There are times when overwhelming loss leaves us without words. Sandra Merville Hart has known such a time. But she has also known the love of God that carries us through those days. Here is Sandy’s story …
Sometimes … God just cries with us.
That year, between the two of us, my husband and I lost three parents. Though I prayed fervently for a different outcome—one where they’d all be healed—for the third time in six months a hospice nurse told me, “We’re seeing the kind of things we see in the last twelve, twenty-four, to forty-eight hours of life.”
This time it was for my dad. The strong man who had been a rock, a safe haven for me and my siblings, lay dying. Mom had died five months earlier and my father-in-law a month before that. Could this really be happening again?
My dad had been the caregiver for my mom for several years. Her Alzheimer’s grew worse, requiring more time from me and my sister to cook, clean, and help care for Mom. Before my dad’s stroke, one of us had visited daily for many long months. His stroke started an avalanche of sorrow and grief.
For it seemed that God had opened a box, letting out all the bad things at once, and didn’t close the lid until the box was empty. Strokes, two cancer diagnoses, Alzheimer’s, a broken hip—it all tumbled down on our precious parents. Each day—sometimes each hour—brought new struggles as I watched the health of people I loved so dearly seep away.
My sister and I shouldered the brunt of these trials so that my parents never knew all that happened with social agencies, social workers, nursing homes, insurance agents, attorneys, nurses, financial institutions, and hospice staff. I felt like I was drowning, with no one to save me.
Yet it was my parents, my father-in-law, and my mother-in-law who suffered the most. Alzheimer’s didn’t prevent my mother-in-law from grieving her husband.
The worst part was that my parents were in different nursing homes for about a month. My mom was too ill to go see him and the insurance threatened to cancel his benefits if he left the nursing home. It was a nightmare.
Anytime someone asked how to pray for us, I said, “Pray that my dad’s nursing home finds room for my mom.” Four days after she was accepted for hospice care, she and my dad were reunited in the same nursing home. Unfortunately, hospital staff had called my husband’s family to be at his dad’s side to say final goodbyes, so I missed that joyful reunion.
It was that kind of year.
For all that we endured, I’m sure we were saved from events that would have made it worse. I’m grateful for the mercies extended to my parents during those dark days.
My dad’s cancer diagnosis came five months after my mother’s death. My siblings and I were left reeling from the blow. He lived two more weeks.
Our broken hearts grieved his passing yet rejoiced that he now walked hand-in-hand with his bride on streets of gold. No Alzheimer’s. No cancer. No stroke.
I looked up at puffy white clouds during his funeral and knew somewhere up there my parents had been reunited. They were happy again.
I never felt God abandoned me, though I wondered why everything had to be so painfully hard. I leaned heavily on God and my faith. There were many days when there were no words to express my feelings in prayer. I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans words cannot express. Romans 8:26 (NIV)
No one can emerge from such experiences without being changed.
I’ve learned that caring actions like a hug, a genuine smile, a card, and a meal can give you the strength to make it through the day. I’ve learned how to care for someone who is suffering through difficult days.
And I’ll never forget how God loved my parents and provided for them when everything seemed hopeless. I prayed that He’d take the illnesses away and heal them again. It wasn’t to be. But I felt that God suffered with me and my siblings. Just as Jesus was moved with compassion for hurting folks, God shared our pain.
Knowing God shared our sorrow was one of the greatest blessings I received from that experience.
From all this sorrow, I finally understand. Sometimes God just cries with us.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
Please visit Sandy on her blog: https://sandramervillehart.wordpress.com/. And be sure to check out her newest book, Trail’s End, in “Smitten Novella Collection: The Cowboys,” releasing August 15, 2019!