Someone Like You … might be sad
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
- Psalm 23:4
Grief is one of the most difficult journeys to travel, a journey that at times will feel impossible. Live long enough and it is a journey we will all take.
For me, one such journey began when I was at a book signing at a Christian bookstore in Vancouver, Washington. It was Oct. 1, 2005. When I sign books, I try to stand face-to-face with the reader and let the rest of the people in line and their conversations fade.
There I was, talking with a reader, signing her book, when suddenly my husband, Donald, was there. I looked up and did a doubletake. “Is everything okay?” I locked eyes with him and I had my answer before he spoke a word.
“Honey … it’s your brother, Dave. He died. They found him in his apartment this morning.”
My mind began to spin. I had a thousand questions but I couldn’t make a sound. Donald escorted me to the back room of the bookstore and I called my parents. I learned that Dave was supposed to have gone to my nephew’s football game that morning. But he never showed up, so my parents went to his apartment where they found his truck. But he didn’t answer his door.
A wellness check became a call for police. An autopsy later showed that my only brother died of overuse of opioids. He had injured his back at work and been on the medication for constant pain. No overdose was found, just a body that had taken all the pain medication a person could take. Dave was 39.
But there was something else about Dave that few people knew. Weeks earlier – after a lifetime of rejecting God - Dave had called me. For more than a decade, my husband and I had tried to share the truth and love of Jesus with Dave. But always he went his own way. Until that one afternoon weeks earlier when he called me. MercyMe’s song “I Can Only Imagine” was blaring through his house. “Karen!” my brother’s voice boomed above the music! “I found this song! I can’t stop playing it! It’s like I finally get it about God!”
I think I checked the Caller ID just to make sure it was really Dave. But it was, and he wasn’t finished making his declaration. “Karen, I want to dance before Jesus one day! And please, can I go to church with you and Don this Sunday?”
That began a series of Sundays where Dave was at church up front and early. He worshipped God with all his heart, like a man who had finally found the only thing that could quench the thirst in his soul. One Sunday, mid-service – while everyone was standing and worshiping - Dave gave me the biggest hug. “Karen,” he had tears in his eyes. “Thank you for never giving up on me.”
His words were the greatest gift. I couldn’t believe it. After so many years of conflict, I actually had a brother who liked me. I couldn’t wait for all the fun times ahead.
But that was the last time I saw Dave. The book signing was a week later and now, Dave was gone.
After talking to my parents, I returned to the main floor of the bookstore, and I told the crowd of a hundred readers what had happened. Someone stepped forward and offered to pray, and a circle formed around me. The moment was so beautifully tragic, so completely holy, that I did the only thing I could do.
I stayed and let the love of God fall all around me in the form of those precious people.
I was in shock, but with all that love from those readers, I stayed and finished the signing. One sad reality was that Dave never had children, never had a family. Something he had always wanted. I told that to the crowd and the people nodded, some wiping tears. In their own ways, they understood.
Amidst the readers that day was a woman who stepped up and put her hand alongside my cheek. “We lost our baby granddaughter a few days ago. I’d like to think today your brother is holding her.”
We both cried and held onto each other.
When I got home, I found a quiet place outside and lifted my eyes to the sky. Lord, I silently cried out. Why? Why would You take Dave now, when he was only just starting to live?
And in the silence of that moment, I felt the Lord’s sweet response. Yes, Karen. He was only starting to live. Just not the way you expected. I let that sink in and even with tears streaming down my face, a smile lifted my soul. Because Dave actually was dancing before Jesus. Just like he had hoped to do!
In the journey of grief, the outcome of our experience is often in the way we look at it.
None of us has a guaranteed tomorrow, and one out of one of us will leave this world someday. Like Dawson we can pray and pray for someone to survive, for the illness to leave and the prognosis to turn around. We pray for a miracle. And sometimes God says, “Yes, my child. It isn’t time for this one yet.” Other occasions, it is time. It’s time to say goodbye even though we are never ready.
You will forever be changed by the greatest losses of life and the journey of grief that follows. No question. The loss of a parent or a child, a sibling or a friend. A breakup or divorce in your family. But God gives us hope, even still. He is with us. He never forsakes us. Sometimes the best way to handle grief is to quickly celebrate the time we had with that person, leaning in toward a supernatural gratitude. And then to trust God that He knows what’s best. His timing is perfect, and so is His comfort in times of loss.
Because of Jesus, like Louise said, we really are going to be okay!
Are you grieving something or someone you lost? What or who is that?
Where do you find hope in this season?
Have you tried talking to God? Why or why not?
Do you think God could help you find your way back to okay?
I Can Do That:
Journal your feelings about this loss. Describe what happened.
Now go through your journal entry and put a mark where you are certain God carried you through – even for a moment.
Write out a prayer of help to God. Be honest and real. God knows how you feel.
Call someone who might be feeling sad in this season of life. It is so important that we are there for each other!