Loneliness of Loss

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.

Dorothy and Gail DSCN2671Recently 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

Step into the New Year…God’s Way

When a new year approaches, I often experience a tingle of excitement and anticipation as I wonder what lies ahead. Finally January 1 arrives. Visually it’s as though I’ve turned the final page of last year’s book and reached for a brand new book…the story that God will write in my heart and life in the new year.

That’s what happened this year. The joy of celebrating an early Christmas with my nephew Casey and his daughter Piper still lingered in my heart. I welcomed in the new year with friends and the next morning had a free day ahead of me. Opening a new journal, I jotted down highlights and “low lights” from last year and pondered some dreams and plans and possible adventures for 2015. That night I went to bed with a calm heart and a smile on my face.

Then the rhythm of life began to penetrate my world. Monday morning arrived along with numerous responsibilities as a member of a leadership team that was meeting for the entire week to plan for the new year.

Reminders about church and community commitments began to pop up on my phone.  Sad news from a niece relating to a family crisis as well as triumphant news from a nephew who had begun a wonderful new career spun me into roller-coaster emotions.

Today nothing went according to plan. Hoping that a service rep was coming to attend to urgent electrical home repairs, I listened while the polite young woman on the phone explained that the first available appointment is two days from now.

I’d reserved this morning for writing to you about my thoughts for the new year. Instead, unexpected and urgent work emails crowded out those hours. As I looked ahead in my calendar I felt overwhelmed with responsibilities in many arenas. I wondered how I’d have the stamina and wisdom to fulfill each one.

Then God gently reminded me to cease striving and be still; to entrust my plans to Him because He sees the complete picture and knows how it will all be accomplished.

Interestingly, a canceled commitment for this weekend is allowing me to participate in my church women’s retreat. Seems that all along God had planned to give me this special chance to cease striving, be still for a few days, and center my thoughts on Him and His Word. Surely I will be recharged and better prepared to step into the new year His way.

“Be still and know that I am God!”
Psalm 46:10a

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Psalm 37:23-24

Thanksgiving During Gray Days

In this season of thanksgiving, we are encouraged to “count our blessings”. Yet, you may be struggling to recognize blessings in your life, especially if your loss of a loved one or close friend has been recent. Your pain, heartache and grief may still be overshadowing any joyful or happy things happening around you.

Maybe your pain relates to the loss of a dream, a relationship, a hope you had hidden in your heart. Any kind of loss can captivate us and cover the sun.

This morning as I read from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling devotional book, I was struck by one portion. “To protect your thankfulness, you must remember that you reside in a fallen world, where blessings and sorrows intermingle freely. A constant focus on adversity defeats many Christians. They walk through a day that is brimming with beauty and brightness, seeing only the grayness of their thoughts.”

I experienced that recently. My focus on the absence of my brother Greig and the sorrow of separation spun me into a dark time. God saw my heavy heart and used my brother’s son Casey to lift the weight. Amazingly, then I was able to see that my brother’s absence from earth is a reason to thank God. Greig is experiencing new life in heaven with God now. Once I was willing to thank God for this truth rather then focus on my brother’s absence, I experienced joy. [See my August 21 post for more details.]

I pray that God will lift your heart today so you will be able to recognize your blessings, from life and breathe, to a hug from a child, or the caring words of a friend. Acknowledging God’s blessings won’t make the pain of loss go away. But your willingness to thank Him will soften your pain and allow you to see the beauty and brightness in your day.

Video

What’s the Point?

Sometimes darkness descends on a perfectly fine day. The darkness blocks the  sunshine and any glimmers of hope we are experiencing on our journey of adjusting to our loss.

Darkness invaded my world one day. Perhaps I should have expected it, since it’d been only two months since losing my brother. But I didn’t. During my devotional time with God that morning, I began praying as I always do. But my prayer evolved into an uncharacteristic attack on God, whose love and faithfulness had sustained me during my brother’s ten-month courageous battle against leukemia.

“What’s the point, God?” I cried out. The ensuing verbal wrestle with God revealed the deep turmoil of my heart.

Four days of darkness came and went. No one knew the heaviness inside of me. The fifth day God brought me a miracle. The story in my video will explain.

The Birth of a Book

Usually a birth announcement relates to the joyous arrival of a new boy or girl in someone’s family. This particular announcement refers to the arrival of my new book, LIFE THROUGH LOSS – Facing your Pain, Finding your Purpose.

