This post is written with permission from a grieving mother who still has hope.
Few things are harder than burying a child. In our finite minds it simply is not the natural order of life. Earlier this year, that is exactly what Sheree had to do when her 19 year-old daughter Dede was killed in a car accident with three of her college classmates in March. Obviously this has shaken this family to its core. But, it has also for our church family, too. Young people’s deaths are always hard. Life cut short. Unrealized dreams. Promise snuffed out. This life-changing event in our church was also profound because Dede grew up in the church, was actively involved in multiple ministries, and has a large extended family. She, her sisters and cousins travelled in a pack. If you saw one, the others were not too far behind. It took me several years to figure out which daughter belonged to which mother when Dede, her sister, cousins, mother and aunts would all come to the children’s dance rehearsal where my daughters also danced. So, if you didn’t know Dede, you probably knew or served in some ministry with her family. And if a church member didn’t know any of them, Dede’s death touched a nerve for everyone. This was profoundly felt throughout our entire church community.
October was Dede’s birth month. Sheree wanted to commemorate this month by doing an outreach project for the homeless. She shared her plans with me in July. Sheree said she didn’t know how she was going to feel on the actual day, so she was going to do the project at the beginning of the month. For several weeks, Sheree and her family collected toiletries and she, by herself (her sisters told me she would not allow anyone to help her), prepared a hot meal from her heart to feed nearly 200 people. The youth of the church, who grew up singing in the choir with her or in the dance ministry, came to help serve. I was moved by everything she had accomplished and the commitment of the youth. But, I was more touched by her testimony.
As she was sharing her walk with God the last few months she gave an authentic testimony. Of course she asked the questions any mother would, “Why me? Why us when we all serve you?” But, then she said, “I was angry at God! I cursed Him.” I so appreciated that detail of her journey. As Christians, especially if you grew up in the church, we know the rote language to use. We think we know what we are supposed to think and say. We are not always honest with how we feel.
I grew up in the church. I’ve heard a many of sermons and Sunday School lessons. And only as an adult have I learned our God is big enough to handle the full range of our emotions. The God that created us, and all of our feelings, can also handle our anger. He is big enough to handle our questions. He is big enough to handle when we are not on speaking terms with Him. And, unlike our earthly relationships, He will be there through the journey as we work everything out.
Sheree’s greater testimony really was how God has been faithful to her during these last few months and she has not lost her mind. Before Dede’s death, Sheree said she knew about God. But, these last few months she has really come to know God. This encourages me that even when you are angry with God, God still allows room for us to grow closer to Him.
She will be the first to tell you this has been a journey of literally putting one foot in front of the other every day even through the daily tears for not only her but her husband and two other daughters. I am sure if they could exchange the ministry outreach in October and another one they did in Dede’s honor last week at a women’s shelter with more birthdays to plan, more care packages to mail, more graduations, and other promises of the future, they would trade it in a minute. Who wouldn’t? But, this is now their new normal, and how they have chosen to deal with it is by serving others.
Sheree, thank you for showing us all one way to channel our grief into the ministry of outreach and missions. But, most of all, thank you for sharing your testimony of your full and authentic experiences with God. It really blessed me, and I know it blessed others.