These past 6 months have been ones of great suffering for my family. Suffering greater then I could even imagine. Losing a child hits you deeply in places that there are not even words to describe. Everyday is hard for me now. Everything is hard. Everywhere is painful. There is no escaping it for us. This Easter will be painful, missing my son – but even as I miss my son, I will rejoice more deeply then I ever have in the Son of God, and the beautiful sacrifice he made for us this Easter.
There are many reasons that this Easter will mean more to me. I want to share some of those with you below, but first I want to share with you all something I shared on my personal Facebook page last month. For Christians, Easter is remembering how Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead, so that we can live eternally with Him if we believe. Its His grace, and knowing that kind of grace has changed me. It makes me want to show more grace to others. This is what I recently shared about how Gods grace has transformed my family, allowing us to show grace to others.
Here is what I wrote the week after we had to go to court for the driver that was responsible for the crash that killed my son. This is very personal to me, but it got a response from folks, and so I realized that the world needs to hear more about forgiveness, and how important it is for all of us. Not just those of us who get it, but also for those of us who give it. And most importantly, to know that I can forgive, because I was first forgiven by the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for my sins.
“Tomorrow is the 5 month mark, since my son left us. I still cry every single day. I miss him so much. I cannot wait to see him again, soon I hope. My life is forever changed. I have become that woman that every mother hopes she never will become. Today, I want to express my heart to you all on the topic of forgiveness. Its a topic that I am surprised to find, can bring strong feelings out in people – depending on where you feel it should apply or not apply.
This past week the driver was sentenced and sent to prison for Malek’s death, and the other kids’ injuries. We had the opportunity to meet him for the first time in court, and I have to say my heart broke for him and his family, as well as our family. I have been silent on this issue, as I did not feel like it was appropriate to discuss while the case was still open. But to get to the point, my family holds no bitterness for that young man, and I do not believe Malek would want us to.
He is 19 – the age Malek would be if he was still with us – just a boy still in my eyes. He took responsibility for the situation, and showed up in every way that he needed to for the legal proceedings. He showed tremendous courage in my opinion. The first thing he did upon entering the courtroom was to hug my husband and I – and broke in my arms. I imagine that took great courage to approach us like that, not knowing how we would respond. He made eye contact with us the entire time we addressed him in court, and cried with us. He is a young man who is in deep pain, just as we are. There are no winners in a situation like this, just pain all around.
The pain was so thick in the courtroom that day, that you could have cut through it with a knife – you felt it from corner to corner in there. We were able to publicly forgive this young man. There were camera crews on hand, and a lot was made out of the fact that we forgave him. Apparently many thought that was an unusual response. For me it was the only response, as someone who has been forgiven much myself. Both the judge and prosecutor made comments about how unusual this case was. That just added to my sorrows. Why is forgiveness such an unexpected response? I can assure you, it is not because we love our son any less then someone who lashes out in anger. The deep pain in that courtroom that day was evidence to me of how much all of these kids where loved, and every cell in my body cries out missing my baby boy.
But heaping more pain on the driver does not change anything about the accident, nor does it honor my sons memory. This young man was doing prison time regardless, but we had the opportunity to lift some of the burden of shame and self hate that had to be sitting heavy on him. Why would we not do that for another human being, when that is in our power to do so. There has been enough death for us, we want to speak life over him. The most important thing for me was this though: the only thing that keeps me going is the hope I have in Jesus Christ. The great hope to see my son again, because of the grace and mercy Jesus Christ has poured out over Malek’s life and MY life. Because of His grace, my son and I will have eternity together. After experiencing that kind of forgiveness, how could we extend less to another young man, young enough to be my son.