The idea was conceived as a result of the cascading illnesses and death in my family. The content grew in size as each story painted a picture of how God intimately prepared my family members to live with Him in heaven. As words spilled onto pages and calendar months marked the progress, gradually I became aware of God’s real reason for birthing this book. He wanted me to honestly portray my own heartache and grief and proclaim hope for the future. Because of my journey of loss I found life. I long for others to realize they don’t need to stay stuck in their grief. They can find new life just as I did.

If you are someone one who has been left behind through the loss of someone you love, LIFE THROUGH LOSS may be just what you need to find hope for your future. Perhaps you know others who are watching loved ones suffer or who have already said their good-byes. This book is designed to inspire and encourage people to take the next small step toward discovering God’s purpose for them in their unexpected season of life. To order through Amazon, click on the book cover in the sidebar. Or click here http://amzn.to/13E0aTW

LIFE MAY BE WAITING FOR YOU JUST AROUND THE BEND

As a physician, and one who has lost my mom and recently my only sister,
I have personally seen death and dying. Gail’s God-breathed stories offer
hope, joy, peace, and purpose to those who face a life-threatening illness
with their loved ones.”

ANGELITA N. KURLE, M.D.

My Nephew’s Text

“Thinking of your dad today. Hard to believe it’s been 4 years. Love you.” I sent that text to my nephew Casey (my brother’s son) on the anniversary that his father passed away.

I intended to make Casey feel loved and remembered. Because of our shared experience with his father’s battle against leukemia and his eventual death, Casey and I had grown closer. He showed his love through texting, phoning, visiting and sending pictures of his daughter.

When Casey’s reply popped up, I stared at my phone. “I wasn’t thinking about today. Wouldn’t have known unless you said something. I try to think about him living, not dying.”

Startled, my heart sank. I wanted to encourage him, but it seemed I’d offended him instead.

What should I do? I could react and defend myself or ask God to help me respond the way He would. I wondered, was I too focused on Greig’s illness and death?  Had I barricaded myself in a prison where sitting in sadness was my only agenda?  By choosing to stay aware of his absence had I hindered my ability to picture where he lived now and what my life could be like without him?

God reminded me of a favorite verse that answered my questions. Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?”

Casey-Gail scene IMG_7566-002I decided to follow God’s way and that choice opened my eyes to see things from His perspective. I realized that Casey wasn’t trying to attack me; he was expressing what he does to keep his dad’s memory alive.

The next morning I sent the answer I knew would please God: “Great perspective. You’re right. He is alive!” Our positive communication led to other honest conversations.

Now I’m experiencing emotional freedom from dwelling on the absence of my brother. I’m glad Casey sent his text. He taught me that every day I can celebrate Greig’s life—a life that will last throughout eternity.

Singing His Song

Tags

, ,

The Jesus Calling daily devotional book by Sarah Young is designed as though Jesus is talking to me. Often the message seems especially designed for me that day. It happened again recently.

These sentences caught my attention because they addressed a major stronghold in my life: FEAR. “Do not let fear dissipate your energy. Instead, invest your energy in trusting Me and singing My Song.”

This is such an interesting picture of investing my energy in trusting Him as opposed to pouring my energy into fighting my fear. Fear is the opposite of trust and it drains my energy. On the days I ask myself, “Why am I so tired?” I may not have recognized fear as the culprit. If adopted as a way of life, fear will keep me weak.

Isaiah 12:2, the related verse for that day’s devotional, says, “…I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and song.” It is only by trusting in Him, and activating the strength He gives me, that I can move forward.

When I am engaged in trusting Him, that’s when the music begins. In that moment the strains of “His Song” will flow from my lips.

The First Post

Tags

Welcome to my blog!  I invite you to visit the ABOUT section where you can read about my desired purpose for this new blog. You’ll also learn about the main fear I face in life. Yes, I’m an “ordinary person” who experiences fear just like you do.  But we can live above our fears. It is possible!  And our discoveries can put us on the path to freedom where we can experience the kind of life God has planned for us.

I look forward to blogging with you about my honest struggles, my discoveries about freedom, and steps of progress on my journey of life.  Please let me know what you are facing.  I want to be on this journey with you.

Gail Porter