“Lord, restore us to Yourself, so we may return; renew our days as in former times.”
Lamentations 5:21 HCSB
Four years ago, I sat in the corner of a tiny break room off the hall of a hospital corridor. My husband, along with his two brothers and the hospital’s representative sat together at one of those eight-foot long all purpose tables whose legs fold up so the table can lean against a wall when it’s not in use. I was there for moral support.
Down the hospital corridor, in a room right across from the nurse’s station, my husband’s mother lay in a bed, barely breathing. Her name was Nancy, but we called her Nano.
My husband and his brothers sat motionless at the table as Christina — the hospital’s representative — shared with them what to expect in the hours ahead. As I sat in the corner, watching Christina (her name was not lost on me) gently describe what happens when our soul leaves our body for good, I watched the reality of her words sink into the hearts of the men around the table. Their shoulders slumped. Their jaws grew slack. They sat back in their seats, visibly blindsided even though it was hard to argue with what we’d seen as we stood at the bedside, holding Nano’s hand, pressing our cheeks against hers, brushing back her silver hair, and whispering love notes into her ear.
When I leaned over the railing and pressed my cheek to hers, she pressed back, her soft skin warm against my own. But that was all there was. She had been sick before — hospitalized, even. In fact, there had been many times we thought, “This is it!” But she always rallied. So much so, I began to believe she’d outlive us all.
This time, as we stood by her bed, we all knew things were different.
In that break room, Christina confirmed our suspicions and it took the wind out of our sails. I held in my sobs, but Christina, skilled in the work of leading loved ones into grief, caught my eyes and offered a sweet look of warm consolation as the tears coursed down my cheeks. By the time the men pulled themselves away from the table, I’d managed to wipe away the evidence of my grief. After all, I was there for moral support.
We gathered the family for their last good-byes and Nano was moved to a quiet room on the hospice floor. We sang and prayed, laughed and told stories. Then, as the hours marched on, with Nano still taking shallow breaths, the room slowly emptied until it was just my husband and Nano in that quiet hospital room.
My husband says the moment Nano’s soul left her body, it was as if the room was filled with her presence and with a beautiful fragrance he could only call, “Love.”
Nano was the last of the generation before us. So we held our nieces and nephews and our own children as they returned to the hospice floor and sobbed at the news of Nano’s passing. We rubbed their backs and squeezed their hands and looked deep into their eyes to remind them how much they’d been loved; and how well.
We held hands together in a circle around the bed to thank God for such a wonderful soul and such a powerful love.
Later, I held my husband as he cried and I listened to him tell the story, over and over again, of what a beautiful thing it had been — a privilege and an honor, he said — to have been with his mother when she died. And when the tears for the night were done, we slept.
In the morning, before I’d opened my eyes, my grief rent me open with deep sobs of lament. I’d held it in for far too long. My cries reached my own ears as something foreign and I struggled to catch my breath. My grief spilled from some place deep within me and my husband and daughter rushed to my side. I had awakened the household with my lament. My grief ran rampant and someone pressed one tissue after another into my hand. That morning, I cried for hours, unable to speak without crumbling into sobs. No one shushed me. No one told me to pull myself together. Not even when I broke down in the restaurant later that morning. No one looked away from me. No one made me ashamed of my lament.
Lament is a gift we are given.
When the world gets heavy and our hearts break open, our chests heave with the weight and we wail from the depths of the emptiness that remains. Our cries set us free and make space for the sweet, sweet ministry of the Spirit of God who is, himself, Love. And so, we are invited to mourn with those who mourn. Even when their method of lament is unfamiliar to us. When their lament makes us nervous or skeptical or sad or afraid, the words of Scripture invite us to pull up closer and join in, creating more and more space for the Spirit of God to come even closer with whispers of love.
I too had been loved so much and so well by Nano. The intensity of my sadness was a testimony to her love. No wonder it was love that filled the room as she slipped from this world into the next. No wonder my lament was so deeply felt and so warmly welcomed by those who had loved her, too.
Are you grieving today? Have you been holding in your tears? Or, perhaps you know someone who is mourning and would welcome your partnership in her grief?Leave a Comment
How precious and deep your love for your Nano. Thank you for reminding me that grief is part of the process. Thank you for sharing such an intimate truth.
Never think for a moment that God doesn’t use the timing of these posts to minister healing. Our church is mourning the loss of a family member today. These words ministered to me”Our cries set us free and make space for the sweet, sweet ministry of the Spirit of God who is, himself, Love. And so, we are invited to mourn with those who mourn.” Thank you Deidra Riggs an Incourage for all that you do and for being a vessel that ministers through.
