Death has not Overcome

flowerSix years ago today, my mother died. And six years before that, my other mother died.

Six years ago, my mother was forty-seven years old. It came out of nowhere. One moment I was settling in to read a book and relax, a moment of peace, and the next moment a phone call. It was my father. My mother had had a heart attack. She was in a coma.

Seth and I raced from Peoria to Erie. I was six months pregnant and having contractions. It was record cold, negative temperatures. We rented a car with seat warmers and that was the only good thing about the trip. All the kids were back home with family and we had no idea how long we’d be gone.

I prayed and I prayed, but I knew God’s plans. He had already told me. I knew she wouldn’t survive. Still…I prayed anyway. She wasn’t a Christian and I had prayed for her soul from the moment of my salvation. She NEEDED to survive! She needed one last chance to hear the Gospel. One last chance for her soul. One last chance for me to say goodbye.

If you know my story, you know that my mother and I didn’t get along very well, especially back then. In fact, at the time I had become a Christian (at fifteen years old), I was certain I hated her with all my heart. I am ashamed to admit that, but it was true. But God has a way of melting your heart for people, and despite my best efforts, I loved her more and more over the years. I was compelled in my love for her and I prayed for her nearly every single day. I prayed for her soul. I prayed she would feel loved. I prayed she would be healed from the brokenness of the world that broke her so deeply, so violently.

The Bible says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

And so I prayed, in Jesus’ name, that he would save my mother. I prayed for her continually for about sixteen years. I grew to love her so very much and I learned to understand why she was the broken, abusive, manipulative, selfish person that she was. And she was. She could be downright evil. But it was the sins of the fathers visiting upon the children. She was abused, she was unloved, she was raised in a broken world that didn’t love her. She was broken because she never knew love. How could someone who never knew love, know how to love? And so I loved her, by God’s grace, not really knowing if she even ever loved me…

We got to the hospital and waited and waited. Day after day, pacing. My blood pressure was out of control and contractions grew worse with the stress. The nurses were beginning to be concerned for my own health and for my unborn child. My mother might never meet this child inside of me. If God is real, and heaven and hell, and she died without faith, she would never meet this grandchild. This life inside of me and this death around me would never meet. And it was ripping me apart.

Six years prior, I was pregnant with another child, Noah (which means comfort). We were home in Peoria, watching a movie. The sun was out and I felt a sense of peace come over me, a super-natural peace from God. It was a strange feeling and I will never forget it. The phone rang. My father-in-law. My mother-in-law was stung by a bee, she was in the hospital, in a coma. It was serious. We dropped everything and got on the road to Erie.

We were scared and we prayed, helpless to do anything else. While we drove, the moon turned blood red. It was an omen. The heavens cried out as we got the phone call while still on the road. Mom had died.

She called me the daughter of her heart. I was not her biological daughter, but I was the daughter of her heart. She loved me. I had a mother that loved me. She was the first woman to teach me how to love and be loved. She taught me what being a Christian woman looked like. She showed me how to love my husband and love all my little babies. She taught me how to love life and throw parties, flipping the bird to the brokenness of the world. The world was broken. So seriously broken. And the right Christian response was to say, “We’re not going to let this overcome us. We are Christians and so there is hope. And so we weep when it’s time to weep, and then we party, because we are people of hope.”

And there I was standing at her grave, in the pouring rain, as the heavens cried, burying the mother of my heart. The one that loved me. And God took her away, before I really got a chance to get comfortable in that love. To learn to love like she loved. He took her away.

But my father-in-law showed me how to take the good and the bad from the hand of the Lord, to give praise even in darkness. At her funeral we sang, with tears in our eyes,

“Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth;
And follow where He guideth;
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.” 

We drank a glass of wine, a toast, at the meal after her funeral. It was bitter for us, but it was joy for her. She was with the Lord, dancing in glory, with perfect feet, without any pain, with those who had gone before, and someday, we will meet with her again to dance the night away, with all the grand kids too, even the one in my womb, when all sorrows are gone and brokenness and death cannot touch us any longer. When we don’t need to flip the bird to the brokenness…because the brokenness will be buried and we will be alive.

