I lay in bed the night of May 3, 2008, occasionally checking the clock and waiting for the familiar keys to hit the desk in the home office a floor below. Instead of the keys-on-wood sound I expected, I eventually heard the sound of the doorbell. In the door, dear friends stood with a police officer to announce Brian’s death earlier that evening in a plane accident shortly after takeoff on his way home.
All of the concerns of a few minutes before were cleared in a wave that blew through my heart, mind and soul. Time stopped and rushed forward simultaneously, and my life began to spin like a crazy ride in a dream. I wanted out. I wanted off. I wanted to go back to before I heard the news.
I guess I began to grow up that May. I use that phrase now because someone said it to me a few months later. Something like, “I bet you have grown up a lot since it happened.” I thought that was such an odd thing at the time. Later, however, I would find truth in the notion that such tragedies are when we truly grow up. It is when we are stripped bare, that God can begin to make us into our truest self. When all the security of the world has let us down, and we know we are completely lost, we are ready to learn and grow. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" 2 Corinthians 2:9a. Wow.
I learned many truths through profound grief. I quickly discovered that suffering is everywhere. It is sort of like the experience of buying a car. You never notice how many Silver Honda Accords are on the road until you start to shop for one. It’s the same with a loss. Your grief makes you keenly aware of the pain of others. It is like a TV with only one channel; you can no longer look away or avoid the pain by flipping past it. In short, you are suddenly dialed in.
I learned that no matter how independent and capable we believe we are, God created us for community. He intended us to travel this journey with others. Unlike my nature to handle my problems on my own, I knew I would not travel well through this valley unless I could lean in and accept assistance and tell others what they could do to help. It was my journey, but it was not just about me; God’s goodness was revealed through the love of his people toward our family.
I realized that my journey was not the same as that of my daughters’. They also had a grief journey to travel. As a mom and a problem solver, it was hard to trust their paths to God. I could not carry the burden for them. But, God proved faithful in so many ways and provided just what they each needed. I had to trust Him. I am still learning this. Growing up is hard.
I eventually found that Brian’s death was not an end; it was a beginning. God had many things left for me to love, learn, do and be. He would plan a move for us to Tennessee to be closer to old friends and family. The unimaginable would eventually lead to blessing upon blessing that I would have never dreamed or agreed to ahead of time.
I read somewhere that it is the “Stew of Life.” All of the good parts and the hard times are essential ingredients. We often want to undo the hard parts. But, I know that to change something now would change the whole recipe. And, I wouldn’t want to do that. Many of you are a part of this stew as well. We have been so blessed with amazing friends and family who stepped in to help in some way. I will be forever thankful for you!
What is left after ten years? The same that will be left for any of us I think. The lives we impacted, the way we loved our people, and the good we did or at least tried to do. Brian is remembered through the many ways he touched others with kindness, humor, and service. I occasionally hear from someone who will tell me of his impact in their lives when they were a teen or some good deed he did for them. Through the blue eyes and laughter of my girls, I see his spirit and feel his zest for life. I still hear my voice repeat funny things he used to say, and I can almost hear him laugh with me. He reminds me by his example to play-hard and love-hard and enjoy the precious time I have left. On this May 3, I think of Brian and his memory reminds me to be grateful for today, and every day.