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.