Two new holes were left in my heart this past winter, and last weekend represented the first events where these loved ones “would have been there.” I had been dreading the events without them.
First, I lost my 42-year-old brother, Mike, (from Colorado) completely unexpectedly, after his medication cocktail (due to back pain) proved lethal. Weeks later, my dear friend Jackie Lewis (from Michigan)– also unexpectedly – went to be with the Lord at age 32 after a short week’s illness.
When my uncle, Buck Seitz, received France’s Legion of Honor medal in Denver, CO, last week it was the first time that I was at a family event…without Mike. Afterward, I flew out of Denver, directly to Florida, for a business event. It was at this business convention where Jackie and I would have shared the stage at night, sat together by the pool during the day, or been boating in the ocean together as in past years.
It brought to me an irony of grief: “good grief,” I guess you could call it.
Beginning (every day) with the end in mind has been an effort of mine for years. Physical
death is not “unexpected,” as no one has avoided it as of yet. And when I know heaven awaits for those who trust solely in the Lord Jesus, I would want it to hasten its call for believers. That is the “good” part of the grief. But oh, how it aches to have that hole in my heart of one that once was here…not here anymore. To know my lifetime ahead will happen absent of these loved ones cuts deeply into me, and even more deeply when I look at the children and spouses, and those closer to the deceased than I.
The degree of grief has taken so many different forms within me. I am no psychology major, but I know that what I experienced is probably not unique to me alone.
The depth of raw heartache cannot be described. What once was…no longer is. There is nothing I can do to change it for the future. There is nothing I can do to change any past, although with these two, there was nothing I would have changed. If my mind ever wanders from the sorrow, something comes to remind me of it: a waiter named Mike, a bookmark bearing Jackie’s signature, a song that instigates a flash flood of tears. It is amazing to me how I see the resemblance of their faces in SO many people – like a mirage due to a deep longing to see them again. My heart skips a beat when I see a red head. (They both were.)
I say, “pure,” because it is the true sense of the word. Joy: that despises
circumstances. My pure joy: in knowing that Jackie is with her Savior in heaven. There is no more crying, no more pain, no need to wait for a sun to brighten her day, because the eternal Light is always there. There is such pure joy in knowing that she finished her life at such a peak. Her husband raves about their marriage –which gives me joy to thank God for the timing of her death to be at such a high! She was a speaker on stages across the country, and her desire for excellence was an influence on thousands of lives to live better. The wrinkle fairy had not yet waved her wand in Jackie’s direction. Haha! She was beautiful, so beautiful. Her love for the Lord exuded her being in all that she did, and her testimony video was recorded just this year. What a high! I have a joy in knowing that although the dash between her birth-date and her death-date was too short for my liking, its brevity is what interested tens of thousands to watch her story, which could have eternally impacted them. I have joy in knowing that though 32 years seems so short, and I wish she had lived to be 105, I can look at the grand scheme of tens of thousands of years in eternity, and the difference in a few decades on earth is so, so small.
I know some experience guilt after the death of someone due to words that were said, or not said… Visits that were not made… Time that had passed taking for granted the love and friendship of the newly deceased. Those feelings hopefully spur us to be reminded of the preciousness and finiteness of time with loved ones. But my guilt was different. It was as though every smile I gave brought with it a weight. Wasn’t I sad? Does my brother know I miss him? If I smile, will he think I don’t? What about other friends and family – am I offending them if I smile when they are not? I know it’s a strange subliminal guilt – my brother cannot “think” anything anymore. He is gone. But inside me, there is a pang, like a weight from below that feels good and right being sad, and guilty being happy. This “guilt” is probably most dangerous, because it is not from God. He is the one who allowed a weight to lift…and probably listened to the prayers of many to give me that moment of lifted weight…and yet I sometimes regretfully have given the unfounded guilt power in my day. I tend to think I need to “justify” my happiness, “Well, Jackie would have loved that I can laugh at this video now.” Or “Mike would have been laughing with me at this.” That justification may be true, but I just don’t want to miss the opportunity to say instead, “Thank you, God, for making the sun rise on my life again, because that night was long.”
