April 2013 will be one of those months that stays with me for a lifetime.
I anticipate the first week of April unlike any other month of the year. If you are lucky enough to live in middle Tennessee, you know why I say that with no apology. Verdant growth begins to sprout on stark, dormant tree limbs and the forest lands become embossed with the neon raspberry of the Red Bud trees and the clotted white cream of Dogwoods. It’s also the time when one can be sure that winter is gone and the warmer, breezier days of spring and summer are truly going to happen.
Just when my heavy winter heart began to release some of it’s burden and I was anticipating the yearly ritual of raising my face to the sky to feel the warmth of the sun, dark clouds rushed in again. It stole the warmth away.
A dear pastor and his wife whom I had the privilege of working with in Southern California — folks I still love, learn from and admire so very much — lost their adult son to suicide after a life long battle with mental illness. As the parent of an adult child diagnosed with Bipolar Disease, I identify with the struggle they have lived over the years. There was a period in our lives when depression and the daily struggle for our daughter to simply get out of bed was so dark and difficult that every time the phone rang, I just knew it was someone calling to tell me that she had taken her own life. Joy and happiness that comes our way always has a bittersweet aftertaste.
I can’t even begin to comprehend what it feels like to receive that phone call, but my dear friends do.
On the heels of one tragedy, came another.
“My sweet baby boy is fighting for his life,” a dear friend in Louisville pleaded on Facebook. “I so covet your prayers for my son and my family,” she added. So I prayed, asking God to please spare the life of this beautiful young man, only 32 years old.
His life slipped away in a hospital room in Indianapolis. A senseless death with senseless circumstances.
A moment of anger that now another dear friend has lost a child.
“It’s not the way it’s supposed to be Lord,” I cried. “Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents.”
It’s moments like these when all you can do is run to God and sit in his lap and release the grief you are holding so tightly so that it hurts when you let go; pleading for peace and comfort for those you hold dear, it flows from your weak, pitiful heart into his strong and caring arms.
Help them to breathe, Father. Every day. Every hour. No, every minute.
I pray that way because a dear friend who lost his precious wife to cancer not so long ago told me that afterwards breathing was the hardest part. “Sometimes,” he said, “the grief and pain is so great, I don’t think I can take another breath.”
Tragedy and loss are desolate places to dwell in when the earth is returning to life.
Now May is just around the corner and a chill still hangs in the air. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that winter continues to creep in and steal away our warm spring days or if my soul is just cold, swollen and remote because it has cried so much for people I care about so deeply.
I think it may just be a little of both.