Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sheltering Honestly

Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength. ~Ovid 

In the middle of my morning – a morning spent in mothering and house caring – a fan used for circulation in my daughter’s room malfunctioned, causing her room to be engulfed in flames.  It seemed surreal.  Screaming for help, the wail of fire engines, the rush to the hospital only to find out our Sarah was in the arms of Jesus long before the flames had reached her bed, the inability to hold our Sarah to say goodbye. 

The next few hours are hazy in my mind.  I sat nearly motionless in the home of our senior pastor and best friends, Leonard and Janet Sankey, just across the parking lot from our charred, smoke-filled house.  Janet and another friend sat with me.  Church people drifted in and out – bringing food, toys and clothes for Melanie, and countless offers of help.  Later in the afternoon we made funeral arrangements.  The ten hour trip for any of our families to get to us stretched out eternally,  and I can remember thinking my heart could not wait until my Daddy and Mother arrived. 

It was in the middle of the waiting that I walked into the living room at the same time Leonard walked out of his study.  Crying in his arms I asked, “What are we going to do?”  I can still hear his whispered reply, filtered with his own grief, “I honestly do not know.”

Leonard has preached around the world. He could have consoled me in articulate English or fluent Spanish.  He has all the promises of God hidden in his heart; he could have quoted them to me.  He is a wordsmith – he could have crafted a beautiful assurance.  But in his honesty, I was comforted.  Those whispered words made it easier to breathe, easier to allow the “whys” banging in my head to find some measure of validity in my heart.  And because of those whispered words, I could accept the message of Job which Leonard based his funeral message on: “The Lord gives and takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 

Throughout the following months, I spiraled through the grieving process.  Yes, I asked “Why?”  There were times I was angry at the loss of my sweet nine-month-old Sarah.  Other times I wanted to pull the covers over my head and forget life.  Twenty-four years later, I look back  -- and am now, more than ever, convinced my grief found greater authenticity and effectiveness because of the honesty of my friend.  

39 comments:

LeAnn said...

What an inspiring post. I just can't even fathom the pain felt with this experience. I think losing a child would truly be the greatest of tests. I know that grieving is hard. I was a Hospice Home Health nurse for several years and dealt with those who grieve. I have found for myself great comfort in the thoughts that we can be a family forever and we will see our loved ones again.
It is so amazing when the comfort just comes when needed from the Lord.
Blessings to you for sharing this.

Joan said...

Pamela:

I cannot even begin to imagine the pain you felt. Your pastor was wise - he didn't try to "sugarcoat" the situation. His honesty gave you more strength than meaningless chatter ever could.

Blessings to you,
Joan

Kathryn Ross said...

Pamela - How tragic - I am so sorry for your loss. May God continue to use your faithfulness in such a loss to touch the hearts of others in powerful ways - Sarah's legacy . . .
Joy!
Kathy

GLENDA CHILDERS said...

Twenty four years later . . . and you describe it so well. I imagine it is a night you could never forget. No wonder sheltering is a theme you love and understand the need of so well. I am sad you had to go through such a loss. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Fondly,
Glenda

Pam Asbury said...

Auntie, thank you for sharing this wisdom we all can learn from. There's so much more comfort in validating emotion and questions rather than providing all the answers, and it takes a wise and true friend to provide a safe and sheltering place for someone to "not be okay."

I truly don't think I began to absorb the reality of Sarah's or Carla's death until I became a mother. I would mark the "9-months-old" or "7-months-along" and I just couldn't wrap my mind around such loss.

Through it all, though, you've never lost your grace and strength, and now you are touching many, many more with what I've witnessed all my life. I love you and I'm thank God for the blessing of you.

Pam (the other one)

Deanna said...

i'm speechless......

Shanda said...

I cannot even imagine a grief so deep and heart wrenching. And the pain of a pastor and friend wanting to help but having no words.

Kim M. said...

Tears, Pam. Love you and your family so much. Wish I could hug you.

Kim M. said...

P.S. Brother Sankey hasn't changed much has he? He still adores little ones. I love that picture.