Wanting to hide/avoid:
This part of grief seemed to have an undaunted allure. Do I have to attend that event? Everyone will be looking at me to see how I am handling it. What if there are expectations of how I am supposed to “look” and “act” in mourning? There will be others there grieving; I hate to look at others and see the pain I know will be in their eyes from their loss. Events with people who didn’t know the deceased were even more difficult: it seemed disrespectful to be with people who didn’t even know or care about the ones I miss so deeply. My local church family didn’t know or love my brother. Couldn’t I use a few more hours of sleep? Couldn’t the world just turn without me for a while? I am hurting.
Doubt (with a capital “D”):
Have you ever prayed so intensely that it hurt? Physically, hurt? Have you ever lost entire nights of sleep or days of meals while praying for someone’s life to be saved? Have you ever visualized the victory so deeply, that you almost forgot whether the prayers had been answered yet or not, because you trusted that much that victory was imminent? Have you ever felt like you sweat blood?
Have you ever prayed that much and God still answered, “no.”
And that was His “final answer.”
Not, “No, check back with me next week.”
Not, “Wait… I like how you are depending on Me. Keep depending on Me. Let Me work on it.”
Or “We lost him.”
Did you ever go back and doubt that your hours upon hours of fervent prayers were even heard?
Is doubt sin? YES
Am I proud? NO
The Bible talks about doubt:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:5-8”
But there was a time a few years ago when I doubted my prayers were heard, and I am ashamed. I have to tell you a little secret though:
I told God about it.
A. Weatherell Johnson, in her autobiography, Created for Commitment had this to say about a time of doubt in her life:
“I went to God and bluntly said, ‘God, I’m sorry but I don’t believe You always answer prayer.’ Immediately after I had spoken those words aloud, I corrected them. ‘God, I do believe but I don’t understand.’ God then gave me His loving assurance. He said, ‘My child, wait for Me. I have not finished.’ My very voicing of unbelief (to God alone) delivered me. I started to praise Him.”
Reading that, I remembered my own gut-wrenching tearful surrender that was so similar.
However, since answers to prayers do not always take the same shape of the mirages I have created, I believe we have to have the attitude my friend Diana had when she admittedly felt like prayers bounced off the ceiling back to the sickbed where she lay.
“I don’t understand, but I trust.”
The truth of the matter is that we cannot be afraid to speak out our doubts honestly, and immediately to the Lord. The very voicing of the sin can deliver us from it. How can a drowning victim be saved if she won’t admit she’s drowning? Besides, do we think He doesn’t already know our heart? Do we think He doesn’t see behind the fig leaves with which we cover? Are we surprised when He asks, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Gen 3:11) He already knows.
Jesus, Himself, prayed for His circumstances to change so earnestly that His sweat was like drops of blood, (Luke 22:44) yet He humbly submitted when God said, “no,” so His life was used to save mine.
The Lord holds our tears in a bottle. (Ps 56:8)
If we can just …hold on to Him a little while longer. (Haggai 2:6-7)
When God Says, “No”
Just recently, Pastor Stephen Davey shared about the topic, “When the Answer is No.” (I love it when I have a blog half-written and someone else covers the exact topic!) You can read his message: here or listen to the audio here.
He taught five components to our response to God when He answers “no” to our fervent prayers. We should respond with humility, gratitude, surrender, praise and readiness.
The Bible is clear that there is a time for mourning, a time for tears. (Ecc 3:4) Even Jesus wept at the loss of his friend. (John 11:35)
And yet, the fact that Ecclesiastes says, “there is a time,” to me, says that the time is finite. It ends. Yes, I will miss these loved ones, but there is more. There is more to come in this life than mourning….when I respond with humility – recognizing that my desires do not include the whole world like God’s desires do. When I respond with gratitude – recognizing that the fact I miss these loved ones means I have some memories for which to be thankful. When I respond with surrender – recognizing that I am not in control…and really never was. When I respond with praise – recognizing that I do LOVE the One who IS in control. And when I respond with readiness – recognizing that there is more to come. This is not the end. I want to be ready to serve the Lord as Jackie was, to spread laughter as Mike would have done.
