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I CAN HANDLE ANY CRISIS— I’M A MOTHER: ANOTHER CALL FROM THE MORTUARY

by admin - May 13th, 2011.
Filed under: Anti-Psychotics.

It took over a week to get Tim’s body shipped down from the Yukon, and as we were preparing to have a memorial service, I received a phone call from the very same mortuary that had called five years before to the very day. The man’s voice said, “Mrs. Johnson, I’ve never had to do this before, that is, call the same family twice, but you’ll have to come up here and identify Tim’s body since he was killed in a foreign country.”As I put down the phone, I remembered that Tim had been killed in the Yukon. Where was the Yukon, anyway? I had heard about Sergeant Preston and his sled dogs in the Yukon, but where actually was it? I looked at a map and saw that the Yukon is one of the territories that belongs to Canada and that, indeed, it was part of a foreign country.I had made this trip to the mortuary five years before and thought then it would be a once-in-a-lifetime ordeal. Now I was driving there again on a hot day in August to identify another boy in another box. As I stood there in the same viewing room, jumbled thoughts raced through my mind: This is the same dumb carpeting they had five years ago, and the same dumb wallpaper, and I am standing here next to this same little man in the dark suit, looking at ANOTHER boy in a box. I can’t BELIEVE this is happening all over again!It all seemed the same and so familiar, as if it had happened to me in another life, or in a dream! I wondered if my whole life would involve coming to this same mortuary every five years to look at boys in boxes. When you have been hit by a truck while sitting in the front seat of a Volkswagen, there isn’t a whole lot left. You look at what they show you in the plain pine box, and then you sign another little paper saying this boy is your son, Tim. But in no way does he look like the son you have had for twenty-three years.Walking out of the mortuary that day, I could smell the fresh-cut grass and hear the crows cawing in the trees nearby. Suddenly I looked up and in the blue sky was an image of Tim’s smiling face. All around him it was bright gold and white, and he was saying to me, “Don’t cry, Mom, because I’m not there. I am rejoicing around the throne of God.”It was as if God had wrapped me in his special comfort blanket of love that day. I’ve never had anything like that happen to me before or since, but I think God knew I needed that special sparkle just then to remind me that He still loves me, that I am His child, and that He never leaves us in the midst of our pain.We had the memorial service for the boys, and many of Tim’s classmates from the Police Academy came and responded to the gospel message. Ron’s parents had also accepted the Lord earlier that week. Later, articles about Tim and Ron appeared in several Christian magazines. The heading of a story in Christian Life said, “THEIR DEATH WAS ONLY A BEGINNING.”We began to see that, although they never made it home to share personally, Tim had been right: God was using their story all over the world to bring others to Him.
Barb, You’re a Pro at ThisA local pastor visited us a few days after Tim’s memorial service. He knew about our previous loss with Steve and came to bring some words of comfort. His opening remark when I greeted him at the door was: “I’m not a bit worried about you, Barb, because you’re a pro at this!”A pro at what? A pro at losing another child? He probably meant that my inner strength would come from the Lord and I would get through it, but what he said came out uncaring and unhelpful, so lacking in understanding.In some ways, losing Tim was more difficult than losing Steve. We had some time to prepare ourselves for Steve’s passing. We knew for many months he was in a danger zone and the shadow of death was always on all of us. When it happened, it was a terrific shock, but still somewhat of a relief because the terrible apprehension was over.In many ways, Steve’s death was like having a loved one die after a long time of suffering with something like cancer or AIDS. Then you have some measure of time to prepare for it, and you have already dumped part of your cup of grief during those months. By the time of the actual death, it is like a lifting from the time of suffering, and you can begin to have closure.But in Tim’s case, there was no warning of impending disaster, no signal of distress. It was only his bright, happy voice saying he would be home in five days and then, WHACK! It was all over! One moment we were anticipating his arrival with excitement, and the next we learned he was in the presence of God. It had happened so quickly that there had been no preparation, not even a thought that his life would be snuffed out.We had many wonderful Christian friends who came to visit us and tried to be comforting. They said things like, “Isn’t it wonderful that Tim is with the Lord?” Well, yes, it