The night was sticky and scorching even with the sun setting. The air conditioning broke in my car last summer, so my windows were rolled down and I had my arm out the window, letting my fingertips touch the breeze.
I saw something in the dusky sky when I turned on the road toward my town. I looked to my left and noticed a group of people, scattered but clearly gathering. They were at a cemetery. They were lighting lanterns and floating them up into the night sky.
I immediately pulled my car to the side of the road, pushed my hazard lights on, and watched.
Tears sprang into my eyes. I wondered briefly who the people were honoring with their lanterns, but all I could think of was my beautiful friend Tat. Tat died in a car accident almost two years ago. Floating lanterns can’t help but remind me of her. A few summers ago, while she was alive, we lit lanterns together — like that scene from the Disney movie Tangled.
A week after she died, our church lit lanterns in her honor. A year later — almost a year after her death — I saw a floating lantern randomly light up the night sky as I drove home from work.
God keeps sending me lanterns. They remind me of Tat and of God’s tender love and kindness. They remind me that God hasn’t forgotten.
It’s been almost two years since Tat went to be with Jesus. Two years without her on Earth. This year was different from the last. Last year held all firsts — everything was new, every day another impossible anniversary to navigate.
And yet . . . she is gone — like a novel ending abruptly mid-sentence. It makes no sense, and even two years later, it’s hard to comprehend.
In the months after her death, the grief was a tsunami. Social media swarmed with photos and mementos of her — people sharing story after story, trying to grasp any moment they shared with her. Thousands came to her funeral. People shared her blog posts, brilliant words she penned that still continue to resonate.
But now, years later, the social media posts are few and far between, save for her parents and close friends.
And I wonder if people will forget her. I have photos of Tat — tacked on my fridge, hung on my walls, as bookmarks in my Bible, dangling from my rear view window — anything to remind me of her.
Two years in and I wonder: Will people forget my friend? Will the grief that once stabbed us fade into a bruise? Will people move on and forget the beautiful life Tat lived?
Maybe they will. But God won’t.
God isn’t limited to time or emotional capacity or memory. He holds every single thing about you in the palm of His hand — from the number of hairs on your head to each prayer you utter, whether audible or not. He holds every sharp shard of grief, every unspoken dream, every frustration, every ache in your heart — safe in the care of His hands.
He cares about the birds and the flowers, and He cares infinitely more about you (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV).
He knows everything about the day Tat died, each detail I may never know, and He knows everything about my grief, two years later. People are forgetful and people move on, but God remains right beside us.
Even when it feels like everyone else has forgotten — when the social media posts end, when the hashtags are gone, when the meals stop showing up, when no one texts you to check in and see how you are — God hasn’t forgotten.
He sees you, right where you are. Two years or ten years or fifty years later, He still sees you.
That night, I sat in my car and watched the lanterns float higher and higher. The grief isn’t as sharp almost two years later. I wiped a tear from my eye but didn’t weep. It was a bittersweet sadness deep within my chest: I was grateful to be reminded of her, and yet I ached, knowing she is gone.
I watched them drift into the sky, their fiery light dimming the further they floated. I thanked God for another sign of His personal kindness and unrelenting love.
I whispered a prayer to God for Tat, “Tell her I miss her. Tell her I love her. Tell her I can’t wait to see her someday.”
Even if it feels like the world has forgotten, God hasn’t. He hasn’t forgotten about you, He hasn’t forgotten about Tat, and He hasn’t forgotten about me.
In fact, He keeps sending lanterns to remind me.
People are forgetful and people move on, but God remains right beside us. #grief #loss -@alizalatta: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Lynn D. Morrissey says
Aliza, this is such a beautiful, poignant remembrance of your beautiful friend Tat. I can’t thank you enough for sharing. *You’ve* not forgotten her, and now you share her memory and legacy with others. Yes, people move on, it seems, and yet you are raising her lantern high, and straight to God–to the God who sees, who cares, who remembers. I love how J.M. Barrie said, “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” And God gave you lanterns so that you might have exquisite memories of your Tat whenever you see them lit and lifted high. It’s His way of neither forgetting her, nor you. What a loving, tender, comforting, personal God we serve–He knows that lanterns are *your* “love language,” and is using it eloquently in your life.
I can’t help too but think of the breathtaking painting, “Light of the World,” by William Holman Hunt, one version of which (he painted several) hangs on a wall at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. He depicts Christ, standing outside an oaken door, knocking. He, the Light of the World, holds a lighted lantern in one hand, and knocks on the door with the other. This scene depicts Rev. 3:20, where Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” It is my prayer, that when God “gives you lanterns,” of the precious friend whose company you have lost on this earth, you will invite Jesus in to dine with you. It is my prayer that the two of you will have an intimate talk about your dear friend, that you will be so very blessed and comforted in your remembrance of her.