Just wait, there’s more.
I once heard it said, “Everything will be all right in the end; and if it is not all right, it is not the end.”
Girlfriend, it is not the end. Last weekend as I lived without these two was a sort of victory for me. It wasn’t the end! Yes, I cried again… at the loss… and the change… and the grief of continuing life without them. (I even held my brother’s newborn granddaughter, whom he never met.) But the victory was in the ability to say, “I am ready, God. I don’t understand, but I trust.” I guess that is the good that gets squeezed out of the grief.
“Good” grief! I couldn’t have said those words together a few short weeks ago. But God knew the day would come.
The world still turns, even though there was a time when its turning seemed impossible. As I shared at Jackie’s funeral, I feel like God is holding on to my heart, saying, “Just wait. There’s more…”
May we heal through worshipping Him in a real relationship, no holds barred, no doubts hidden, in real communion, as we wait on His “more” to come.
“The difference between waiting on God and wrestling with God is worship.” – Stephen Davey in Nehemiah: Memoirs of an Ordinary Man
– Terri Brady
- Nehemiah: Memoirs of an Ordinary Man (Stephen Davey)
- Created for Commitment (A.W. Johnson)
- Trusting God When Life Hurts (Jerry Bridges)
Psalm 42:3-4 says: My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty Oned
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
I know. I’m so sorry, honey….
Thank you for sharing, Terri.
Thank you, Terri, for your wise & sensitive words.
My mother lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in the end of March. While she hadn’t been at church for weeks, the knowledge her funeral was the last time she’d be there almost brought me to my knees in grief. These “first firsts” of Easter, upcoming Mothers Day and so on are joyful for their celebrations, yet tinged with sorrow without her there.
It is the knowledge of her joy in being in the Lord’s presence with my father, and the prayers & love if the saints that have and will continue to sustain me as I learn to live without her.
Cathy, I am sorry to hear of your loss!! May you feel the Lord’s presence and comfort today, this Sunday (Mother’s Day) and always! And may we be ready…together…for what the “more” the Lord has planned!
We grieve together. And shared grief makes its load less burdensome.
Thank you for that Terri, I’ve been walking with a heavy untrusting heart all week since I heard some surprising news that caught me off guard. I praise The Lord for people willing to encourage others with their testimony. People like you. I needed to hear from the Lord today and I did through you.
Very inspiring. A gracious piece of literature which reminds me French Classic author Chateaubriand in his memoirs on life and death.
Terri, great post as always, very beautifully done. You always know what we need, and when we need to hear it. Greif is so hard, and right now so many are hurting. They will be blessed by your words as I was. Thank you for serving once again.
Thank you Terri. I only briefly met Jackie and looked forward to a deeper connection. She was like a whisper in the wind and now an angelic voice in the heavens. For now her voice resonates through her recordings. It will have to be enough. A loss of a brother as well does not instantly scream, “it is well with my soul”, but yet, in time we know the hole is filled with the water the well provides. I have suffered many tragedies in life along with so many, but have had the privilege of seeing the joy on the other side of pain and perseverance. It is here for all of us. Thank you again and again for your inspired thoughts and putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. 🙂 Your girlfriend in Christ and LIFE.
Terri, such wise words. Thank you for helping to “clear the fog” in my heart and in my soul. I can say I believe, but I do not understand as well. My heart aches with you. Love you
Terri, Thank You for taking the time to share. I do believe, but do not understand. There will always be an ache for Jackie’s presence, but a memory of thankfulness of knowing her. Juanita
This is SO wonderfully done! It will bless SO many going thru heart ache and beyond…
Love and Appreciate You!!