And so I buried the mother of my heart.

But today was bitterly cold, six years later. It was blizzarding, like it does in Erie. After several frozen days and nights at the hospital, my mother died. We buried her into the frozen dead ground and I wept for her and for me and for my faith that I buried with her that day.

That night I dreamed of hell and I heard her torment and the torment of a thousand souls. The demons were loose…they had won another soul. And maybe mine too. They had their day and they danced on my mother’s grave.

I was so overcome with anger. What kind of God does this?!

Was it not enough to take the mother of my heart, that He had to take the mother I had grown to love too? I was young and I was motherless. My children would be without any kind of grandmother. What kind of God does that? And why? Why after years upon years of praying would He refuse my one heartfelt request? Why would He not save her?

Hadn’t I sacrificed enough for Him? I gave up friends, family. I left a full-scholarship to college to be a homemaker, because I thought that’s what He called me to. I had child after child, trusting in His provisions. My husband and I both could have chosen the career paths that would have led to wealth, we’re both very intelligent people, but instead chose a life that would support a healthy family, that would give space to raising children in the Lord, for Him. Because He wanted us to. We struggled with poverty in His name. We lost friends over the years, in His name. We moved across the country, leaving all behind, in His name. And didn’t He promise that He saw all this? That He would reward all this?

And yet… Here I was burying another mother, and this time for all eternity. Far from home, in the bitter cold, as I left my mother in that frozen ground, I also left my faith. It wasn’t that I stopped believing. I knew God was real. And I hated Him.

We headed back to Peoria in yet another blizzard, stopping for dinner because it was impossible to see the roads. All symbols. All signs from God. The road we cannot see, but He can see. He was calling out to me to trust Him and yet, how could I trust a God who didn’t hear my prayers and only ever, it seemed, brought trouble upon trouble in my life?

After dinner, we found our way to the car with the seat warmers, thankful at least for seat warmers in the blizzard. But our trusty little car had been attacked. The demons. They came and they busted open the windows and they took everything. They took the heirloom gifts my father gave me. They took the old pictures. The demons came and raped us for what was left. And there we stood, standing in the bitter cold, filing a report, not sure how we were getting home. Stranded somewhere between Erie and Home, abandoned by God.

What kind of God does this?!

With nothing left but what we had on us, we drove our broken little car to the airport and exchanged it for another rental. And we were back on the road. After what seemed like forever, we finally pulled up to our home and I collapsed in unquenchable tears.

And I cried, and I raged and shook my fist at God for nearly a year. What fucking kind of God does this?!

I will tell of my story in later posts about how God wooed me back and showed me His love. How he healed my wounds and brought me where I am today. But that is another day. And a very long story.

But for the end of this story, I can tell you that the child that I carried, six years ago, when I buried my mother and my faith for a time, was safely born, and we called her Hope Deliverance. Because the mother of my heart taught us to say, “We’re not going to let this overcome us. We are Christians and so there is hope. And so we weep when it’s time to weep, and then we party, because we are people of hope.”

For today, the anniversary of my my mother’s death, six years ago, and for my other mother’s death, six years before that, and for all the tragedy that has come since, and for that which is still to come, I can today with my whole heart say:

“Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all.”

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gabrielle Worent
    Jan 19, 2015 @ 08:58:19

    Crystal, the sister of my heart, thank you for sharing your pain with us. And I gotta tell you, when it comes to flipping off the brokenness and partying like Eternity, you do our mother proud.

    Like

    Reply

  2. Leon Ben-Ezra
    Jan 20, 2015 @ 05:30:15

    Crystal,
    Thank you for writing this.

    Dad

    Like

    Reply

  3. abbyclara
    Jan 20, 2015 @ 13:30:32

    Just wanted to say thank you, Crystal, for sharing this. Everyone walks through their own valleys of death and feels them in different ways, but it’s another thing entirely to talk about them on the other side. Thank you for opening your heart.

    Like

    Reply

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