As the courtroom erupted in tears, after sentencing, people were comforting each other with hugs. I stared through the glass at this young man, and he looked back at me before leaving the courtroom and our final interaction was locking eyes, and his tear filled face giving me a respectful nod before leaving that courtroom. My heart ached for him too, imagining what if the tables had been turned and my son would have been driving? The many thoughts of thinking of the intense pain he was carrying at such a tender young age. This young man made a terrible mistake, that nobody is paying a higher price for then my family is. If we can forgive him, we would ask that you all would search your hearts to do the same. Pray for him, that he surrenders to Jesus, and that the Lord carries him through these difficult times. It’s what Malek would want, and more importantly, it’s what Jesus would want.”
- I can feel the pain of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in ways I could not before. It moves me deeper in trusting Jesus, even when I cannot understand what I can see before my eyes here in the natural. I am reminded of how even during a gruesome death on the cross, Jesus cared about his mother and her suffering – and he told Mary and John to comfort each other (my paraphrase). The Lord knows my mothers heart, and how its broken, and he cares.
- Suffering: As I suffer, I am reminded this day of His suffering. Jesus suffered on the cross, an agonizing death, because He loved us. When I feel alone in my grief, I am reminded that my Lord is well acquainted with the sorrows of this life. He suffered when He did not have too, because of the love He has for us. Suffering, although painful, has taught me many things. I am more compassionate now, less judgmental, and desperate for the things of God. While I would choose to have my son with me if I could, I would not choose to stop seeing the world through this new lens, that causes me to look deeper and more lovingly at many things.
- The pattern of the resurrection weekend reminds me of some of what we are going through, and its where I can lean to get strength to continue on – and hope for a beautiful future.
- Friday Jesus was crucified. I imagine the shock and trauma this caused to those who followed Jesus. This was not the outcome they were likely anticipating for the savior of the world. Although its a different set of circumstances Friday reminds me of the shock and trauma my family experienced in those first few months. Malek’s death coming before mine was never part of the plan. That’s completely out of the order of how life is supposed to work. What about all of those missed future expectations I had for my son? Marriage? Grandbabies? College? Setting up his first house? No time for goodbyes. Complete shock and trauma for us in those first months.
- Then comes the Silence of Saturday. The day after the crucifixion. Some scholars have written about the Silence of Saturday. I also think of it as the darkness that existed between the death of Jesus and His resurrection. This is where I find myself living now. Trying to process what has happened, and what it means for my family now. Can you imagine what the followers of Jesus during those days felt. They did not expect nor pray for this. God was still in control, even if it went against everything they likely prayed for, hoped for, or believed would happen. This is like my journey now. Remembering always that God is in control. That He is faithful and loving. That He is good. Even when so many things that I feel and see want me to doubt those things. I am reminded this weekend that those things remain true, not because I feel them, but because those things are the characteristics of God, and I can trust them – even when my feelings betray me. I am sure the disciples were afraid that the soldiers might be coming for them next and were trying to figure out how they would move forward. In a different way I am trying to figure out how to live, let alone move forward. How does a mother live without one of her children? It’s something I cannot get my mind around. But that is where I look to Sunday, the resurrection.
- Sunday – the Resurrection – the great hope of the Christian faith. The day that Jesus was raised from the dead, and conquered death by offering all who believe eternal life. I think on this often. Daily. Sometimes hourly. The great hope of resurrection, life coming from death. A beautiful hope and it is the assurance that gets me through each day. It is the very thing that lets me continue to celebrate, even in the midst of deep sorrow. It wells up joy in my soul, even when agonizing pain exists there. It is life for me. It is the only way that I know how to live without one of my children. To rest in that beautiful assurance Jesus gave me, that I will see him again, because we both believe. It is my lifeline in the midst of this new reality I am forced to live with. I know that its not goodbye for me and Malek, it is just until. I thank for the Lord for this beautiful hope he has given us, and this is what I will celebrate in a greater way this Easter then I ever have. I believed in this gift before. I was thankful for it before. But I am living it now – for the first time. Its no longer a future hope, but a very present hope for my family, and for that I say thank you Jesus.
We pray that each of you will feel the love of Christ this Easter! Happy Easter!
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17