Oh, Julie. I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending prayers your way today.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Sharing in your grief as you process the passing of your dear, sweet, Nano. I admit sometimes it bothers me that when people discuss someone who has lost someone very close to them, they say things like, “Well, she’s really holding up well,” or “She’s being very brave.” People admired Jackie Kennedy for her stoicism at her husband’s funeral. Where do we get this notion that holding up well and not showing our emotions is something good? Granted, some people aren’t comfortable showing emotion around others, but for some of us who wear our emotions on our sleeve, I don’t want someone telling me to suck it up when I’ve lost someone I dearly love. When my dad passed. I knew he was with Jesus. I knew he was out of pain. I knew he was in a better place, but I MISSED HIM. I believe that God gave us these emotions to be used. Tears were created for a purpose. What did Jesus do at the grave site of Lazarus ….He didn’t spout scripture or cliche phrases…no He wept. He held his friends and he lamented with them. I think there is a reason an entire book of the Bible is devoted to Lamentations. Help us Lord, to close our mouths, extend our arms in hugs and mourn with those who mourn. Let us encourage the grieving to share their grief and pain. Just as you ushered Nano onto Heaven, let us help those left behind…let us help usher them through grief into eventual healing. God gave us those tears….let’s let them flow for ourselves and for others….wonderful post!
Thanks for sharing I to lost my mother and the peace that gives my mom is in heaven
Knowing soon we will see her and once in
A while I cry cause I miss her and knowing
She is in a better place where there is no
More Pain or suffering
Sony, I’m so sorry you’ve lost your mother. Grace and peace to you.
Yes, Bev. Not to mention the fact that holding in all of that grief can give a person a major headache! 😉
I am in utter awe that this hit my inbox this morning. I just left the hospital last night. My husband is there now with his three sisters. Their mom will most likely pass away in the next few hours if she has not already. We have spent the past three days doing the exact same thing….sitting in a tiny room, saying goodbye, sharing sweet stories of what an amazing woman she is. InCourage devotions always seem to speak to me and come at just the right time, but the timing of this is unbelievable. Our God is so big, so good, and He knows just what we need. I am so thankful for His provisions and His perfect timing. Thank for this sweet encouragent.
Hugs and love, Adrienne, to you and all whose hearts are heavy with grief today. Praying that you will find the arms of the Father holding you in sweet comfort.
Oh my, Adrienne. Sending prayers for your family. It’s a beautiful time, but so hard. Peace to you.
Yesterday in the quiet of my den, I had a time of grieving and I wailed from loss, hurt, loneliness, disappointment. It seemed the tears would never end and at times I could barely breathed. My only support that day was my little cat Bella who just sat on the couch next to me looking at me. When the heaviness lifted and the tears came to and end, she gently climbed onto my lap, laid her head on my chest and looked up at me as if to say, “you are going to be okay.” Then that sweet, sweet spirit of our Lord entered the room and He held me and reminded me that I am loved, not forgotten and everything was under control. He had it all under control. I just rested in His wonderful love. It is good to lament from time to time. It is a gift. I too was with my dad when he passed and I remember such a sweet spirit filing the room when he passed. It as a gift to be there holding his hand. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.
You describe it so well, Kathleen. Thank you for sharing your story here.
Sarah Quezada says
This is such a poignant post. Thank you, Deidra. I have often wished I could see better examples of individual and collective mourning. I believe it is much needed in our families and communities. Thank you for sharing this touching experience and your encouragement to mourn together.
Thanks for this encouragement, Sarah.
Thank you so much for sharing so well your situation of such deep love and deep grief for Nano with us. It brought tears to my eyes. Three years ago my husband and I were alone with my Dad as he was ushered into the LORD’s presence. I know well all those emotions. And I too, felt so blessed to be with him in the last hour and be able to hold his hand, thank him, pray with him and read Scripture and hymns to him. It was truly an unbelievable gift from the LORD, that I remember as such a very precious memory, thanks to the LORD’s gracious, loving timing.
And just this week I was lamenting loudly with such horrific grief about my grandchildren’s plight. So such grief can also come for those still living, and but there is little solace for this, as such terrible things continue. I pray that very soon my grief will turn to joy concerning them.
Thank you for sharing.
Sometimes the grief for those still living seems the heavier burden. Praying for you and for those grandchildren right now.
You described to a t the pain I felt and the way I mourned when we lost my mother-in–law. What a beautiful reminder of how Jesus meets us in our grief. Thank you.
Isn’t it wonderful to have been loved so well by your MIL? So different from the MIL stories we hear so often. A gift.
Anna Brown says
Wow what a beautiful and real experience. I had tears running down my face as I read this (healing tears!). I think this voice of “real” is totally needed right now. In that vein I would like to encourage those who were not privileged to be there when loved ones passed. My mum died at home, she had not been on her own for even a minute for days. She went when she was left alone for 1/2hr. I totally believe she wanted to meet her maker on her own. She had the most beautiful smile starting on her face and we had so much peace in our house and hearts. Please don’t anyone feel guilty that they weren’t there. We each have our own paths and that is good.
Thank you so much for sharing this today it has really blessed me to read your experience I felt so much love through your words.