I know what you mean when you say that its the small things that can make tears show up. But even in the small things I find that I can have peacevin them. I lost my Grandma 2 years ago, my birthday is the hardest day I still have. For 29 years she and I shared that day, it was just ours in a very very large family.
Even though this years date was hard
God waa there to remind me of His love. I
step aside for a moment in the day when I would have called her
My little girl came in and sang happy birthday to me. Simple but it made my day. Small steps till I can see her again in the Glory of Gods peace!
Thank you for this, Terri. I believe God is still working through you even in your deepest sorrow. You were one of the people I watched and looked to for cues when Jackie got sick. I needed someone that I trusted to show me that all of those emotions were ok, and I’m very grateful for the example you set– not as a facade, but as reality in the life of a Christian. I pray that God continue to heal the holes that were left — so suddenly — by the loss of both. Thank you again for your encouraging words! I look forward to seeing you again in June.
You left me speechless Terri. It’s not our story…it’s His! It’s not our plan…it’s His! Thank you for clearing the fog that comes in the confusion of death. The longer we live, the more ‘good’ grief we will experience. I don’t understand…but I trust. You’re amazing!
Thank you Terri. Wanting to share this with my daughter, but not sure if she’s ready to receive it… Since the loss of her husband (33 yrs young) is still so recent… So much truth & wisdom she needs to hear… God bless you Terri for all you do and for being “real”. Love you, Tammy D.
Terri- Thank you soooo much for these words of wisdom and encouragement. All of us who were BLESSED to have had Jackie in our lives will be better off for reading this.
It’s so strange seeing this about Jackie. I first saw her and Bill speak at a Seminar in Harrisburg in January 2014. Then I saw her and Bill speak at the conference in Ohio in February 2014. And suddenly, only days later, it all changed. And now I see her picture in this post with the 2 dates separated by the dash for the first time………….That’s even more strange.
I did see her video testimony with her closing words about when she would be greeted at a future time by Jesus with “Well done my good and faithful servant”. That future time came soon, but she did hear those words.
I suppose we are all still processing this in our minds and hearts.
We pray for comfort and blessings on Bill and the children.
You are amazing! Those words will help so many, as you always do! God Bless you and the work you are doing.
Terri…. that was beautiful! And you hit on the feelings and emotions perfectly. I have never had a death hit me as hard as Jackies except for my father who I lost at age 16. And at that point of my life I was not a Christian so I dealt with it very oddly when I look back. And I don’t believe I even had closure until Jackie passed. I know depression hit me as well but God reminded me to face everything and rise…. not run. As I still deal with the closure of losing these two I am beginning to find a peace that only comes from GOD and I will strive to share the laughter and kindness my dad shared on a daily basis; and to be a leader and wife that my friend and mentor Jackie Lewis exemplified on a daily basis. Love you so much and thank you for helping me take another step toward closure and healing from this tragic death of our dear friend!
Thank you, Terri, for again walking us gently through your own experiences. At the April seminar in Saginaw, Jackie’s part of the opening video came on the screen and there was an immediate thundering ovation. I wept at the love that reverberated through that hall. I experienced deep loss early in life, and as I clung to God, He provided a comforting illustration. My grief has been like a wound in an oak tree. The wound never goes away, but you grow around it. Your “good” grief becomes a part of who you are, and allows you to bring more compassion to others. Yet even today, some thirty-five years later, a memory or a glimpse of someone will reawaken the sense of deep loss. And then I smile at the memories, and enjoy a visit with my loved ones. There are joyous reunions awaiting us in heaven!
Wow! What a beautiful picture- of strong oak tree! Thank you for sharing.
Terri…your post is filled with sooo much truth, for His words resonate in our ears and our lives whe Christ responds to Pilates’ question, “What is the truth?” We need but look to the Father to know the we who follow Him, the Truth is made known. I truly appreciate your openness in sharing and your decision to allow Christ to lead – through the pain and the joy, the heartache and the love! I appreciate your words herein, and view loss and doubt, and ‘good grief’ from a much better view! God bless…..
