It is our son’s birthday today. Lucas would have been 37. All of what he could have accomplished was taken from him when he was killed by a drunk driver.
All the dreams, goals and aspirations of a young boy were buried with him in November of 1997. When we buried our son, I could not imagine how my life could go on without him in it.
Yet, there is a way in grief to move forward in life. One has no choice if you are to continue living. The world continues to spin and living does not stop after the loss of a child.
I edited this piece I had written reflecting on my grief journey.
It is my usual pattern to write something on Lucas’s birthday.
To remember my son. To know there is life in death. To know there is hope in the aftermath of losing a child.
I managed to find my way in living in this place of the most unimaginable horror as a mother, as a parent, as a woman who no longer had her son in her life.
Although at the time, I had no sense of God’s presence, He was the hidden source giving me the ability to walk in this place of death, sustaining my shattered dreams in all that I had hoped for our son.
In death, there is a birthing of life. Life that becomes different. Life that evolves.
I know in an experiential reality, the hope I have in God whose unfailing love held me near to His grace in that place of sorrowed pained living in the aftermath of losing Lucas.
“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
Our middle son was tragically hit by a drunk driver while riding his bike on the side of the road on a gray-bleak November day. Lucas was struck down at 16, his future suddenly gone, his life snuffed from him, and our child was cruelly ripped from our family.
This horrific unexpected death of our son happened in an instant, in one moment of one day, where my life was suddenly altered and changed in drastic ways.
Suddenly, my life was not the same and it would never be the same. How could it without Lucas in it?
The death of Lucas occurred in November right before the barren season of Winter would blanket the earth in a hardened coldness.
It was during that frozen season of my life, the unimaginable and most feared thing a parent could ever experience happened with the loss of my son.
I would walk the most difficult and anguished journey I would ever have known as a woman, as a wife and as a mother, known as grief.
It was on my walk today during the same time of year our son was taken from us, I was viewing all the varying plant life.
I began to reflect in noticing the season of plant life I saw in this pre-winter time; trees with no leaves, bushes bearing no flowers, the grasses dulled.
In this season where I was staying in NC, all of the plant life I was viewing, were in the stage where their fruit lay dormant.
The word hibernating came to my mind and I saw this time of year as a season of unseen fruit, a time of barrenness. These were times in the plant’s season where their life source still existed, but you could see no visible evidence of this.
This brought to my remembrance the many days, hours, months and years following the death of Lucas, where I felt lifeless, where I felt limp, where my life source felt dulled to everything and barren of any fruit.
All I knew then was an incredible, heavily weighted, oppressive pain.
Stepping one foot in front of the other took every bit of effort I could muster in overcoming incredible inertia known in grief.
As I viewed these plants and trees, the Holy Spirit said when I was walking in my grief, my life could be likened to these plants.
In my grieved state of being, I sensed no visible evidence of God’s Spirit within me and all I knew was an empty void.
It was as if my soul had been lying in a dormancy from any sense of normalcy.
In those first few days, months and early years of loss, it seemed as if all my life source had been suddenly sucked out of me and all I felt was the dry desert of nothingness.
My days were being lived in a sort of hibernating state. I moved from one day to the next in a dazed state of being. A place of numbed aching hurt inside.
Life appeared surreal in the fact that the world kept churning, people continued to go to work, attending social gatherings and entering into their everyday routines.
Although I too was moving, it seemed my world had stopped, where any normalcy I knew, had ceased to be known in the aftermath of losing my son.
It was during those dark days I felt as if I was trudging in layers of thick mud, the trenches where I did not feel God’s presence. I did not see God. I did not feel His hand upon my life.
I never thought I would get through some of those days. I never thought I would return to any sense of what I had known as normal.
Each morning, I awakened with the same sense of inner dread and gripping crushing pain in my chest.
It was as though I were in this ‘waiting’ mode. Waiting for when I would feel alive again. Waiting for when I would join the human race in the stream of life again. Waiting for when I would feel my own normal return to me again.
It was during these barren, dry, hibernating seasons, my choice to continue in the reality of whose I had become and to walk in the promises written in God’s Word became the known reality of my existence.
Even as I gazed at these barren plants, I knew their source of life, the rich sap, still coursed through them; roots, stems, limbs. They were being sustained by an unseen invisible source of life, where their roots dug deeply in search of any waters to nourish them in their need for nutrients.
So, it was in my barren time. The unseen and invisible realm of the Spirit life remained a vital source of strength in me, even when I did not sense Him.
How else was I able to manuever in this place of indescribable loss?
In those obscured times, I had to rely on this Spirit life to enter my hurt.
The tiny hope I grasped as a faith person, expected this same power that rose Christ from the dead, would be the same power that would breathe life sustenance in me; resurrecting me from this place of feeling as though I had died.
I held close this sliver of hope in believing somehow, my God would bring me through those long days, months and years in my journey experiencing varying degrees of sorrowed pained existence.
Reflecting back on those times I thought I would never survive, I can see how His Spirit was germinating, birthing new fruits in that place of death. Those fruits sprouted many years later in the right time, in the right season of my life.
My faith in God became the vehicle guiding me with His unseen hand, carrying my soul in this unbearable place of loss.
God became my hidden source of grace, birthing hope and strength within my weariness, giving me the ability to endure the shattering of my world from my son’s death.
In continuing my walk, I soaked in the spiritual insights the Holy Spirit was revealing to me, with the similarity of the seasons of plant life and the seasons of my journey in and through grief.