I completely agree with you, we each have our own path, and the LORD does not always have us there for whatever reason only known to HIM, but so important to believe…as you say, “We each have our own paths and that is good.” Although I was with my Dad at his passing, I was not with my Mom just the year before. But the LORD gave us a beautiful & amazing time together alone, the last time we were together, and I thank HIM for that! And I have peace from the LORD about both situations HE brought about. The utmost important thing is that I know they are with the LORD; and not everyone has that privilege.
Anna Brown says
You are so right.
What beautiful encouragement for us all. Thank you, Anna.
Terri Stephens says
I was blessed to be by my father’s side when he left this world amost 14 years ago. There is no doubt that the Lord was speaking through me when I softly told my father that it was okay “to let go”; knowing that God would be lovingly waiting for him with open arms. The passing of my father’s soul to the Father above remains one of the most sacred moments of my life. Thank you, Deidre, for reminding me of its blessing.
My husband said he felt like a midwife for his mom. It was truly a sacred moment.
Thank you for these words and the permission to weep, to grieve, to lament. I am losing my mom to Alzheimer’s. Just the other night my 10 year old daughter and I brought dinner and ice cream to my parents home to celebrate mom’s birthday. There were short moments of time that night when everything felt normal again. My daughter and her grandpa laughed in the living room as they played a silly game. I cleaned up the kitchen, and mom did her best to help. There were glimpses of my sweet mom the way she used to be. My heart soared for a few moments. And then I had to excuse myself to the bathroom and shut the door as silent tears started to flow. I couldn’t stop them. But I couldn’t show them either as I’m trying so hard to be strong, to take care of my family. I know this disease will only get worse and I will continue to lose more of my mom. But the tears, which have come in stages since this disease started, are ok. And thank you for showing me they’re ok even in front of others. Bless you and your family!
Oh, that’s such a difficult season. We’ve had that experience, too. Hang on to those moments of laughter. They are gold.
Corena Hall says
Even our Lord lamented. He grieved honestly openly. It always reminds me though about living in love. Putting people first. Expanding that circle we doggedly call ” family.” Mother Theresa once said if we did did just that there would be no human isolation. Living lovingly and meaningfully sounds simple but it’s far easier for us to be busy than to make time to live lovingly. It’s not just an American thing it has spread far beyond these borders. God first then people my mom showed me and taught me. She went to be with Him far too early but hers was a simple, quiet and loving life well lived. Hers even though she died young was a life of few regrets. Grief is sweeter when we lose love but let’s live each day treating each other with love so it’s all said during living.
Thank you for sharing a vulnerable time. Nano has left that legacy of love, a life well lived!
Thank-you for sharing your very touching post. What a blessing your Mother in law was, I am sorry for your loss.
Hope you all have a blessed day,
Melissa Henderson says
Thank you for sharing about your Nano. We all grieve in different ways and in our own time. Blessings to you and your family.
((Hug)) Thank you for sharing “Nano” with us, Deidra. I know that four years doesn’t make the loss any less–I’m sorry for your loss. ((God bless))
Rebecca L Jones says
What a beautiful story of Nano’s homegoing. It is a blessing to have family gathered as opposed to some that end up arguing and worried about inheritences, I’ve see that happen. I ‘ve seen fear and grief. Grief and lamenting are normal, but don’t hold onto that hold the good memories instead.
Michele Morin says
In our hurry-up-and-move-on-already world we need this reminder that it’s ok to feel all the pain and cry all the tears. My mum is in a slow decline and every time I visit, I leave the nursing home with the same heaviness and feeling of loss, knowing that there’s no happy ending for her on this planet. Lamentation opens the way for me to “recall to mind” the Lord’s mercies and to “have hope” that His compassion and mercy will not fail — even though mine fail regularly.
Yes. I always appreciate your words, Michele. Praying for your mom right now.
Beth Williams says
So sorry for the loss of Nano. Psalm 56:8 says: You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. God collects our tears in a bottle. He knows our sorrow. People don’t want clichés about their loved ones being in a better place. They want your compassion & understanding. They want to cry on your shoulder. It doesn’t have to be just the loss aa loved one-we can lament loss of job, house, pet, etc. Anything one loses can be lamented. As Bev pointed out God put a whole book in the Bible Lamentations. He expects us to lament to Him.
Last January my dad’s dementia got bad enough he was hospitalized. During that month I lamented to God a lot. My heart cried to Him often. Please take him now-don’t leave him like this! Why Lord can others die and he still live? What must we learn. I learned to trust God more and was allowed to see a miracle.
Thank you, Beth!
Theresa Boedeker says
I love how you portray grief and crying as positive. So often we are uncomfortable with our own cries or the crying of another when sometimes we just need to sit and cry together. Because like you said, it ushers in the sweet ministering of the spirit and the healing of our heart.
Mary Hood says
What a beautiful, tender post! A soul that loves leaving the body fills the space with that love. Never should we hold back our grief. When my parents died I knew they were in heaven, no doubt, but I wailed for hours. I still, years later, have times of grief. Though not wailing, tears still can emerge from a memory. And having lost two babies, I well know that grief lasts till we meet in heaven. Thank you for sharing.
Holly @ beejoyful says
One word: Beautiful!