We were getting ready for the Christmas holidays. My mom and I texted a lot. It was a Tuesday and [she said] whatever you guys want to do [I’m down for].
Three days later, we texted her about going over [her house]. She didn’t respond, which wasn’t unusual. Sometimes she’s busy. Sometimes she’s in the shower.
The next day, Saturday, my wife texted her a few things to help us with grocery shopping. And again, she didn’t respond. On Sunday we went to church. Sunday night at dinner, my wife reminded me, “your mom hasn’t been responding. It’s been a couple days.”
I was like, hmm that is interesting. And I said, “you know what? I'm going to head over to our place just to check.”
So I drove over to her house. Got to my mom’s place. Rounded the corner and saw the lights were on. And the screen door was propped open by Amazon packages. And I knew right there something had happened. Because it's not like her to leave Amazon packages in the evening out on the patio.
Open the door to the apartment and called out for her. No response.
Rounded the corner of the hall and saw her on the kitchen floor. I think she passed while she was in the midst of making dinner or whatever it might have been. And, you know, from the. looks of things she had passed for probably a few days.
A single-parent home
My parents divorced when I was 16. Money was a big thing and my dad was a workaholic. The final straw was my dad having an affair outside. My mom was very strong about it. She found it, told me about it and literally within a week, decided to pack up and leave.
I remember being in the house and he was heeded out. He asked me one last time, “what are you going to decide to do? Are you going to stay with me or go with me?”
That was the last time I saw him. Dad moved out to California and I haven’t spoken to him since my parents divorce. Don’t know what he’s up to. He never reached out.
My mom basically raised me single handedly. Was a nurse by trade, sometimes did two or three jobs to put me through college. She was the first one to take me to my first baseball game. Basketball games. Football games. Even though she didn’t understand it. She’d sit there in the cold and watch a basketball game at MSG.
She was a very petite woman at 5 feet tall. And anytime the crowd would stand up and cheer, she would just sit there and giggle, because even if she stood up, she wouldn’t be able to see anything. I think of going to my school plays in high school. Recitals. Things like that.
When I had kids, she was my primary caretaker for our girls, so my wife and I could work full-time. She was always present in my life. So that's why I think when my mom passed it was even that much tougher.
Nothing ever prepares you for death, where it’s unexpected or expected. There are times where I still find myself tremendously sad. There are days where I just start crying, just because of a memory. But in that moment, when I found her body, it was just tremendous sadness.
Two months after my mom passed, my father-in-law passed away. We wrestle with the fact that our children lost two grandparents who loved them dearly in such a short period of time. We mourn the fact that they will not see their hopeful futures and how God will shape them into young women after His heart.
It’s especially hard to see my oldest daughter Isabel wrestle with death as my mom was her primary caretaker for the first 4 years of her life, and Olivia for the first 3 years.
I miss her voice, her sarcasm, her cooking, her straight-shooting commentary and her wisdom. I struggle with my mom’s spiritual afterlife and although she grew up Catholic, did not have a personal intimate relationship with God and not confident she’s in heaven. I recognize that I will never know the answer until I reach heaven. I know that even as I share this, the pain of losing the only parent that raised me will always be there.
Grief is a part of life. It’s part of how God designed us. You know, the shortest verse in the Bible is Jesus wept [in John 11:35]. And he had grief himself when Lazarus died. And I think that’s part of the journey. Necessary for our process.
Caring for those in grief
What people need most in times of grief is support in terms of care and understanding. Even helping to provide a meal. It’s very easy for folks to fall into even deeper grief and depression. But they may say they want to be alone, but they don’t really want to be alone.
Just be a listener, but not necessarily having to solve their problems. Giving a shoulder to cry on. I wouldn’t even say I’ll be praying for you because it’s so cliche outwardly. I would certainly be praying for them without telling them I’m praying for them.
Sometimes those words don’t resonate in times of grief, having gone through it myself. But praying [privately] that the Spirit of God would hold them.
There is no timetable for grief. It could be months. It could be years. And it’s a process of healing that God walks with you along. I think in Western culture where everything is so instantaneous, we expect our emotions to move on too quickly.
As quick as we refresh our social media. I was speaking with my cousin, who my aunt passed away 25 years ago. He told me after my mom passed, even now, he thinks about it. He looks at his son going into high school and in three years, my aunt is not going to be there for high school graduation.
Leadership at [Wellspring] has always been really good about care. Both Seth and Jenavene came over when my mom passed. And when my wife’s dad passed, Jenavene sat down with my wife just to listen. Just a lending ear. A hug.
Just being able to have space [like Blue Christmas and Tearful Heart] for folks to lament is beautiful. Having a year to be able to reflect and then share at Blue Christmas, which was the first one we ever had, and then to hear other people’s grief stories and stories of loss – the tension there is a beautiful space.
There were folks there just to support their friends sharing their story. A few weeks later, another woman in church came up to me, who I didn’t even know attended. She came in and she shared how she had lost her husband right around the holidays a few years ago.
She thanked me for sharing my experience and it helped her in terms of her continued healing.