August 30, 2015, a day that parted time for me. Just weeks after Matt’s 22nd birthday, now marks his home-going. There is so much back story, but that would fill a book, so pardon the skimming as we touch upon the moments that changed our lives forever.
My husband was having treatment, that we prayed would extend the 5-year lifespan the doctors had given him. So we would be in Louisiana for a few months and we decided to make the best of it and treat it like along vacation. On the first day many tests were scheduled, and it was during one of them that I was skimming through Facebook while my hubby had to lay still & silent. An article on the local news feed caught my eye and in a moment my momma heart knew, what it never wanted to know. There was a picture of a car, mangled, and I knew, I just knew it was my son’s. I slipped out of the room and my heart was racing. Was this why Matt had not responded to my text that morning? My heart began to shatter as I dialed his number and it went straight to his voicemail. I called his fiancé, she had not heard from him since earlier the day before. Next call was to his best friend and asking him to go to the house to see if he was there. While I waited I called the police, the officer was off so would have to call me tomorrow… The anguish of being 1,700 miles from home and relying on others for news of my son’s life was sheer agony. His friend called, Matt was not at home, and I hated that I knew. I called the coroner’s office – they would have to have someone call me back. I thought I would lose my mind; how hard could it be to tell me if it was my son that had died?!?! In a desperate moment I called my son-in-love, a County Medic, and asked him to do what he would never want to do… When my daughter returned the call, sobbing, and I crumpled in a heap on the floor. My son, my baby boy, dead. My world began to spinout of control and I wish I could tell you I was super spiritual, but the only words that would come through the sobs were “It’s too much, no, it’s too much!” Our family had been through so much grief the previous few years and this seemed more than we could bear, than I could bear. Yet, even in my faithless moment, God’s faithfulness to me held strong. And before the foundation of time, He planned for His people to surround us. They brought Dave to me and loved on us. They booked flights and paid for our cab back to the apartment so we could pack to go home. They called the doctor. They called our family. They were the hands and feet of Jesus! Through them He cradled us all the way home.
That was the longest day of my life. I’ve watched people at airports and assumed that they were travelling due to a death in the family, now we were one of them. When we arrived and I saw my sister all we could do was hold each other and cry. Walking into the house was surreal. It was as he had left it. A board game on the table, his work shirt hanging on the back of the chair in my office. He’d moved back in with us as he transitioned to going back to work at Thousand Pines Christian Camp. (In fact, his car was packed, he was supposed to start the next day.) All I could do was hold his shirt, breath in his smell and curl into a ball on the couch. Those who were there tried to comfort me but it was if I were under water and I couldn’t make sense of their words. I thought I might die, and there were parts of me that thought it wasn’t a bad idea, anything to stop the pain. I remember thinking that I was actually glad my mom had passed the year before, because this would have killed her. Four dear family members in a little over a year, a husband with a death sentence hanging over his head after 8 years of battling back from a traumatic brain injury, just how much was a body supposed to bear? I began to shut down…
I just couldn’t understand why Matt had died. You see, Matt was a miracle gift from God. I wasn’t supposed to able to conceive, let alone carry another child – and even through miscarrying his twin. God spared his tiny life twice in a single day and then spoke his name to me, “Matthew” – Gift of God. Matt opened his heart to Jesus when he was in the second grade and I know that is how he was able to love people so well. Large, lavish, unconditional love and adventure, ruled his life and framed everything he did. He lived out sacrificial generosity and the depth of his compassion was rare, and even more so in a young man. He even loved his sisters, dearly! I love how his eyes sparkled when he smiled and miss his easy, high pitched belly laugh…
The only way I knew how to navigate the days that followed were to be busy doing something to honor his life. Plan the service, deal with the “business of death”, be strong. But at night. At night the grief overtook me. Then, even waking was painful. I wanted to pull the covers over my head and just escape. Pretend, for just a day, that it was all a nightmare. Breathing even became too laborious. I found my self sighing too often, too loudly, too much. The weight of the grief, the weight of my life, were taking their toll on me. And it was getting on my nerves!
The LORD knows how much we can bear and He sends aid in a multitude of ways. Our grandson entered our lives 29 days after my Matt passed from this life to the next. Sweet Britton was balm to my weary heart, he energized my soul. But we also needed to reengage my husband’s treatment and leaving my family in the wake of all we’d been through, leaving my new grandson and his mommy to recoup without my help, heaped sorrow upon sorrow. As we boarded the plane to return to Louisiana, all the strength I’d rallied the previous month slipped away, I had nothing left. My broken heart, broke all over again.
When we arrived at the hospital to get our car and check in, the security guard hurried to us to ask how our son was doing. He had not heard and it was a sucker-punch in the gut. My defenses went up like lead walls, it was the only way I knew to protect myself and actually speak about Matt’s death without sobbing. The next 2 months I just existed. One day bled into the next and there was nothing but daily treatments to break up the time. Everything was so hard. Thinking was hard, grocery shopping was too hard, breathing was hard, life was too hard… and I had never felt more alone in all my life.
Time and life had been split in two. And I was left on the narrow shores of mourning while the waves of the sea of grief pounded upon me and I feared I might drown. I knew that if I stayed here too long, I would indeed be taken under by the sea of emotion, grief and memories – giving death the victory, and that enraged me. But each time I dared to wade into the sea to cross to the other side, the waves would rage and I’d be tossed and toppled, only to drag myself back to the shore frustrated and more fearful of the sea, more fearful of life.
Please join us next week as Christine shares how God is carrying her through the sea of grief.