But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13
Mom H. loved me. It was a choice she made when I was a sullen 10-year-old who refused to make friends. She didn’t know I had erected a wall around my heart to protect myself from heartbreak at the next inevitable move, another that would mean more severed ties and disruption. All she knew was I was alone, and she set out to fix that.
She was the room mother for our fifth-grade class, so she accompanied us on a field trip to Cleveland’s vast Metroparks system. “Everyone get a buddy,” the teacher told us. I lagged behind by myself at the back of the group.
Mom H. was supposed to hold the hand of her only child, Barbara, that day. Instead she told Barbara to hold the hand of a nearby girl, telling her she had something she needed to do. I was that something.
As I walked along, Mom H. came alongside me, wrapping her hand around mine. “I’ll be your friend today,” she said, smiling down at me. I didn’t protest. I was too stunned. No one had ever deliberately sought me out. Didn’t she know I was that weird new girl? Didn’t she know other parents had always warned their kids about associating with our family?
My heart thawed a little that day, and I began to let people in again. First it was Barbara, then each of Barbara’s friends, which included pretty much everyone. As for Mom H., she became more like a mom to me over the years, especially as she began to become aware of my life at home. Her house became a refuge where I was loved, accepted, affirmed and even celebrated.
Then, as an adult, when I lost my sister and mother to suicide six months to the day of each other, Mom H. was there – comforting, worrying, being a stable presence when I had forgotten what stability was. Mom H. loved me. It was a choice she had made many years ago, and she never turned back from it.
One day I shared with her my faith in Jesus. I went through the plan of salvation. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone so dear to me not being in heaven with me. “Oh, honey, I made the decision to trust Jesus a long time ago,” she assured me. “I know I’ll go to heaven because I have Him in my heart.” Mom H. loved Jesus. That too was a choice she had made many years ago, and she never turned from it.
So when I got the message that she had died in Barbara’s arms, I knew she was now holding the hand of Jesus, who ushered her into her reward.
That next weekend I stood in front of a group of those who loved Mom H. as I did, and I shared my story of what she meant to me. As I got to the part about her support through the loss of my sister and mother, I looked across the room and broke down.
In front of me was the seat where I had sat years ago for their funerals, which were held in the very same room as this one. But instead of listening to someone trying to conjure up artificial comfort where none, for lack of saving faith, could be found, I was able to stand and share the gospel to which Mom H. clung. Where death had once brought defeat, eternal life now brought hope.
Mom H. may not be on this earth anymore, but she is more alive now than ever. This life was a shadow of the real one she now knows. And with that, even through tears, those who loved her can rejoice.
Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? – 1 Corinthians 15:55