybe even to understand a little of the ‘why’ … and hopefully, to find joy and laughter again.
Mum, thanks for everything … you live on in our hearts and lives … we miss you!
Isaiah 53:3. "He (Jesus) was … a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief." NLT
Psalm 30:5. "… weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." NIV