What I had experienced in those years of grief was the faith spoken of in the Scriptures.
It was in the place of death, I had to learn to walk by faith; in the unseen, in the unknown, in the uncertainty, in the unfamiliar.
This was where my faith became God’s revelation of His word sewn into the fabric of suffering. Learning the hard truth of walking by faith and not by my feelings, was a tough assignment I had been given.
Walking in faith meant I had to trust God’s Spirit to be who entered into those dark regions of my soul, taking me by the hand, gently leading me in this new place I had never experienced.
Walking by faith was placing my belief in the hope of Christ to be the One who made a way when I saw no way through this ordeal. Walking by faith and not by sight required me to be in this place I did not know, where it would take God to reveal to me His truth in the reality of my loss.
Walking by faith meant I had to continue to cling to what God had planted in my heart from his word, determined to follow Him, regardless of my numbed existence, exhaustion and ongoing seared anguish.
It was in those seasons of hidden fruit, I found myself having to walk through cold days of a long hibernating winter in my soul.
In the midst of those times in my deep suffering that felt beyond my ability to endure, I experienced times of intense emotional mood changes.
Sometimes tears would gush as if a waterfall opened up a vast expanse that knew no end. Other times I felt deadened in having no emotions where I believed I could cry no more.
Then there were those times I felt myself looking for Lucas to walk through the door, found myself searching for his face in a crowd, or caught myself remembering moments in a fond sharing of our times together.
I, like the psalmist cried out in an utter desperate pleading to God, with a heartache that did not stop, knowing He heard me and knowing He would respond, even though I did not sense His presence, nor did my emotional responses to grief lessen.
Hindsight can be valuable insight gained in reviewing and considering the truths God shows from our past experiences.
It was during those times, even when I did not feel Him, He became my source of strength as He having never left my side.
God’s spirit gave me the courage and boldness to get out of bed on those days I wanted to simply lie there with the covers over me, not wanting to talk to anyone or run into people, or even face a new day.
In all of my incredible harsh reality in the loss of my dearest son, it was God in his unfailing steady love, who remained faithful to me in each moment.
God was the One I ran to. God was the One who carried me in my own lifelessness, birthing His renewal in my death. God was the One who embraced me with His forever love.
Grief has its own journey and I had to walk through the fogged obscured path of loss in order to find my own way in and through this intense life altering process.
Loss of a child is a pain like no other. It is indescribable.
It was God who gave me the ability to persevere in spite of my emotional paralysis.
I had to continue moving forward for life does not stop in death.
Life continues in its own cyclical pattern and has its own rhythmic seasons in our sorrows and in our joys.
It was only in and through my own personal relationship with God and the hope given to me as a Faith person, where my reality of walking in the unexpected tragedy of death became bearable.
It was God in His divine grace, who made it possible for me to walk this journey in grief.
It was in taking life one moment at a time, breaking my time into bits of tasks, doing what was necessary to complete, in order to move forward in this valley.
It was one step at a time, one day at a time, I learned this art of walking by grace in my faith.
It was in the immense overwhelming state of feeling unable, not having control, living in this never before walked place, where God girded me in His supernatural ability to continue my journey.
Living in the aftermath of losing a child is not easy. It is intensely the most difficult place I have ever known and the deepest suffering I have experienced as a parent.
What I do know is God’s Spirit was who sustained me in it and through it, even though at the time, I was unaware of His presence.
It was God who revealed to me, His Spirit was working all the time, whether I sensed Him, saw Him, or felt Him in that place of death.
And it will be the Spirit of God who will continue to work in me, in all my present circumstances, regardless of whether I can sense His presence.
My role is to believe the truth of His word as the Spirit reveals it to me and to hold fast not wavering in the fact, God brings His word to fruition and it will be God whose plans for me will bear forth His fruits.
I am sure as women and as moms, we can all reflect, in remembering those times in our lives where we experienced a barrenness in our Faith.
Perhaps you too have lost a child (ren) and are walking through this unbearable sorrowed pain living in your now.
Perhaps you too, are in this place of rawness, where you do not sense or feel God.
Perhaps you too are walking in the dark unknown path of tragedy.
If there is any solace in loss and in grief, it is the solace of knowing our God will never leave us for His mercy and love enters into our suffering and pain with us.
It was in and by God’s hidden Spirit, who brought me through what I did not think I could ever manage to get through, for me to find my way to cope in losing Lucas.
It will be this same God who will take your hand and be with you in your own sorrow if you will trust in Him to do so.
It was only in reflecting back I could see His hand was always upon me and His Spirit never left me.
God has shown me that walking in faith, my life is not dependent on what I can see, touch, taste or feel.
My faith life is dependent on this supernatural, invisible, hidden Spirit of life, who breathes sustaining power into me, that no matter what I experience, my reliance in God to be in all my situations is who becomes the substance of my faith.
It was God’s mercy and love who provided grace for each moment I walked in grief.
His grace is the evidence of things not seen, for in my loss, it was His Spirit in mine, who became my strength to endure, to perservere, to whether the unexpected death of Lucas and all my emotional responses to his death.
It was God who taught me to not look at what is visible, to not focus on what I can see, and to not rely on my feelings as a sign of His presence, but to trust in the invisible realm of his Spirit who leads me into the hope known in His truth.
In suffering, in loss, in grief, in the reality of the death of a child, there is a God whose love embraces us, holds us, and draws us near to His bosom of intimate love and mercy, gifting His grace in the midst of our sorrow.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1