NE EVENING MY HUSBAND AND I received a telephone call from my husband's brother. We began our conversation with the usual small talk, then the bombshell: "There's been an accident," he announced. He went on to explain that our son, Jerry,* and his wife, Beth, who had visited them for the weekend, had been involved in an accident on their way home.
My husband said, "How's Beth and the baby?"
"They're fine," my brother-in-law answered. But when we asked about Jerry, all he could say was, "He didn't make it."
Among the first thoughts that came to my mind was, God loves Jerry more than I do. I know that God sent me this thought to help me through the painful days ahead as we learned more about what had happened. We learned that the car had rolled when it hit a snowbank after hitting an icy spot. Jerry was thrown from the car; he didn't suffer.
Beth was helped immediately. As soon as she got out of the turned-over car and released Tiffany from her car seat, a man was there to help them. Kind people took them to the closest city with an airport and saw that she got on a plane to her parents' home.
Friends and relatives came that evening to be with us, and other friends spent the next day with us before we had to leave for the cross-country trip. The Lord doesn't let a person suffer the unimaginable pain of losing a child all at once; it would be nearly impossible to take. He allowed us to sink into a state of numbness called shock.
When we boarded the plane to fly more than 4,000 miles to where Beth was with our little Tiffany, we had no friend with us but the Lord. We didn't realize that the Lord had a plan that helped us make such a painful trip. When we arrived at the gate for the departing flight, we met a pastor and his wife, who began to talk to us. They learned of our grief and treated us like special friends, visiting and spending a lot of time on the plane with us. The long trip didn't seem so long. In fact, when the minister's wife said to me, "We're landing," I could hardly believe that we were already at our destination.
A Parent's Heartbreak
I had never before felt the pain I felt at the death of my son. However, it taught me lessons that have been invaluable to me in my work for others. I had never understood the grief others had over their loved ones who had been laid to rest. I didn't know how to sympathize. Now I understand that although the pain eases, people never get over the loss.
A heartbreaking loss of the nature we experienced helps develop a closer relationship with the Lord.
I learned that a person can thank the Lord for anything He allows. I was able to thank the Lord that He allowed my son to die without feeling pain. I could also thank Him that Jerry had known no real grief in his life and that his life had been a success. He had committed his life to Christ and was teaching others to do the same. He won't have to go through any of the sorrow the world has to offer now and in the years ahead. He was such a sensitive young man. What God allowed to happen will be for the best in the long run, even if we don't understand.
Questions for Reflection
1. What is the most crushing personal tragedy you've had to endure? How did your faith in God's love and wisdom help you to cope?
2. Does someone have to experience a personal grief to be able to support and comfort those who have? Explain your answer.
3. When you've had to cope with the death of a loved one, or some other personal tragedy, who did the most to help you? What words or gestures were especially helpful?
4. Which are most important in supporting those who mourn: words, actions, or a combination of the two? Be specific.
After Jerry's death we learned things about him that we had not known. He had been giving Bible studies to a young couple. His boss told us that Jerry preferred the role of servant, rather than that of an authority figure. He was an auditor for the church in North America, and the treasurers with whom he worked liked him because he always tried to make their work easier. In fact, when the news of his terrible accident was announced over the radio, it was mentioned that he was an "encourager." He always had been kind to others. All these things comforted me and helped us deal with the grief of losing him.
When Jerry was taken from us, a friend shared with me a beautiful text of Scripture that has been such a comfort to me: "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil" (Isa. 57:1).
Another verse that gave me great comfort is "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Ps. 116:15). But for Christians, death is only temporary; eternity lasts forever. Christ's victory over the grave fills us with the hope of soon being reunited with our beloved son. May it be soon.
*All names have been changed.
Bible texts are quoted from the New International Version.
Dorothy Jones is a pseudonym.