When my dad died last year, I got short text from my friend Kim. “Your dad’s in heaven,” it read. “Good for him!”
This might sound like a strange thing to say to a grieving daughter, but coming from her, it was perfect. Not only is she is a dear friend who knows me well, she also knows a great deal about missing a precious loved one who has gone before her to heaven.
Kim’s words below describe her family’s great loss and how God has sustained them through their years of grief and pain. It is my prayer—and hers too—that her story will comfort and encourage you as you walk through your own difficult seasons of life.
Back when our family was young, my friend Tammy gave us a beautiful drawing of God’s hands holding each of our six names along with the words, “I will not forget you! I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” from Isaiah 49:16.
This framed piece of art has hung on a wall in our home for many years, but we had no way of knowing how profound and true these words would become to us.
Our third son, Andrew, died in a car accident on Aug. 23, 2010. He was 16 years old.
Ten years later, this reality continues to be unthinkable to me. Losing Andrew deeply impacted my life, as well as the lives of my husband, our older two sons and our daughter. It also changed our family dynamics in significant ways.
Early on, I decided not to ask God “why” because any answer He may have given would never satisfy this mother’s heart. Instead, my primary question was, “How are we to go on?”
There have been happy times and events these past years. But each one of us also has experienced profound life difficulties.
Serious issues and situations occurred in the lives of our young adult and teenage children which were either directly related to grief or clearly rooted in grief. Some were improved by intense parenting, while others involved challenging situations that had far-reaching ripple effects in their lives.
We certainly had our times of weak faith and doubts. Although we’ve survived with our faith intact, there is no way that we kept our footing through these struggles due to our own strength and wisdom, because we had neither. Rather, consistent answers to needs and prayer came in ways that we knew could only be from the hands of God.
As we have persevered through the difficulties and worked with the grief, family has become a healing and critical priority for me and my husband. We have found sweet joy when our family welcomed new additions through weddings and births. We have been blessed with daughter-in-laws whom we love and two grandbabies who soothe parts of our hearts in a way that we never anticipated.
Over the last decade, we have packed up two houses, resigned from jobs we enjoyed, left wonderful friends and moved across states and then cities to be close enough to share more time with our family. To some, these decisions may not have seemed logical, but to us, they were vitally important.
Our family scripture says, “I pray that you … may have power together with all the Lord’s holy people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:6-19)
Supplying the opportunity to live near family has been one of the ways that God has shown His love for us. I don’t know how we could have gotten through these last ten years without this gift of love and provision from Him.
Since Andrew died, people who have chosen to stick with us for the long haul have been among our most appreciated blessings. Having family and friends who understand and help us carry the burden of grief—even if they didn’t personally know Andrew—means so very much to us.
We are deeply thankful when Andrew is remembered intentionally on the hard days that come each year—holidays, his birthday, meaningful events like graduations and weddings, and any family gathering where he is so clearly absent.
We have 10 years of incomplete family photos, and it hurts to know we are missing all his life would have brought to us. At the same time, it warms our hearts to think of the 10 or so “Andrew” tattoos out there on friends and family members, and to remember that three special babies bear his name. And since Andrew loved soccer, it always makes us smile when we see soccer fields full of kids running and kicking like he used to do.
Andrew had a strong faith in God that was all his own. He was 100 percent confident in his belief that God provides life after death in heaven for those who trust in Jesus. He had a significant spiritual influence on many people in his short life, and I imagine he would have joined three of his closest friends who now work in Christian service.
Our oldest son is a country songwriter, and one of his song titles asks the question, “What if I never get over you?” I’m guessing he and his co-writers meant this to be a love song, but in my heart, it speaks to the fact that I will always miss our sweet, caring, dear third son.
Lois Flowers is mom to two lovely daughters and wife to one good man. She’s an author, former journalist and lifelong Midwesterner who values authenticity, loves gardening and is trying to break her habit of always reading the end of the book first. You can connect with her on Twitter (@loisflowers16) or Instagram (loisflowers). She also blogs regularly at loisflowers.com.