He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:29 (NIV)
I held their wedding rings in my palm and wept as my mother’s diamond sparkled in the filtered light from a window.
Grief can be tender at the most surprising moments, even years after losing a loved one.
Unwrapping other items in the box, I discovered the memorial book for my Aunt Margaret who died at the young age of 22. She was my mother’s only sister, and I am her namesake. Margaret was in a fatal car accident while she was working as a summer missionary on a reservation. Every Christmas Eve, which was Margaret’s birthday, my mother cried.
I never fully understood the massive impact of Aunt Margaret’s death until after my mother died.
What a surprise to hear my mother question God on a recorded speech she gave during a church service in 1979. Such raw emotion and candor:
“At my parents’ request, these words were carved on my sister’s tombstone, ‘Thy will be done.’ Somehow they helped assuage my parents’ grief, but these words stirred up angry feelings in me. I asked God, ‘Is this the way you reward someone who loves you and serves you? Did you really care about Margaret’s life? How can I ever pray and mean it, ‘Thy will be done’ in my life too? I had to make peace with the will of God.”
Those same words echoed in my own heart when my mother discovered she had a terminal illness several years after my dad had died from a massive heart attack. Why would God call her home just as her book about grief was being published?
Her final book, When Grief is Your Constant Companion: God’s Grace for a Woman’s Heartache was published the same month she was diagnosed with leukemia. My mother still had much of her life’s journey to share with others, and now her voice would be silenced.
My mother, however, had made peace with the will of God after her sister’s death. She taught me that even though we may never understand why bad things happen in life to good people, we can rest assured that no circumstance or tragic event is ever beyond the redemptive power of God.
For the past six years, I have been an adult orphan, attempting to put a tangible handle on the intensity of the intangible. I wanted to complete something that my mother had not been able to complete.
She had shared with me her wishes to one day speak with the driver who had lost control of the car in which Aunt Margaret was killed. She wanted to let him know that she forgave him and that God had redeemed this tragedy for the good. She was at peace.
My mother wrote many inspirational books and even established a summer missionary scholarship fund in honor of my aunt. Before passing away, my mother learned that the driver had become a pastor. However, she couldn’t remember his name, and any information was tucked away in one of the hundreds of boxes in storage.
As I turned the yellowed pages of my Aunt Margaret’s memorial book, I shouted to an empty house. “I found his name!” My dogs were startled at my enthusiasm and rushed to my side.
Googling the name of the church that was mentioned in the article, I dialed the phone. The church secretary answered, but my hope crumpled with her words. “I am so sorry. He died a few months ago.”
In that moment, I cried out to God. Hadn’t I found this information for a reason? Please, God, don’t close this door. When I shared the story about Aunt Margaret and my mother with the church secretary, she graciously offered to give me the name and number of the widow.
First I called my oldest brother, and together we contacted the driver’s widow. My heart sounded like a percussion section as the phone rang. What am I going to say? What if she doesn’t even know about Aunt Margaret? Will she want to talk with us?
My brother and I introduced ourselves. God had already prepared the way. The widow knew all about my Aunt Margaret. In fact, Aunt Margaret was the one who had invited her to become active in church again. The widow shared that her husband had carried guilt about Aunt Margaret’s death, but he experienced God’s grace and became a pastor, leading a church for forty years before passing away. Aunt Margaret had been a positive influence in both of their lives.
“My mother just wanted your husband to be at peace about what happened.” I spoke the words my mother had wanted to share. “And she died at peace.” My brother led us in prayer.
United in faith and by the past, we lifted our hearts to God. We thanked Him for the precious lives of Aunt Margaret, the pastor and my mother and for the restorative and redemptive way in which He worked through them.
We also sent her a copy of my mother’s final book. Isn’t it amazing how my mother’s book about grief will minister to the widow of the driver in whose car Aunt Margaret died over sixty years ago?
God stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of my grief were hushed.
Leave a comment by midnight Monday and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Margaret’s new book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace. The book includes stories from women who have found unexpected hope and love through difficult circumstances. Proceeds from the book benefit charities and you can find out more on the Pearl Girls site.