It’s just another day for many. Just another frigid, blustery winter day in Minnesota.
But, for me, it’s not just another day. And I know many of you have one of those days, where it’s not just another day in your history.
Today, seventeen years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) my life changed drastically.
I still remember having lunch with my sister and a good friend and getting a phone call. “The doctor said you should probably come to the hospital,” my dad said shakily.
“Now?” I asked.
“Eat your lunch, then come. It should be fine,” he replied.
I could barely eat. I remember fighting tears through lunch, my stomach in knots. I’m sure my sister felt the same way. I remember vividly our friend, with tears streaming down her face, saying, “you girls are so strong.” I didn’t feel strong.
I felt like my world was crumbling around me. My footing felt shaky and uncertain. My future seemed dark. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I didn’t want to face it, yet, I wanted to get there faster than my van could go. I wanted to just be there by her side, holding her hand. I wanted to talk to her and have her smile at me again.
By the time my sister and I, with twin 5 month old babies in tow, made our way to the cities and got to the hospital, I was panicky. How was I supposed to face life without her. How was I going to raise two boys without her help and advice, without her strong, steady hands to cuddle them and lead me.
We ran into some friends in the hall of the hospital. They were crying and kept saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” and hugging us. For some reason it didn’t register. I wonder at that sometimes. How did I not clue in? Denial, maybe. She was so strong, so confident, so steady. I guess I was sure in my heart she was going to fight and win this side of heaven. So, I hugged them, but I was confused.
On we walked. Hospital hallways are the longest pathways in life, I think. They seem to go on for eternity when all you want to do is get to your loved one.
We walked in to the ICU, where nurses met us and took the babies. “We’ll play with them a little while.” They all had tears in their eyes too. Still, it didn’t register. I thought it was odd, but kind of them.
Then, in we walked. In to the most depressed, down-trodden faces I’ve ever encountered. My dad, my grandma, my husband. All just standing in her room. When they all turned and looked at Miriam and I, it was as though the final bricks came tumbling down.
“She’s gone,” my grandma whispered.
Knees hitting the floor.
Arms wrapping around my sister and I.
Sobbing, sobbing, sobbing.
Yelling NO! over and over.
“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay,” whispered in our ears.
“I’m so sorry,” repeated to us.
Seventeen years is a long time. And yet, when this day comes around, I’m transported back and everything is so vivid as if it happened yesterday. I can even remember the way the afternoon light was coming through her hospital room window. I can remember the sorrowful faces. I still hear our cries. It’s amazing how a moment can become so etched in your mind, forever searing itself in your memory, and brought to life so clearly after so much time.
Sometimes I am still in awe that I lost my mom all that time ago. There’s still part of me that finds it hard to believe. Most days I can say it without a catch in my voice and a tear in my eye. But some days, like today, it’s more painful than usual.
You see, she wasn’t just anybody. I know, I could say she was amazing. She was the best mom. She was the best friend. And she was all those. But there aren’t quite words to tell you accurately what she was like. If you knew her, you get it. She was extraordinary. But she thought she was ordinary. She was unassuming and humble, yet if you look at her life, she was so unbelievably wonderful. And she really was the best friend I ever had.
And I still miss her. Every. Single. Day. That won’t ever go away, I suppose. And that’s okay. I don’t want to forget her or stop missing her. I want her to live on in my mind and life because she deserves that.
It’s not all sad, you know. She knew Jesus in this life and so there is this great, unshaking hope in the midst of the pain. What I sometimes find amazing is the very friend we were having lunch with when my mom was dying was the very friend who led my mom to Jesus. God is like that, isn’t He? So perfect in His timing and placing of people in our lives.
I know my mom was healed in that moment from an awful cancer and she went to dance with Jesus. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt she’s praising Jesus in heaven and I’ll get to see her again.
In that moment, when she died and my grandma said, “it’ll be okay” I didn’t believe her. How could it possibly be okay?
But, you know what? It is okay. It’s more than okay. It’s wonderful. Life is strange and hard and painful, but it’s also good and amazing and surprising. God has given me an amazing family to do this life with! I couldn’t be more blessed with who He’s filled my life with. He didn’t leave me alone in that moment and He has never left me alone since and I’m so thankful.
In the midst of pain and sorrow, there is always joy and hope. Always. Especially if we know Jesus.