Janet said...

Thanks, Pam for allowing your words to be used! I want to learn this lesson well and shelter my friends and family with honesty and compassion.

Elizabethd said...

Sometimes the simplest words are the only ones that will reach our hearts in those terrible moments.

Little Birdie Blessings said...

Oh Pamela,what depths of grief you must have experienced. I am so sorry you lost your little baby. As you know, she is safe in the arms of Jesus.

Fanny Crosby wrote "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" after her baby died. Here's the first verse of that hymn.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels, borne in a song to me.
Over the fields of glory, over the jasper sea.

Thank you for sharing this. ~ Abby

tinuviel said...

Thank you for commenting at my site to draw me here to see how you are and read this. What a terrifying experience for a mother! I know you miss your Sarah still. I'm so sorry for your loss. May God continue to comfort and strengthen. Thank you for sharing your story.

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing your story -- I can only imagine your pain. I agree with you -- grief stifled only corrodes the heart. It must be shared in an authentic way and in that process, God brings beauty out of the ashes, even when it seems impossible.

Renee said...

What a beautiful, deep and touching post. What a blessing your pastor was for you...I don't think we ever forget or completely heal from losing a child, but it seems to lessen as years go by and God's love brings joy into our lives again. Bless you for sharing this with all of us.

Jeanette Levellie said...

I so appreciate your honesty and willingness to share this painful memory. Thank you.

My daddy died when I was ten. Not until I was nineteen was I able to allow the Lord to heal that pain. I know I will dance with Daddy in Heaven someday soon!

RicKaren said...

I cannot even imagine your pain, but I appreciate this honest post and the lesson here that honesty and love are the best comforters.

Making Memories 1999 said...

Thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for the words of wisdom, and the challenge to be honest in our caring.

Shoregirl said...

I've had occasion to witness some "not so gracious" people in times of sorrow, and have tried to learn from the experiences to just listen and love (and of course pray).
So glad you had a honest and Godly pastor to comfort you in your time of intense sorrow.

no spring chicken said...

Oh my. He is sovereign. He is just. He is love. And sometimes we just can't understand. I understand how an honest lack of answer was the only answer you wanted.

Blessings, Debbie

Adrianne said...

So, so sorry for your loss. I am glad you are able to express yourself in your time of grief. I'm not sure I could do the same. Praying for you tonight.

Adrianne - www.happyhourprojects.com

Charlotte said...

I'm glad you found comfort in the whisper of a friend. Sometimes the only thing we can say is "I don't know.' Sometimes...many times, only God knows why, and those things are safe left with Him.
Thank you for sharing from your heart.
Charlotte

Heather said...

Thank you for linking up with Thirsty for Comments and sharing such a large part of yourself and your grief with your blog audience. I was truly touched by your tragic story and the beautiful lesson you were able to take away from the terrible pain and loss. Blessings to you.

Haddock said...

twenty four years....
and that one act of an honest answer got you through.

While I was reading through, I thought (and hoped) that you may be narrating a dream... a bad dream.

Read my third last post "Sometimes things happen..."

Vilisi said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss,Pamela. Your strength and deep faith is so obvious in your writing and the fact that God is your greatest shelter.

Amy Sullivan said...

Oh, Pamela,
I don't even have words. Beautiful girl.

You think you have a peek into someone's life because you glance through their blog, but really, we all have so many stories behind our posts

Not sure how you made it through, but I admire your strength.

Sharon said...

I am so deeply touched by this, Pamela. I cannot fathom the grief this caused your young heart, or how it still hurts all these years later. Often, there is tremendous comfort in the HONEST words of a caring friend. I think it takes great courage for believers to sometimes admit we just DO NOT understand.

It is faith most courageous when it is faith on the human side of God's sovereignty.

I vividly remember something Billy Graham said at the national service after 9/11. He talked about the mystery of evil. I so appreciated his words - how he said that there was something about evil that we will never understand. It just hurts - the literal event - and the agonized cry of the heart that wonders WHY.

