©2008, Vicki Hinze
This morning, a mother realized her greatest fear. Her daughter, she thought, overslept, and so she went in to awaken her. Her daughter had died in her sleep. Quietly. Without fanfare or bedside vigils. Without a deathwatch. She just slipped away.
She was an only child. She was the core of her mother’s world. And she passed without her mother having an inkling that death was coming, had arrived, had spirited her daughter away.
We who believe know that her soul is safe. That she was not alone because we are never alone. But her mother is desolate that her daughter died alone and that mother is left in deep mourning, raging against this death. She’s lost her husband, lost her two sisters in the past year–and now her daughter. She is devastated, despondent, and feeling each one of those losses again with the full force she felt them the first time. All at once.
She doesn’t want platitudes or kind words. Her sorrow is so deep that they fall on empty ears. She doesn’t want sympathy; it changes nothing, and she is, she feels, still alone.
This misery is too deep to be borne. A mother, she says, should not outlive her child. Death is a mean, merciless master.
This is not the time to tell her that death is a natural part of life. The only way to avoid it is to not be born–and its coming for anyone is never at a convenient time for those who love us. They don’t want us to go–at least, not until they look outside themselves and see suffering and pain and then they accept that one’s death isn’t about them, it’s about the one doing the dying, and they’ve suffered enough, welcome the respite, embrace the end of suffering.
This is not the time to tell her of He who conquered death. She knows Him. She knows this but the loss of her daughter has clouded her mind, as grief does every mind for a time.
To everything there is a season, and this is her season to mourn.
And so I’ll offer her no platitudes or reminders or even kind words or sympathy. I’ll give her what she needs now when she most needs it: I’ll listen.
She’ll work through the shock, suffering yet another loss, the shattered heart, the grief that runs so deep inside it permeates the marrow of her bones. She’ll go through the motions of what must be done and tolerate the well meaning acts and good intentions of others and she’ll grit her teeth and bite her tongue and privately wail her sorrow while uttering all the right things to all the right people, wondering why in heaven she should care to draw another breath.
But she will breathe. She will survive. And she will go on. Because that’s what we do. And when the shock wears off and its protective numbness fades and the ache is still raw, then she will remember where her darling daughter is now. What awaits her. She will remember He who conquered death and went ahead to prepare a place for us, for her child. She will turn to Him, desolate, and He will comfort her in ways no mortal can. And when He does, she will heal. She will again see worth in life and beauty and reason to go on.
She will remember that while her husband and sisters and now her daughter are no longer physically with her, she is not and never has been and never will be alone.
But today… Today begins her season to mourn. And so today, I will remember those things for her, and I will listen…
Tags: death, dying, empathy, mortality, passing away, survivor guilt, sympathy, unexpected death, grief, mourning