And I almost hesitate to share this, not meaning to draw attention to my own grief and past memories, but only with the best intention of pointing you and your readers yet again to heaven (you already know this and have said so here)… but the more I am reminded of heaven, the more I am blessed and encouraged. This is the last paragraph from a chapter in my book, where God comforts me with a “picture” of lanterns stretched across the heavens. I aborted my first child in my 20s, as a brand-new Christian. It is a deep pain I live with, yet which Christ mercifully has redeemed. I have no memories of this child, whom I named Shannon, and so I long for heaven, when she and I will create them together. But your mention of “lantern,” prompts this sharing: “Later in the evening, alone on the moonlit beach, I wrote a requiem to Shannon in my journal. Gazing at the stars, hanging like little lanterns strung across the ocean, I was struck by the truth that abortion has extinguished the light of millions of lives before they have had their chance to shine. Yet somehow, on this clear, crystal night, as I searched the heavens, I knew that Shannon and countless children were there with God, illuminating all eternity.” God has lifted Tat and Shannon’s lanterns high. They will never dim. Praise Him! And God bless and comfort you, dear Aliza.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Our God is, indeed, the God who sees and the God who stays. I have learned that when everyone else has forgotten, or been distracted, or even deserts us, God is the One who remains. I love that He gives us tangible reminders of His abiding presence – lanterns, rainbows, for me everytime the gold finches come to my black eyed susans to eat seeds, they remind me that God is close at hand. I’ve learned to look for “God-winks” – little random signs that God is totally in control and oversees even the most minute details of His creation. May you be comforted that Tat is never forgotten by God and she is waiting to meet you with Christ when He comes to get His followers.
Aliza Latta says
The God who sees and the God who stays — I love that, Bev, thank you. I love the way God speaks to you!
Aliza Latta says
Lynn, your comment brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your beautiful words. I Googled the painting you referenced — absolutely gorgeous. I can’t wait for you to light lanterns with Shannon someday.
Lynn D. Morrissey says
Tears, too. God bless and continue to comfort you dear one, a lantern at a time . . .
Ada Orie says
I am praying for you, Aliza. I am thankful for your memory of your friend Tat. Sometimes, we can feel so alone in our grief years later. Thank you for reminding all of us that God sees and loves each us. I am thankful for God understanding every tear and heartache. I thankful for reminders of those we have lost and who have been promoted to heaven. This devotional was needed by my soul. I have been reminded of friends that I lost one, two, five and 22 years ago. Different things reminded me of them. I miss them and their absence is noticiable. I never want to forget them. I am thankful for you Aliza. May God continue to cover and keep you today and always.
Aliza Latta says
Ada, thank you so much for your prayers and beautiful words of encouragement. I appreciate you!
Michele Morin says
My heart aches for you, and I believe God mourns alongside us, as well.
Yes, he never forgets.
Aliza Latta says
Phyllis Swanson says
I can’t envision what kind of lantern this would be. it sounds very meaningful and I’d like to know. Wonderful and meaningful story.
Aliza Latta says
It’s like the floating paper lanterns from the Disney movie “Tangled”. They’re so pretty!
Barbara Sternitzke says
How beautiful! Reading your story made me cry for all those lost to Covid-19 and all the family and friends left behind. It’s so comforting to know that our Lord mourns with us, holds us close and never forgets. Thank you for this timely reminder.
Aliza Latta says
So comforting. I mourn for them too, Barbara. <3
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
We are never forgotten with God. We are loved by a big Father. Because we are his Children. He love us all too much too forget us. People Family and Friends might forget us let us down. Even hurt us. Make us cry. Feel does no matter. Why does no care. I been there with People Family and Friends. But the best Friend I have is Jesus. He will never never leave us nor forsake us. It reminds me of the song. “What a friend we have in Jesus” you get it on YouTube. The words so true. We do have a friend so faithful who will never leave us. It say take everything to Jesus in prayer in that song. I often wanted to cry when People Family and Friends forget about me. At times it make me say am I not good enough. What is wrong with me. Then I hear Jesus whisper no my Child don’t think that. Yes you are. I love you you are my Child and you are beautiful. All that matters is what I say. You have me as a Friend. Even if no one else wants you. You will always have me. Then I smile and say thank you Jesus. Say stop complaining as there are people out there a lot worse of than me. Who have no one. Who have just lost someone because of Covid 19. Or an illness. So it make me thankful to be alive and go into prayer. Love today’s reading. Xx
Nancy Ruegg says
I lost a friend to a car accident when I was in college. Fifteen years later in a share group–I can’t even remember what we were discussing–but I began to tell Shelly’s story, and tears came to my eyes. I wasn’t sure at the time what prompted such a strong response. This I know: the same God who gave us the capacity to love also gave us the capacity to grieve. Perhaps we need the latter in order to fully appreciate the former. And no doubt the euphoria of heaven will be enhanced when we realize all grief has been erased! “Only the soul that knows the mighty grief can know the mighty rapture”–Edwin Markham.
Beth Williams says
Bless you for keeping Tat’s memory alive. Friendships, love & grief are all intertwined. God loves us so much & only He can understand our grief. He knows the depths of sadness when we lose someone close. A friend of mine just buried her dad. He died in a logging accident suddenly. She posts pictures of him & her on Facebook. She does what she can to keep that memory alive. That same friend lost her first child to a miscarriage. It was a girl & butterflies were the “thing”. Now every time that family sees a butterfly they are reminded of that little one. God winks are all around us. We just need to take the time to notice. The mountains I live near, dear friends texting to check on me, sweet animals in my yard are all God winks. He notices each of us & gives us what we need to get through our days. Life moves on & so do people. God doesn’t forget. He is always right there beside us. He will never leave nor forsake us.
Susie Sepetjian says
Thank you for sharing this. It touches my heart and your words resonate with me. My 23 year old son died after a horrific motorcycle accident a little over 4 years ago. One of my biggest fears is that he will be forgotten, so I make a point of talking about him often. That has also allowed others to feel comfortable sharing openly without fear of it hurting or triggering us. Indeed, he is more alive today in the presence of Jesus than he was here on earth, and God has captured every tear that have and will shed until we are reunited one day. Those promise are helpful to soften the pain of this loss.
Scott Blackburn says
Thank you Aliza Tat is so alive and keeping her memories is all we have. Love You.