For the past several weeks, I had attempted to write blog posts, but I could never find the words that I wanted to share. Great topics came to my mind, especially during the week the Supreme Court held hearings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). No matter how many times I tried to write, I found myself running into a wall. Frustrated, I stopped.
A devastating family loss changed that.
Last Wednesday, my grandmother called me an hour before my workday was to end. I knew something terrible happened when she choked back tears, struggling to say “Christy, Kandie is dead.”
Shock and numbness.
This is what I felt as I tried to comprehend what I had just heard.
My first cousin…someone very close to me…dead at 33 years old. I didn’t know what to do other than go to my apartment, pack, and immediately begin the 5 hour drive to my hometown.
I have the tendency to stuff my emotions deep down. All the tests I have taken show that I am an introverted, internal processing thinker. I think all the time. I faithfully work my evening routine so that I can slumber in peace. If I fail to do this, I will spend the rest of the late night/early morning hours contemplating the mysteries of life, instead of sleeping. However, I have great difficulty ‘thinking’ about things in my life that threaten to overwhelm my ability to control my outward emotions. I don’t know if this comes from the fact that I’m the first born and have always felt that I had to take care of everyone else. Whatever, the reason, I know it isn’t healthy.
I made the conscious decision not to stuff my feelings in this situation. Instead of turning up the radio and daydreaming about something else, I allowed myself to feel the emotions that were welling up inside of me as I drove to TN.
Guess what happened as I did this? I felt God’s presence throughout the entire drive. Although I was grieving, I tangibly felt God comfort me. I felt God’s love for me; I even felt God’s love for my cousin. The words that kept repeating themselves in my head were: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
A day later, I was asked to preach my cousin’s funeral. Apparently, she had told others that she would want me to be the one to speak at her funeral someday. I had never preached a funeral, so I wanted to say ‘no.’ However, I felt honored that my cousin wanted me to do this, so I kept her wishes.
Once again, words eluded me as I attempted to write the eulogy I wanted to share. Frustrated, I went to bed the night before her service without anything down on paper. At 5:00 am the next morning, I awoke from sleep and sat down once again at my computer to write. I simply prayed that God would give me the words that the people present at her funeral would need to hear and words that would honor my cousin’s life.
The words began to flow. God even used that time of writing to help me process and experience my emotions. Here are the words I wrote that morning (her family’s names have been deleted):
All of us here have fond memories of Kandice. She represents so many different roles to us: mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, girlfriend, and friend. If I were to ask each one of you to remember some stories about Kandie, I am sure we would hear some really good ones. I know I have some. I talked with her brother XXXX yesterday and he shared that he was always afraid of bringing friends or girlfriends to his home…not because he was afraid for his parents to meet them…but rather he was afraid of what Kandice would say to them. No one seemed to be good enough for her little brother. Kandie was the type of person that you wanted on your side, and you definitely didn’t want her to be mad at you. I’ve learned this the hard way a few times.
As I was thinking back on Kandie’s life, I noticed a quality about her that I had never noticed before. and maybe you may not have thought of this. Kandie possessed an inner strength that I am not so sure she even realized. She is one strong woman! Throughout her life, there have been many trials and tribulations. She could have easily given up…but she never did! That tells me a lot about a person.
This fact has never been truer than her latest roadblock…when she was diagnosed with lupus. We all watched her struggle with the breakdown of her body. If you had to live with the pain she lived through during this past year. Could you? She could have easily thrown in the towel to this life…but she never did. In fact, it seems like she began to fully embrace life. She told me numerous times that she didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her; she was going to beat this! I have to confess that the way she lived her life this past year has inspired me to embrace life head on.
I last talked with her on the phone 2 weeks ago. We were laughing the whole, entire time. Last Christmas season, we had been complaining about our mutual lack of love lives. So, we made the decision that we were going on a date ourselves when I came back into town (which would have been Memorial Day weekend). We had a plan! We would dress up, go to a fancy restaurant, and see a movie. Now, since that planning session, her love life had improved, but we were still planning our scheduled date. I was really looking forward to it!
As I prayed about what Scripture to use today, I kept going to John 11:25-26. To be honest: these verses kept echoing in my mind as I was driving to Union City last Wed. right after I received the phone call about Kandice. It reads: “Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
How fitting it is that Christians celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ just last Sunday. Christ was crucified and died for our sins. “Our sin dug a never ending pit in our relationship with our Creator. The cross bridged it. Our sin resulted in separation. the cross reconciled it. Sin made war. The cross made peace. Sin broke fellowship. The cross repaired and restored it.”
But we must never forget that Jesus’ death wasn’t the end of the story. 3 days later, the grave could no longer hold him. The resurrection of Jesus gives us the hope of imperishable life, the death of death, the hope of eternal life.
Jesus promises that if we are his children, we will not die. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, followers of Christ can know that when they die, they are not destroyed, but actually begin to live.
Kandie and I have talked a lot about Jesus and the Christian faith. I know that Kandice gave her heart to Christ. She is one of his beloved children. Because of Jesus’s death and resurrection, Kandie is not dead. Yes, her body is here, but she isn’t. From the Bible, we learn that to be away from the body is to be with Christ. Kandice is with God right now. She is truly living her life. She no longer struggles with the pain she lived with. She has experienced the ultimate healing!
I believe that she is enjoying a homecoming. Not only is she with God, I believe she is catching up with her Uncle XXXX, Grandpa XXXX, her father XXXX, and meeting her Grandfather XXXX. Of course, I think she is especially catching up with her Granny XXXX. She sure loved her Granny!
When Kandie told me about her diagnosis, I felt a strong pull to begin praying that she would experience God’s love like she had never had before. I prayed that she would grasp just how God felt when He thought of her. I wanted her to truly know that not only did God love her…He liked her. I even prayed this prayer with Kandie when I last talked to her 2 weeks ago. And I believe God has answered this prayer. Kandice finally knows just how much she is God’s beloved child, especially as she is now with Him.
XXXX and XXXX : I want you to know that your mom loves you with all her heart. As you grow older through this life, take hold of your memories of your mother. If you find that you are having trouble remembering at any time, ask me…ask all of us here…to help you remember. And know that although she is away from you for now, you will see her and hug her again.
To the rest of us: May we, too, hold onto the memories of Kandice’s earthly life. Even in the midst of our grief and pain, let us rejoice with her as she is finally at home with God.
Kandice: I…we…love you!
If you have or are experiencing grief, allow God and others to comfort you!