We sat around the living room, trying to be productive while facing death. The date was Wednesday, October 28, 2020, and tomorrow would be my Mother’s long-awaited funeral. Her cousin, Andy Cook, a highly respected minister, was asking me and my family rapid fire questions about her life as he prepared to deliver the eulogy.
The conversation was like reopening an old wound. Mom had died six months earlier on April 19th, after a battle with cancer. However, because of community restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were prevented from having a large gathering with friends and family. Our souls longed for closure, and to honor her beautiful life and legacy.
As Andy took notes and continued with questions, I felt a heaviness over Mom’s passing. I was glad to be with my family, but heartbroken over the reason why: she wasn’t there. What a terrible thing death is, I thought, and how sad it claimed my mother too soon! The day had already been busy, and more events were planned for the evening. All I wanted was to unplug from the heaviness, escape into a quiet room, put on some soft music and just tune out the world.
But as the conversation finished, Andy brought up the subject of Heaven. As believers in Jesus, knowing my Mom is there has carried us through the pain of missing her. In that moment, he said something I’ll never forget: “when a baby is in its mother’s womb, there’s no way to describe to it what the world is like, and all the beauty that surrounds people here. I think in many ways, that’s similar to how it is for us here on earth before we enter Heaven.”
His words were like a bright light in the midst of a dark moment. While they didn’t erase the sadness, I was reminded of a beautiful truth: in the middle of my pain, Mom is more alive than she’s ever been.
All of us have lost loved ones. When they’re gone, your life is completely different. You long for the simple pleasures and would give anything just to have them back. You try to overcome the pain, but he or she is still gone. During those moments, what do you do?
While everyone’s story is different, I pray these lessons I’ve learned will encourage you when you think about your loved one.
Giving it to God
Since my mom died, reading Scripture has been an anchor to my soul. Whenever I’ve felt discouraged, it’s lifted me up and reminded me that God’s promises are more real than the pain. I wouldn’t have made it without the peace that comes from reading God’s Word.
In the months before her passing, and even after she died, I especially found great comfort in reading the book of Psalms. One of the things I love about Psalms is how honest the writers are when expressing their emotions to God.
I’ll always remember the night my father called and told me Mom’s health had quickly deteriorated and I needed to come home right away. Through the amazing help of my bosses and friends, I boarded a plane the next morning and quickly flew from Colorado to South Carolina.
My mind was spinning in every direction. On the plane, I sat by myself and opened my Bible, desperate for a glimmer of hope. Underneath my breath, I prayed something like this, “Lord Jesus, this is one of the lowest moments of my life. I need You to come and meet me here! This is too much for me to handle!” It just so happened that I was supposed to read Psalm 77 that day, and these were the first words I read:
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
- Psalm 77: 1 – 4.
I burst into tears, because this was exactly what I needed! Right there, I was reminded of a beautiful revelation: God can handle all of my emotions, and He sees me right where I am!
Later, as I kept reading, the Psalm took an amazing turn:
10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
- Psalm 77: 10 – 12
The fact is, even before this moment, I’d seen His faithfulness more times than I could count. What I needed to do was remember things I’d seen Him do before. As I thought about some of them, a sense of peace I could not describe flooded my heart. In the middle of my sadness, Jesus met me there through His Word. When I gave my questions to Him, I felt the burden lift, and it was replaced with a peace that only He could give.
The fact is, none of us can carry grief in our own strength. There are moments when missing a loved one can feel so heavy, and without giving that heaviness to the Lord, it will crush us. But as a Christian, I choose to remember that Jesus is the One carrying the sorrow for me. When I place it in His hands, I’m reminded that:
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;” – Isaiah 53:4a
By reading Scripture, you can experience God’s peace in the midst of your pain. When we focus on His Word, and give our sadness to the Lord, it’s amazing how the hope of Heaven can fill our souls.
“You’ll Never Leave Them.”
I’ve had more than one person tell me that we take our loved ones with us after they pass away. Which reminds me of another story.
Just weeks before Mom died, she woke up one morning and startled my Dad. “I can’t swallow,” she told him, in a panic. He quickly sprang into action and got her settled down. After a few minutes of him helping her, she got very emotional and tender.
Throughout Mom’s battle with cancer, she never wanted to talk about death. But that morning, after she calmed down, her mother’s heart came to the surface. She knew she was dying but didn’t want to admit it. Finally, she whispered the words to Dad, “I don’t want to leave the guys,” referring to me and my two brothers. Then she added, “and I don’t want to leave you.”
Dad has told me it was one of the hardest conversations of their 33-year marriage. But without missing a beat, he calmly and affectionately responded, “You’ll never leave them. Because of the mother you’ve been to them, and all the times you’ve been there… you will never leave us.”
Scripture reminds us in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
The day Mom passed, she joined the cloud of witnesses. As we run our race here on earth, she’s with the chorus of Heaven, cheering us on to run for Jesus, and to run with all our strength.
While I don’t see my mother with my eyes right now, I choose to believe she’s with me. Even though she isn’t on earth, she’s gathered with many saints, encouraging us to never give up!
If your loved one was a Christian, he or she is now in Heaven. And don’t forget, your relative is now cheering you on to run the race God has given you to finish.
A Beautiful Reunion
I long to have those simple things with Mom again: our Sunday afternoon video calls, updating her about my week, the text messages where she’d say, “I love you,” getting a hug from her in the airport after a long flight, telling her about my latest hiking trip, and simply praying together.
Missing those moments can still feel so heavy. At times, I just want to curl up in a fetal position and sob. But when I’m tempted to despair, the Lord reminds me of a beautiful promise from Scripture: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:18. In other words, the hope of Heaven is greater than the loss I feel.
When I try to imagine what Mom is experiencing right now, I don’t have the words to say. What’s funny, in all of the Bible, there are not many descriptions about what Heaven is like. But there are some. One that especially gives me hope is found in Revelation 21:1 – 4:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
I vividly remember the moment my mother went Home. As I held her fragile hand, a beautiful and pure smile came across her face. I’d never seen her smile like that. One of my brothers would even describe it as, “one second of Heaven.” If I’m honest, I can’t fully explain what that smile was like. I believe she saw Heaven for the first time, and it will stay with me the rest of my life.
How can I still stand even in the face of the deepest loss of my life? By God’s grace, it’s knowing that this pain is temporary. The moment her life on earth ended, her new life in Heaven began. Someday, I’ll join her there. Until then, I’ll live my life to honor the amazing investments she made in me.
When you miss your loved ones, try to imagine the day you’ll see them again. As you miss their company, remember they’re cheering for you now, and that an eternal reunion is on the way.
Oh, what a beautiful reunion it will be.