That is Why We Call Her Lauren Grace Lynne.
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March 23, 2005 is a day that will forever be sketched in my memory. It all started earlier that week. The last several months had been a whirlwind. My wife was pregnant with our second child, and she was set to be induced in one week. We had so much left to do, and very little time to do it in. To top it all off, my mom had been in out of the hospital for several months battling cancer. We had just been told that there was nothing more that the doctors could do, and mom wanted to spend what time she had left with her family. I took consolation in the fact that my mom would at least be able to see her granddaughter come into this world. It was Tuesday, and Mom and Dad wanted to have the whole family over for dinner. We ordered Pizza Hut, Mom’s favorite, and had a special night at their house. We sat in the living room, Mom had been to weak to get off the couch. We laughed, told stories, and we were able to have one of the best evenings in quite some time. We hadn’t had many of those lately. That thanksgiving was the first time in my entire life that I didn’t share the meal with my mother, she was in the hospital. We had seen the horrors of chemotherapy. We had watched as she became weaker, and weaker physically. We had prayed and wept. Our family had prayed and wept. Our church had prayed and wept. It had been a long and weary road over the last year.
That night was different. Mom was able to eat pizza. Now that may not sound like much, but over the past few months the chemotherapy had caused these awful sores in her throat. Drinking water was painful for her. But not Tuesday night. She almost seemed like her old self. It was getting late, and we knew we needed to go home. My sister and I just stayed a little later. How many more of these times were we going to have? I couldn’t help but wonder. I knelt beside the couch, gave my mother one last hug, kissed her on the forehead, and told her I loved her. Had I known what the night would bring I would have hugged a little tighter, and stayed a little longer, but I didn’t, so I took my young family home.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I had so many thoughts going through my mind. I don’t know why, I just could not go to sleep. I have never been more tired than I was at that time, but I simply could not sleep. I have since learned that there is a difference between being tired and being weary. I was weary, my soul ached. In the early morning hours, as I lay in bed contemplating so many different things, the phone began to ring. It was on my side of the bed, but I just lay there frozen. I knew who it was, and I knew what it was about. I lay there stiff as a board as my pregnant wife got up, walked around the bed and answered the phone. It was my dad, and he told me I needed to get to the hospital right away. In the hours that followed my sweet mother left this world and walked into the next.
That was 13 years ago today. As I am writing this I am reflecting on the things that I have learned in that time about grief, pain, and loss. The first thing that I learned is that time does not heal all wounds, and it shouldn’t. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first it sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For the extent the emptiness truly remains unfulfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve, even in pain, the authentic relationship. Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past, not as a thorn, but as a precious gift deep within. A hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” This statement has become ever clearer and real to me with each year of my mother’s passing. There are times when that wound is still present and still painful. Last night I went to the hospital to visit a sweet lady from our church. When I walked into the room it dawned on me that 13 years ago I was doing the same thing for a much different reason. I held her hand, spoke with her a bit, and then we had prayer, and I left. I held myself together in her room and in the hospital, but as I got to my car, there were tears in my eyes. There were tears because this 41-year-old man missed his mom and was reminded of the pain that was present the moment we lost her. As I felt that pain, and do from time to time, I was reminded of how lucky I was to have someone worth loving and missing that much. It made me long for the time when I will see her again. So yes, I was sad, but strangely enough I was able to rejoice in the sadness.
The second thing that I have learned is that God’s grace truly is more than sufficient. The apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians “At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.” In the immediate aftermath of Mom’s passing I had a hard time. For several months all I could remember were the hospital rooms, sitting with her when Dad couldn’t be there. Caring for her and seeing her at her most vulnerable. It was hard. The amazing thing is, over time those memories were replaced by really good ones. Like her laugh, or when we would go out to eat once or twice a week when I was in college. I can still hear her singing the Lilly of the Valley clearly in my mind. Like when she wanted me and my sister up on Saturday mornings she would start vacuuming and hitting our door till we got up. I remember her shopping with Aunt Dorene, and every year they would get lost. I remember her baking Christmas cookies. I remember the smell when I would come home from a rough day at school and she had made my favorite cookies, peanut butter with a Hershey’s kiss in the middle. Those memories are mine, and God’s grace has helped flood me with so many good things, that I can’t focus on just the pain and loss.
Six days after Mom passed my middle child was born. We had already decided that we were going to name her Lauren Grace Harris. After mom died we decided that we wanted to honor Mom, so we added Mom’s middle name Lynne. Mom wanted so much to see Lauren and hold her. You could always count on one thing with my mom. After the grand-kids had been to see her they would have bright red marks from Mom’s lipstick. It was inevitable. When Lauren was born she had something special. On the back of her neck she had a birthmark. A bright red birthmark. It was about the size of the smudge of lipstick. The nurses told us, you know what that is called, it is called an Angel’s kiss. Now, I know that when we die we don’t become Angels, but it seemed that somehow God gave us that. I don’t have my mother on this earth anymore, but I have an even greater gift. A living reminder of my mom. I have Lauren Grace Lynne Harris, who came to us in the midst of grief. She is a constant reminder of all the things I have learned and am still learning on this journey. I know this has been a long post. I don’t know what you may face in life, but I do know this. Hold on, pursue Jesus, keep your eyes toward Him, and He will bring you joy, and Grace that is more than sufficient to sustain you.