But, as you so wonderfully and bravely pointed out - we know the One who knows. And we can trust His good purposes even in the depths of the most grievous pain.

YOU are a testimony to honest and strong faith, Pamela. I am blessed by you.

GOD BLESS!

(And I join you in anxious anticipation of one day meeting Sarah face to face!)

SocialStudiesSoubrette said...

Oh Pam my heart breaks for you and I am whispering a little prayer for your pain right now <3

Misty said...

Wow.. what a heart wrenching post. I don't know what is is like to lose a child, but I know what grief is.. some days I want to lie in bed, most days I just cling to Him and He makes a way. I am comforted by this post and your story that is now a testimony.

Thank you show much for sharing.

Misty

Melissa said...

This absolutely causes my heart to ACHE! I cannot fathom such a great loss and heart ache! Bless you!!!

jen@its all about me said...

Pamela,

I saw that you were a new follower on my blog and I just came over to visit your blog.

Did you realized dear lady and we have a common tragedy in our lives; the loss or a precious child; for me two; it's been five years.

I have found that the things you mentioned in your last paragraph of this post to be true for me as well.

Big D and Me said...

Wow. Just takes my breath away and gives me tears just imagining the grief. You wrote that so well.

The Dickinsons said...

Oh, Pam, I had to cry while reading your post. I will NEVER forget when your precious adorable Baby Sarah went to Heaven. Y'all had just had VBS at our church in Loogootee, and I had had a BLAST helping you with Baby Sarah that whole week. (I was 12 then.) AT the end of VBS, You had given me a lovely book mark and had written on the back..."Thanks for all your help, from sticking stickers to lugging babies!" (I still have and cherish that book mark!) By the time of your fire, we had moved to LA and when we got the horrible news I could NOT believe my ears! I have NO CLUE how in the world you and RB survived those HORRIBLY SAD days afterwards, but Dad II's (Sankey) words were so sweet! I remember being soooo THRILLED when years later...I was attending GBS and found out you were expecting another baby. Not one to replace Sarah...but one to fill your empty arms! Thank you for this sweet and precious post!

Thank you also for sharing the recipe to the P.B surprise cookies. We made them the other day and they are heavenly! =)
Love ya,
~Heather~

Deb Chitwood said...

My heart breaks for you just reading about your loss. What a powerful testimony that you were able to work through your grief authentically and bring so much encouragement to others in the end. Thanks so much for the inspiration from your words and faith!

Mindy said...

What a terrible memory, and what strength with which you convey it. Thank you for sharing and for showing it's possible to "get through" the most unexplainable things. Blessings.

Shannon@Cozy Home Scenes said...

Pamela, you express yourself so well that your readers feel some of the grief that you have experienced. My Mom would understand your pain because her 7month old baby girl before me died. She says there is no other pain like that of feeling as if part of you is missing. We know our family will be complete again and I will get to meet the sister I would have loved to grow up with. My Mom and Dad still after 38 years , grieve for my sister at times. I don't know how people who don't believe in heaven can bear the grief that your family and my family endured. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I admire your strength and courage . God bless you, always.
Shannon

Mary Ellen said...

Heart stories like yours remind me over and over again of how the Father is such a Redeeming Father- Thank you for sharing and for letting tragedy and grief be a tool for His glory -

Alice Lynn Alfred said...

Dearest Pamela, Thank you so much for sharing your story of sorrow. I don't even know what to say, but my heart aches for you and your grief. I have suffered loss of close ones as well....I placed a daughter for adoption when she was born 9 years ago because I was homeless when I had her....and my 19 year old sister was murdered by her boyfriend in 2006 - but I don't think these can compare with the loss of an innocent, sweet baby in such a horrific way. May God bless you, sweet, beautiful woman...oh how my heart breaks for you and your pain....much love ~ alice

BelovedBomber said...

I have cried as I have read many posts about your sweet Sarah. My heart aches as I imagine your journey. I am praising God for how He helps His children face every day and the hope He gives us in eternity.

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