Gravel sparkled blinding white on the roof outside the window of the tiny ICU cubicle, bright embers in the hot July sun. I thought, “this image will be burned into the back of my eyelids.” This month marks seven years since she’s been gone, but I only just remembered the gravel, as I sit here writing this story for the very first time.
Mama had been planning a star-spangled party for the German boy’s first American birthday celebration; instead, she died on that day.
The seventh year is, in Jewish tradition, the Sabbath year or “Year of Release” (Deut. 15, Exodus 21). Maybe this is why the knot of memories lately has begun working loose.
As I unravel before God, I’m reminded that He uses what sometimes feels to us like a tangled mess to weave a beautiful tapestry: the story of our lives. This year He wants me to tell this hard chapter in my story, to wrestle with it again and perhaps finally find peace in the mystery.
That German boy is now my husband. Mama would tell you that she “picked him out” for me. Once when I was 17 she dreamed of the man I would marry. He was tall and blond, had bright blue eyes, and was very athletic. She knew he was a runner, but something else too…”maybe a thrower,” she said. “But he wasn’t really built like a thrower.”
Fast forward four years to a baseball game in my college town of Shawnee, Oklahoma. My brother was playing centerfield, but all eyes were on the handsome and lean tri-athlete I had brought along–a friend from the track team. I was clueless at that time that he might be anything more than a friend, but Mama told me later that the first time her eyes met his laughing blue ones, she felt “butterflies” and knew he was the one for me.
Mama was always so good at helping me just to be me. And after the funeral she helped me one more time–in a dream, like another glowing ember whose memory would be seared into my heart. Her spirit was only a small spark of light and her message was simple: she perched upon my thumb and said, “I love you,” reminding me that the Lord’s story for my life would be just as unique as my thumbprint.
On the same day that Mama went Home (21 years earlier and on the other side of the globe) God was sending into the world the man He created to never ask anything more of me than just to let him love me for who I am.
After it was all over and we were home from the hospital, safe in our newlywed apartment, he held me in his arms and I told him what he already knew, because he was there gripping my hand and crying with me through it all. “My Mama died today,” I said. And I fell apart.
I will never forget that night, the way my husband’s arms became the arms of Jesus, the way they anchored my soul in that churning sea of grief.
I have learned how to love and to be loved by my husband, and by my Jesus, along that precious path through The Valley of the Shadow. And I don’t think I would have followed my husband, or my Jesus, as far as I have without the experience of learning to say that first hard “goodbye.”
There will always be trying chapters in our lives, but there will also always be strong arms to hold us: to remind us who we are, to help us gently to test our legs again and to discover that yes, after it all, we can still stand. And may the stories we stand to tell cause comfort to overflow into the lives of every person we touch.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
Who has God sent into your life to hold you up when life gets hard? How has He helped you to stand and tell your story?
Story and Artwork by Sadee Schilling@ A Picturebook LifeLeave a Comment
Thank you for sharing the pain and beauty of your journey. What an amazing story – so clearly woven by the Master Weaver. Bless you in the telling.
Thank you, Ashley. He’s weaving all our stories, isn’t He? And it’s beautiful to have those moments when you can actually see it all coming together.
Thank-you so much for this post. It has been seven years since my husband died and seven years since my fiances wife died. We four were friends for years, Ted lost his wife first and then my husband died a month later. I called Ted from the hospital when John was sick and he was there for me after he died. I visited Maggie in the hospital the cancer was winning. Ted and I would end up in the hallway talking, I knew he needed me to be there for him, so I would sit and listen and hold his hand.
So now seven years later we are together, running a business, remodeling his house and enjoying a granddaughter. Who would have thought these two old friends would end up together? It was God’s will I know that now, I am going to church again because of Ted and despite all the bumps in the road and the stress we love each other. He holds me in his arms and I can do anything again. I miss John and he misses Maggie; we understand each others grief.
So we share with you our year of release, God Bless and keep us indeed.
Bless you in your year of release, and in your fiancee’s too DeAnn! It is so precious how God works everything for the good of those who love him–so mysterious and so surprising at times too. My dad remarried a wonderful woman who had also lost her husband a few years earlier than my mom went Home. It has been so neat to watch their relationship–the way they understand each other, like you said–and to feel so blessed that she is in my life now too.
Holley Gerth says
What a beautiful tribute to your Mama, Sadee. It’s clear you two have a very special relationship and that you brought her a lot of joy in her time on earth–I imagine she’s smiling from heaven at this too. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate those we love because we never know how long we’ll have them with us.
Thank you Holley! I imagine she’s smiling down on me too. I sure am smiling up at her. . . and telling my daughters all about her so they’ll smile up at her too!
It’s been nine years since my father died. My husband and I were dating at the time. He was visiting me in CA from his hometown, Michigan, when I got the news my dad took his life. He abandoned me when I was younger, for 20 years, but the last 10 we reconnected and were like best friends. He suffered from bipolar. The grief was overwhelming, but through it all my future husband was there amidst the most painful time of my life. We ended up falling in love, so it was a bittersweet time. We were married the next year, on the anniversary of my father’s death (the only date the chapel I wanted to get married in was available) and on our 1st anniversary we found out I was pregnant. We now have a wonderful six-year-old son. God has a way of turning tragedy into triumph. Thanks for sharing your story.
So true–God turns tragedy into triumph. What a special thing for God to plan your significant events on the Anniversary of your father’s passing–such a poignant reminder of how God wants to create beauty from our ashes.
Judy Layton says
Thank you so much Sadee for sharing these heart wrenching and heart warming words. How wonderful our God is to hold us through just the right person in difficult times….what a blessing that it has been your husband. Love your artwork and your words.
Thank you so much, Judy!
Love your writing and your art! Simply beautiful!
Thank you for saying so, Donna!
The way you wove together loss and love and healing is beautiful, Sadee. Praying for your healing heart today, friend.
I appreciate you reading, Jennifer! And I’m blessed by your prayers.
Oh, bless your sweet heart Sadee. What a beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for sharing your heart through this post. Discovering we can still stand… that is so true during times of loss and healing. All through love. Remembering you in my prayers this month.
Remembering you too, Jennifer. Thank you for your friendship!
Thank you for sharing your story which brings out how great God is at orchestrating things in our lives.
I am going through the pain of a broken relationship and I am finding it amazing how God has been bringing people into my life to cheer me up. I do not question but bless Him for His kindness and thoughtfulness.
Time and time again in my own life I have proven God to be my Refuge and Strength and my very present help in the time of trouble.
I pray the Lord continues to bring special people into your life during this time, Unicie. And I’m sure He will!
Katie @ Imperfect People says
Wow! You are a great writter!
Thank you, Katie!
So beautifully remembered! I am sure she is in heaven smiling down upon your healing heart as she reads this, too…you know I love the Jewish symbolism!
And this….As I unravel before God, I’m reminded that He uses what sometimes feels to us like a tangled mess to weave a beautiful tapestry: the story of our lives.
Thank you Cindy, for your comments in both places! I appreciate your encouragement!
Thank you all for your sweet comments and encouragement. I feel very honored and blessed that I could share with you my story. For those of you who shared stories of your own loss and healing–you are in my prayers!
I love that she felt butterflies before you did – I love her energy you show; her unabashed herselfness in communicating with you (as a mom who communicates out of the box but with lots of eye-rollning from my sons) – I love seeing how two women, mother/daughter communicate that love encased by God’s love! I love how she perched on your thumb and you compared God’s plan to the unique finger print each of us has. You are so blessed to have those memories of a mother like that!!!!
Heart & Soul & Smile! Just like I remember your mama! Beautiful and touching!♥