We spend Advent looking forward to a time of joy and happiness. Each day there’s a new door to open. Each day a step closer to the wonder. We wait for Christmas. We wait for Jesus. But we’re never ready for bad news… when it comes early. When He comes early, unbidden, when we’re unprepared.
In this post, I’m taking five minutes to join the Five Minute Friday #fmfparty lovelies to write unedited on a theme sent out by Kate Motaung. The word-prompt today is PREPARE. (You can join in too – here’s how.)
I was not ready for the shock when the terrible news came. It seems like yesterday; I was encased deep in the aches and fatigue of ME, struggling simply to get moving and eat breakfast. My cereal was going soggy in the bowl, as I suddenly felt the rush of the holy fill the kitchen, and I had to put my spoon on the counter and lift my eyes to heaven and worship. It seemed a crowd was cheering at a race’s finish line, I was caught up in the celebration of an unknown victory. God’s victory. Moments later, I was overcome with tears – inexplicable tears – as if the world had come to an end. I prayed, burdened by the unknown. I had no idea what had happened, but sensed that God did. So strange…
A couple of hours later, I found out. My dad and his vicar arrived on my doorstep, dad looking white as a sheet. ‘It’s mum,’ he said (I can hardly remember the details now, it was such a blur), and then he faltered into wordless trembling.
I read the message in the expression of the man caving in before me. The words came, feeble weak words that changed my life. ‘She’s died, love. She’s gone. It was a pulmonary embolism… she wouldn’t have known what was happening to her…’
… there were the necessary plans for me to leave, to go to face the reality of her sudden departure. I was half packed and ready to leave for the Christmas break the following weekend, but I didn’t want to leave now, not to face this. And then I found myself in the back of the car, being taken where I did not want to go. She’d been ill for months and years, but I was unprepared. Still unprepared for this.
Her funeral was Christmas eve. A thick, foggy day, where the red berries glowed and the hoar frost hung off the holly like jewels from heaven, the cobwebs weighed low with the dew. The red roses brought glory to her coffin, and were set off so well by the Christmas flowers already adorning the tiny church. Red advent candles glimmered. We heard the powerful words, ‘In the beginning was the Word… in Him was life…’
And we sat together, awash with shock and sorrow, clinging to each other, yet held by Jesus. The next day, Christmas came. A Christmas I’ll never forget.
I was 22 years old, and all this happened over 20 years ago. Too young to lose a mother, though I know many others have suffered worse, and earlier. But we don’t compare, or devalue our life experiences. They make us who we are, and colour every year that follows. Dad and I have had some pretty rough Christmases since then, and more recently some exquisitely happy ones too. Over the course of time, we have seen God’s goodness in our lives. The ache doesn’t go entirely. We treasure her memory. ‘Happy memories’. The pain hurts the most if we ever go down the path of, ‘it’s not fair…’, when there are so many divorces, so many separations. Oh, that the marriage had matured into retirement. Oh, that I had had a mother’s care through my 20s, 30s and even now. We don’t have the answers, but I’m so grateful that we have travelled this path with our hands in God’s. He alone can carry the weight of those questions.
The thing that comforts me the most is knowing that she was ready. She was ready to meet Jesus when he came for her, she had a strong faith in him. When I saw her last alive, already frail, she glowed with joy – transparent with glory. Such peace. Such love. When I saw her last – in the coffin at the funeral home – she was gone. There was nothing of that life in her remains. She’d been transported to a place that I long to go to too. I will spend the rest of my life waiting to go there, to meet Him – my whole life a season of Advent of a different kind. But I know I’ve made my peace with Jesus and accepted his sacrifice as the payment for all I’ve done wrong. I know in my heart of hearts that I’m ready… despite doubts and anxieties, I’m ready. Are you?