YOU ARE A WONDERFUL SPEAKER AND ALWAYS FIND THE RIGHT WORDS TO SAY. I WAS SO SHOCKED AT THE LOSS OF JACKIE. SEEING HER SPEAK ON SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MAJOR & THEN IN A WEEK SHE WAS GONE TO HER HEAVENLY HOME. SHE TOUCHED MANY LIVES IN HER LIVING AND HER PASSING. MAY WE ALL REMEMBER OUR FUTURE IS WITH OUR HEAVENLY FATHER.
Such a blessing to read all of your blogs Terri! Thank you! Praising God!
I shed tears as I read this, tears for so many things that I have kept walled inside, especially recently. I am so thankful for you, Teri, and for the way that I relate to you. I have always seen an uncanny reflection of myself in all your confessed weaknesses. It is my desire to someday see your strengths in myself as well. When God saved you from your tumor, one of the people He saved you for was me.
Wow, thank you for your relating words. May God continue to use you in the lives of others as we make “imperfect progress” (Lysa Terkeurst’s words) together! Thank you for blessing my day!
Terri, I so look forward to each blog post. I love the way you lay your heart out and allow the Lord to speak His beautiful truth through you. I call you a treasure, because all who know you and those who have discovered your blog are blessed beyond measure to have you in their lives.
Terri, Thank you for this heartfelt and Spirit-led post. You have been blessed with a transparency that allows me and so many others to grow and heal. Your courage to speak at the St. Louis seminar following Jackie’s death was so touching, as well as a testimony to your love for her and your belief in LIFE. *Tracy*
Wow Terri! So very powerful.
Lord I believe, help my unbelief. Mark 9:24
This scripture often provides a sense of comfort when I I am struggling with trusting, surrendering and believing.
Be encouraged my sista!! Thank you for expressing so succinctly what so many of us feel.
Great verse to remember, Tina! Thank you for leading to the Word!!
Terri – your words spoke right to my heart as tears welled up in my eyes again. I admittedly have wrestled with this doubt….how could such fervent prayer be denied? But God has won this wrestling match in my heart and your words bring a renewed peace. God and His plan is too great to understand, I am only to trust. Thank you for sharing your heart! Your wisdom brings great comfort!
Tank you Terri You are amazingly insightful You have no idea the truth to these words I am ahead of you by 20 years on the loss of a brother and these words ring so true. You have helped me more than the past 20 years of healing. Jackie was the most exciting woman to listen to and learn from She will be so very much missed but so very much alive in all who ever encountered her God bless you always Terri and Thank you always
Thank you for your sharing your feelings. It is hard to put feelings into words that readers can relate to. You have a gift.
I did not know about the loss of your brother. You have my deepest sympathy.
Thank you for sharing. Hearing about Jackie was hard. She was so young, but I believe that it was part of God’s plan. Not only did Jackie live while she was here with us, but she thrived. I believe that everybody lives their course appointed. Even at a young age, Jackie fulfilled so much of her purpose here on Earth. She didn’t die in vain. She recieved her reward. Even though we all miss her, those who believe all have the hope of knowing that we will see her again one day. God bless you.
Thank you, Terri. I thought I had used up all the tears, but though you released quite a few more, you also spoke comfort and truth. I am grateful for both.
Thank You.. Sharing your grief, has helped me with my own. I am Grateful. We all at different times, have a cross that we must carry, not near as heavy as the one Christ carried for us. But just the same heavy and very real. Grief is Good, it makes us realize we are not alone, in Life. So many people needed what you wrote, and you truly have a Gift for speaking Gods Truth, into the lives of many, who may never hear it. Jackie is smiling down. I know I always feel much lighter, after meditating on Gods Word, and asking him to show me my own Heart, for within me, there is still negative.. If I were to go my own way, without his direction, I would be Lost, oh so lost. It is a Daily reprieve, to sit and chat with the lord, and a much nicer Day too, I might add, providing I remember to take him with me, when I leave for the Day. You see I am a slow learner, and yet a Quicker for-getter. Bless you, We will surely Miss those we love, about that we will not lie, but as long as we remember them, they didn’t really Die.
