I will never forget the day I learned of my mother’s sudden death. It was in the afternoon as I was heading out the door to go pick up a friend from the airport and then run to my newspaper job for a night shift. There were no cell phones in those days. The airport was almost an hour away. I couldn’t cry. I had to drive.
I returned from funeral leave right before my 25th birthday. Celebrating was the furthest thing from my mind. But my co-workers brought in a card and a cake. Some friends showed up at my door to take me out. I wouldn’t enjoy any of it, but I would endure it.
Nothing brought me joy for the longest time. A beautiful summer day just meant another day when I wouldn’t hear my mother’s voice; a brilliant starlit sky was just something else my mother would never again appreciate.
In those early days, I was certain I would never again know happiness. Guilt would overwhelm me if I caught myself smiling. How could I be happy? All that was left for me was pain.
That was half a lifetime ago. Sometimes it still feels like yesterday, and sometimes it feels as if it all happened to someone else to whose heartache I was a vicarious witness.
The next few years brought massive changes. Marriage. Recommitment to Christ. Babies. Career shift. New friendships. New priorities. New laugh lines around my eyes. New joy.
It happened slowly, that return to joy. Sometimes anniversaries would hit me unexpectedly hard, but still the joy returned.
I remember the day that would have marked my mother’s 75th birthday. It was impossible to miss, what with two of her surviving siblings having birthdays in the same week. All week long, I announced the advent of my mother’s birthday to my family, as if to prepare myself. So I was ready. Laying sod that day followed by a wedding that night were excellent distractions.
As I left the wedding, I listened to a voicemail from another of my mother’s sisters, my precious Aunt Ellen. “I was thinking about you today,” she said. And for just a moment, I choked inside. But it was okay. It really was okay. I told her so.
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters.—Job 42:12-13
God has been my Rebuilder, my Restorer and my Rewarder. By HIs grace, He has loosened the shackles of grief and filled me with His joy and His peace. And so I may laugh again.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”—Psalm 126:2
Dear hurting friends, may the joy of the Lord be your strength. You will again smile – not a self-conscious smile, but a sincere smile – and you will again laugh without pain. The Lord will indeed do great things for you, as your laughter will someday testify.