was wonderful, but I wanted him HOME WITH US!Or, they would say, “How good it is that you have two other children left,” and I would nod, that, yes, that was good, but I wanted TIM! I would agree on the surface with people who were quoting Scriptures to me and wanting to make themselves feel better by having me zip up my anger and distress quickly. Inside, however, I wanted to escape from all of them and their nice little platitudes. I wanted to open—to lance— the big abscess inside me. I knew the verses they were quoting and I believed them, but the raw edges of my heart were still bleeding too much. I needed to grieve.To escape some of my “Ivory soap” Christian friends, I would drive alone at night to a dump a few miles away. I would park there and just sob, and sometimes even scream, to let out my pain. I would tell God how angry I was with these people for telling me how glad I should be that Tim was in heaven. I also told God how angry I was at Him for taking one so special and precious to me. This was my way of venting emotions that HAD to be released. God doesn’t say to grieve not; instead, His Word says, “… that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13, rsv).Looking back, I can see how Romans 8:28 and other verses that were quoted to me are all true. God is faithful, but the timing of these reminders was all wrong. Nice little plastic spiritual phrases don’t help people unlock their grief. It is better to just put your arm around a grieving person and say, “I love you—God loves you.” Beyond that, it might be best to just shove a sock in your mouth and keep quiet. Don’t try to reason with people in grief to persuade them to accept their loss. When a believer dies, it IS wonderful to know that person is with God, but at the moment when those who are left behind are bruised and bleeding, the simple truth is this:WHEN GRIEF IS THE FRESHEST, WORDS SHOULD BE THE FEWEST.For a couple of weeks, I went to the dump nightly to rid myself of my grief. In recent years, the dump has been closed at night because so many people were getting mugged, but I believe God protected me when I was making my trips. By going there to grieve, I was able to come back to face my Christian friends who were spouting little spiritual platitudes that didn’t work for me.How to Dump Your Cup of GriefRecently I met a lady who sells clothing in a department store. She told me that she had experienced the loss of a child and she couldn’t work or wait on people because the tears kept coming all the time. She was a Christian and yet she hadn’t been able to stop grieving. I shared with her a little plan that could help her “accelerate” her emotions:”Get some sad music tapes, the saddest you can find,” I told her. “Make sure everyone is out of the house, then go to the bedroom, unplug the phone, turn on the sad music, flop on the bed and just SOB. Set a timer for thirty minutes and during that time cry and pound the pillow. Let out your feelings— VENTILATE. If you’re angry at God, that’s OK. He won’t say, ‘Off to hell with YOU.’ He still loves you. But get those deep hurts out through the avenue of tears. Do that every day for thirty days and every day set your timer for one minute less. By the time thirty days have passed, you will have DUMPED a lot of your cup of grief.”Not long after I talked to her, the lady called me and said she had been taking my advice for only a week, and already she felt a lot better. She was to the point to where she could get through a whole day without the tears coming continually.If you are experiencing difficulty in breaking open that deep abscess you have inside, perhaps this simple plan may help shorten your time of grief. There is no set amount of time to grieve that is considered proper or spiritual. But whatever time you need, “accelerating your emotions” may help you drain some of that pain and begin the road to recovery. The important thing is to have a closure time on your pain. Keep Psalm 84:5-7 ever in mind:Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who want above all else to follow your steps. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains! They will grow constantly in strength and each of them is invited to meet with the Lord . . .” (tlb).After Tim’s memorial service in August, what helped me through the next few months was my continuing to try to help other people who had lost children. Now our ministry expanded beyond parents of Vietnam casualties, and we started talking with mothers and fathers who had lost their children in auto accidents or in other ways. I began speaking to parents’ groups, telling them that the pain of losing two sons is incredible, but God’s comfort blanket of love is still sufficient. I even got to the place where I could say that I was grateful for two deposits in heaven. We had been through dark times, and we had survived! What I didn’t know was that total blackness was yet ahead of us.*11\316\2*

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