I felt alone when my mother died unexpectedly. She’d always been there for me during 43 years of my life. Don’t we sometimes think our mothers will live forever?
If you also have an endearing kind of relationship with your mother, you’ve probably come to relish and depend on her wisdom, listening ear, and companionship. When you don’t have her in your life, you realize the preciousness of what you had.
Loneliness can descend after the loss of a spouse. Suddenly you don’t hear their voice or see them come around the corner to give you a hug or ask a question.
The loss of a child—the most painful loss, I’m told—creates the deepest sense of emptiness. It seems so unnatural for a child to die before his parents. If he has already left home, the parents have tried to celebrate his desire to create his own independent life. But when he physically leaves his parents behind, they grieve in a way that may never go away.
In the midst of the loneliness of loss, God’s promise in Hebrew 13:5 becomes an especially precious one: “I will always be with you. I will never leave you or forsake you.” God sent His Spirit to fill up the lonely places in our hearts and lives.
Recently I watched God’s compassion unfold. I was visiting my 95-year-old friend Dorothy, my mother’s best friend. More than 20 years ago we had both said goodbye to my mother, but we stayed in touch and our relationship deepened. Throughout the years we exchanged letters and cards at special holidays, and I always visited her each time I traveled to Oregon. Dorothy became my listening ear, and her smiles and hugs filled my empty spaces.
Dorothy and I had looked forward to our lunch date for many months. She seldom had the chance to get out since being confined to a wheelchair. After hugging my sweet, white-haired friend, and exclaiming over her latest family pictures, we settled in for a visit. During our conversation she quietly remarked, “Shouldn’t say this, but I’m lonely. My friends can’t come this distance to see me anymore.” Sadness clouded her blue eyes.
My heart broke. Here she sat in her old age with many dear friends dying and others unable to drive to visit her in the assisted living complex. Silently I prayed, Lord, please lift her spirits today.
She explained, “When we’re ready to go for lunch, I’ll ask the gal who assists me to come to my room to push me in my wheelchair and help get me in your car.”
Later, downstairs at the entrance, I watched Sara skillfully bear Dorothy’s weight and maneuver her out of her wheelchair and into the front seat. Soon we pulled into the tree-lined driveway of the motel restaurant she had chosen. After parking temporarily at the front door, I attempted to help Dorothy but realized I was incapable of lifting her.
I’d spotted an employee sitting on a bench outside the motel as we drove in and walked over to ask her help. The young brunette with a friendly smile, popped up from her seat with eagerness.
As we walked toward the car I admitted, “I know this really isn’t in line with your duties, but—.”
“Well, actually I’m here to assist anyone who needs helps. I work at the front desk. My name’s Jamie.”
Jamie quickly and easily lifted Dorothy into the wheelchair and pushed her into the dining room. “Enjoy your lunch. I’ll help you again when you’re finished.”
Dorothy and I chatted, laughed, and remembered old times. “This salad is delicious,” she said. “If I ate any more of it, I’d be eating the plate. What a wonderful time this has been.” I smiled with delight.
But the best part was about to unfold. Jamie appeared at our table as I was paying for lunch. “Ready?”
As we approached my car, Jamie bent down to look into Dorothy’s face. “Just as you drove in, I received a text from my mother saying that my grandmother passed away.”
“I’m so sorry. Are you going to be able to get time off?” Dorothy said.
“No, my grandmother lived in another state, but you are here.” They embraced with tears spilling onto their cheeks. My tears flowed, as well.
Turning to Jamie with overwhelming gratitude I said, “God knew you two needed to meet each other today.”
“Yes, He did. And I’m getting baptized in two weeks at church. They asked people to come forward if they wanted Jesus in their lives. God helped me not be afraid.” She paused. “It has really helped me because my husband and I lost a baby six months ago.” Her deep losses shook me.
Jamie turned to Dorothy. “I can’t see my grandmother anymore but I can visit you.”
“I’d love that.” Dorothy’s face lit up with the prospect of seeing her new, young friend again. That day our heavenly Father reached into the hearts of two lonely people.
Have you been lonely at times? I have, too, but through this experience God reminded me that on those lonely days He will do special things to show me I’m not alone.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Psalm 68:6 NIV