We are all just a phone call away from a life turned upside down. So I learned 10 years ago on a Saturday just before Easter. I was working in my flower beds, enjoying all that spring and warm Southern soil can bring, when I heard the phone ring. Stomping the grass and dirt off my feet and wiping my hands on my pants, I dashed into the kitchen to answer.
"Have you had a call yet about Hudson?"
My breath caught at the ominous tone of the caller's voice.
"No, why?" I wished I could forestall the bad news I knew was coming. Hudson was the 14-year-old son of family friends. I knew he was at his grandparents' house for the week.
"There was an accident. Hudson's dead. I just talked to Pastor John; he asked me to make some calls."
It is difficult when a friend loses a child, but when that child is also a close friend to your own children, life and death hit home.
I hung up and looked out the window where I could see my daughters, 12 and 14, walking our dog on the sidewalk. They were enjoying the sun and some laughs with a young neighbor. I watched their oblivious happiness through tears. How was I supposed to tell them that one of their dearest friends was dead? I feared it would destroy their faith. Children are not supposed to have to deal with death.
I asked my husband to help me break the news. We called our unsuspecting daughters into the den, and they could tell from our stricken faces that something was terribly wrong. As we shared the news, I've never heard such wails from my girls before or since. It was raw pain, and my husband and I could do nothing but hold them in our arms and cry with them.
After a sleepless night, I arose the next morning feeling no Easter joy. Miserable, I told my husband I didn't want to go to church I just couldn't. My spouse was determined that morning. His eyes blazed with purpose. "Don't you see?" he said. "Of all Easters, this one we can't miss! This is what Easter is all about! If we don't go, Satan wins."
I felt whipped, and I knew no amount of makeup would conceal my grief and long, sleepless night. Chocolate bunnies and plastic eggs forgotten, we hurriedly dressed and left to attend a very sad Easter service. Our family stood together singing hollowly about resurrection and life.
Grief With Hope
Busyness over the next few days seemed to numb the pain, or at least to delay it meals, a visitation, a funeral, more meals. Finally, the day after Hudson's burial, we had time to think and hurt. I languished on the couch, staring out at the springtime beauty that now seemed irrelevant and unreachable.
I had taught my children about the story of the Resurrection from a young age, but I was learning how difficult it was to rejoice in our Savior's triumph over the grave when confronted with the death of a close friend. I wanted to curl up and cry endlessly in the face of this devastating, senseless tragedy.
My family and I started searching the Bible together for Scriptures of encouragement and promise. Words the girls had memorized for awards at church now leapt off the page with relevance.
My oldest daughter had always liked Isaiah 40:31, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." She now not only read about God's strength, but she also experienced it and relied on it.
I struggled with the whys, but 1 Corinthians 13:12 helped me to rest in the knowledge that I would one day understand: "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
A verse that was read on Easter morning gripped our hearts. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25).
Over the following months, the topic of Hudson's death was never off-limits. There was no wrong emotion to express even anger. Together, we remembered the funny times. Frequently, tears would surface at unsuspecting moments as we shared our sadness over the future we no longer had with Hudson.
In our sorrow, we prayed for Hudson's family as they struggled with their grief and loss. We invited them over to our home and continued to share our lives. Hudson's mother told me later that she was grateful for our willingness to talk about their son. Sharing their pain became part of our healing, also.
Time often affects our perception of events. In our case, ten years have made our family's solemn Easter increase in stature.
I never would have chosen to walk through the pain of loss or to thrust it upon my children. Yet this event has become a cornerstone for their strengthened faith.
As my children have grown, they have articulated just what that tragedy stirred within them it solidified their faith. Heaven is no longer a vague distant idea. It is as real as the friend they know they will see again. Heaven is real and dear to us. Someone we love is waiting there.