For most people, August 3rd is just another day. But for me, it’s a date I can never forget.
It’s not like someone’s birthday that you would really love to remember but somehow forget. This is a day that’s always full of emotion for me. Sometimes sad, happy, or even angry.
As this August 3rd approaches, I remember that, 14 years ago, I lost my best friend – my mom.
Many people have heard my story of losing my mom to kidney cancer when I was 15. It was a life-defining moment and one that still continues to shape me. I’m so grateful that it forever defined my relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t really get any easier. I mean, maybe some days.
But then other days, it feels as fresh as it did 14 years ago. My heart still longs for her and wishes she were here. I dream of what life would be like. What kind of person she would be like. What our relationship would be like. I’ve changed a lot since I was 15. In some way I’m a completely different person–one my mom never really knew.
Reflecting on the life I had with my mom is not always sad. In fact, I enjoy talking about her. It helps me remember her. Telling funny stories about her helps make her relevant in my life today. I was a total mommy’s girl, and I always will be. She’s who I get my humor and my determination from. She’s who I get a lot of who I am from.
As I think about the impact August 3rd had on my life, I also think about the many days and years afterwards. There were so many people that walked through this journey with me, people that God used to help shape me and heal me. When someone is going through a crisis, they need people to lean on and support them. That’s really the beauty of the Church and what God intended it to be – a place where people can do life together, as they try and grow more in Him.
There are a few ways God used people to help me through one of the most difficult moments in my life.
I became an emotional wreck when my mom died. I was always angry and easily annoyed. Even when I was in the worst of moods, my aunt was always present. She never gave me an excuse for being angry and bitter. But she never left. I never became too difficult for her or too much to bear. I was not an easy person to love at this moment in my life. You would have never guessed it by how she loved me. I couldn’t get rid of her no matter how hard I tried.
She was relentless in her determination to just be present for me. Sometimes that meant advice, a hug, or even just sitting next to me in silence. Looking back, that was one of the things that got me through. Her willingness to love me even when it hurt and even when I didn’t know what I wanted.
What a beautiful picture of how Jesus loves us. In spite of all our ugly, He is still there with us. And that’s the same love we are called to have for other people. The love with which He loved us we are to pour out to others.
Being present when it’s hard and it hurts you is one of the greatest actions of love. It is one of the greatest ways to comfort someone in the midst of their crisis.
Our church family was absolutely wonderful and made me fall in love with Christ even more. When my mom was really sick and visitors became too overwhelming, our church found new ways to be there for her. I remember some of the members from our church playing worship songs outside of our house for her to hear. They never asked to come in, knowing it was too much for my mom at that point. She absolutely loved hearing them lead her in worship. It was beautiful.
Everyday we had different families delivering lunch and dinner to our house. They didn’t insist on staying and visiting. They just dropped off the food on our doorstep and would check-in to see if we were low on food.
I can tell you story after story of our church family helping care for our practical needs. They even went so far as to pay for our electric bill in the dead of summer, so my mom could be as comfortable as possible.
No matter how big or small, the practical things matter. When the people closest to us suffer and experience crisis, we can be helpful. There are practical ways we can be there for them. It doesn’t always have to be a financial cost–even just lending your time to watch kids, helping do laundry, or running errands. These very tangible forms of love make a world of a difference.
Be a Friend
I had many women who tried to comfort me by giving advice and even trying to empathize by sharing their own stories of loss. There may be moments when that’s needed. But it is less than you think.
It grew frustrating to hear other people’s stories of how they lost their mom when they were 35 or when they were 7. It made me feel as if what I was struggling with was ordinary and mundane. Even people sharing advice on what was a healthy way to grieve didn’t help.
What I really needed was not a counselor or doctor, I just needed a friend. Someone I could be shopping with one moment and in tears with the next. And she would understand.
I felt far more comfort and peace with someone who was more interested in being my friend than they were being my counselor. God uses those friendships to bring healing and joy. Just having a person to have fun with and remind me that life didn’t need to stop when my mom died allowed me to deal with what was going on.
When someone you love is going through a life altering moment, they are probably in need of a friend more than a counselor of doctor. A true friend will know you. Even if they don’t have the right thing to say, they are a source of comfort.
We will all experience moments of crisis or tragedy. But God can use others to bring you through it.
Written by Tamara Chamberlain