You put all the right words. Keep the flame going for your dear brother and sweet Jackie.
They both want their loved ones to smile.
Thank you Terry for sharing something that we all will face again and again but you hit the nail on the head! Trust in God even when life hurts. It’s so freeing to know Truth!
Sincerely, Douglas Zwolski
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Thank you Terri for such comfort and truth. I very recently lost my sister and the hole in the heart is there. I trust in God and believe that he does all for a reason and in his time. It is very hard to not ask why her, why now, why, but we must remember it is God’s will. We will remember the good times and the bad times because she is gone but never forgotten!
The apostle Paul gave some of the most encouraging words to give those who mourn good grief. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 18 and 1 Corinthians 15 especially verses 52 – 55. These gave me great comfort when I lost my step father a year and a half ago.
Your blog was perfect timing for my hurting friend who recently lost her Dad. Thank you so much. I also will miss Jackie though I didn’t know her personally only through the Life business but I grieved as though she was a friend. She and Bill spoke at our California major just two weeks before her passing. Thank you so much for Letters to Lindsey. God bless you.
Thank you so much for sharing from the heart! Your words will bring comfort to many hurting people.
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Terri – thank you for such kind, selfless words… I too, can relate to your words… My daddy went to be with Jesus on March 16, 2014. Although I have been a roller coasters of emotions, from shock to completely feeling broken and helpless – my comfort comes from knowing that there was nothing left unsaid, and I, being the one who held his hand as he stepped into God’s kingdom. He has seen God’s face! Think about that… What an honor! Sure, I have my sad moments as I do miss him very much as we use to talk daily. He was an extremely intelligent man with amazing faith! He had his humor and was sharp as a tack until he took his last breath. In the days before, he had me laughing so hard that I almost wet my pants! Ha! I believe, he somehow knew I would need these memories during this difficult time. I too, struggled with guilt as I dance between heartbreak (my loss) and joy (for knowing his is with our King). I am finding that it is the good memories that often hold us securely. In Ecclesiastes, God’s word tells us to celebrate death as it is a destiny for all of us; a time when all of our trials can be over. The important thing is where will we spend it?! I could go on and on… Thank you for allowing me to share with you and know that I sincerely appreciate you! ((((HUGS))))
Pray for Peace in Jerusalem!
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I relate to your loss … Since i experienced the same situation …
In my case it was my older brother … He decided to end his life intentionally … I use the word intentionally because he planned it …
You are a great leader … You are a strong woman … I love listening your talks an audio … Your talks have a lot of meaning …
Sorry to hear about your losses …
I’m always so grateful for your willingness to be used by the Father to spread His loving wisdom. Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned through this hard year. As Jackie’s mom, I can state for a fact that it has been the most horrible and the most beautiful year of my life. Thank you for your friendship and your love.
Thanks for writing! and reading. I wore my “Jackie scarf” just today. I look at her picture almost daily and it reminds me to pray for you and Chuck, your family, and Bill and the kids! I love that you see the beauty in the year as well! As my grandmother said one time in a poem about a quilt – sometimes the patches of gray reveal the real color we would have missed.
Thank you so much Terri Brady for your blog and your words you share through Letters To Lindsey mean so much. I laughed, cried and learned lots through this book when it was released in Life Leadership. I never knew things I read back then would be so close to our hearts in the future. My beautiful bride Lorri and I lost our daughter of 26 years 5 months ago and it’s been emotional travels of bad bad days and ok days. I just read this blog again and want to give thanks to our Lord and King Jesus Christ for His love that carries us through impossible travels. I also want to thank you for your dedication and strength as God gides your hand and thoughts to write so many amazing things that touch so many hearts..
I am so sorry for your loss. It must be an extremely tough time. May you feel the Lord’s arms around you as He carries you through to brighter skies. Thank you for reading- and even encouraging- in such a time. God bless, Terri