If you live in “Tornado Alley” between the Rockies and the Appalachians, where warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico smacks into cold, dry air from the Rocky Mountains and Canada, tornadoes are almost commonplace. Especially if you live, as I did for most of my life, in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. You have a basement, or an interior closet, or a bathroom that you have decided will be your tornado shelter, and you keep a wary eye on the Doppler radar, but mostly, you don’t worry too much.
During tornado drills in school, we’d pull the desks together in rows and back into the aisles between them on our hands and knees. My main concern was the boys under the desks behind me, particularly when I had to practice using my hands to protect my neck and head and couldn’t use them to make sure my dress stayed down.
These are probably similar thoughts to those of the teachers and students at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, last Monday afternoon. None of them knew that the tornado bearing down on them would be such a monster. The teachers were heroic and did exactly what they needed to do—and more—to protect the children in their care, but seven children died in that elementary school.
On May 5, 2012, 19-year-old Joshua Steven Eddy died. I wrote a blog post about him here. Josh was very much a part of the huge homeschooling community in Oregon and Washington, and a dear friend to young people I know and love. Their world was rocked. There is a sense of invulnerability when you are young. Then to have one of your own snatched away in a moment. . . Josh has been gone a year now. Though he is missed terribly, the belief that he is more truly alive now that any of us have ever been is a sure and steady comfort in all of our losses.
Josh’s mother, Stacie, wrote a status update on Josh’s Facebook page on May 5th. She gave me permission to quote her:
The ringing of a telephone, a common sound. Then a friend’s voice on the other end utters words that unleash a darkness so deep and enveloping it is disorienting, numbing. When I am able to see again, I no longer recognize the landscape. All that was once familiar is gone, obliterated. What is left behind is so foreign that my mind struggles to comprehend. As I sift through the rubble, I find one small precious object and then another. Little by little, I gather these treasures and clutch them to my heart: a written encouragement, a picture, a story, each so incredibly meaningful.
A shattered life. . . like a tornado swept through and left devastation behind.
May 5th, 2012. One profoundly dark day that changed our world forever… and yet, it is the most joyous day of Josh’s life. How can one day, one moment, be so horrific and so wonderful at the same time?
I never think of my son as dead, because he’s not. He is more alive than I have ever been. I think of him as “somewhere else”, and though I know where he is, I do not know how to get there myself; I am waiting to be led one day. The fact that Josh no longer walks upon this earth however, is deeply painful. . .
None of this is surprising to you. Even if you’ve never lost a child, you can imagine what that might feel like. So what is surprising? In the midst of all I have described, there is much beauty, comfort, peace and even joy.
If I could speak to the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, and all who have lost a child between one breath and the next, I would say to them what Stacie says here:
If I could only state one truth that has become crystal clear this year, it is this: God is faithful. He is unchanging, unmovable, trustworthy, all powerful, all kind, all loving, all good – I can trust Him. He will not fail me. He did not fail Josh. God loved Josh so much, that He sent His only Son to die for him. He drew Josh to Himself, revealed Himself to him, and faithfully conformed Josh to look like His beloved Son. May 5th, 2012, God completed the work He had begun in Josh, just as He said He would. It is to that impregnable rock that I cling.
Honestly, it would be enough for me to know that God is faithful and will not leave me or forsake me. The fact that He is full of compassion and mercy also, blows my mind. He’s God. He knows it’s all for the best, it’s good, I’ll understand in the end. . . and still He is moved with compassion for me. He weeps with me, He wipes my tears, He holds me and He feels my pain. This is radical stuff. I’m not talking about god, I’m talking about All Mighty God, the Creator of the universe, giver of life, supreme ruler, the Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end – God. Who am I that He should care for me? And yet He does. Who are you that He should care for you? And yet He does. Though we cannot see Him, He is there. In every moment, the good and the deepest dark, He is there. He is proving Himself faithful to me and to you. Oh, trust Him! Give yourself wholly to Him. He will not let you down. He will never leave you or forsake you!
Oh, what comfort, Christian! And oh, how we should pray for those who don’t know the Lord! I often wonder: “How do people who don’t know the Lord make it through horrific tragedy?” And the truth is—they don’t, not really. They may look fine and say they are fine, but they are shattered, with no way to be whole again. We weren’t designed to live life independent from our Creator God.
. . . A year has passed. I wasn’t sure I would survive. I am weak and fragile. I cling to the Lord with all my meager strength. Some days I barely make it through. I am still here though, and I am one year closer to seeing my beloved son again. One day, we will be together and never part again. Oh, Lord! Thank You for making a way, for conquering death, for loving us and for taking Josh home. I am forever grateful.
Gratitude. . . Gratitude is how we pick up the pieces of a shattered life. Gratitude in the midst of tragedy. This fallen world is not our home. We have heaven to look forward to, Beloved, with the One who loves us more than we can imagine, and who has prepared a place for us with Him. He will come back for us and take us home. There will be no more sorrow, no more tears, no more parting, and no more pain. Forever.
If you have lost a child, please know—there is hope that you will come into a quiet place of rest and acceptance. You will eventually be able to look back with gratitude for the time the Lord gave you here on earth with your child, look up with gratitude that your child no longer has to be subjected to the trials and tribulations of this life, and look forward with gratitude to spending eternity with your child and Jesus.
If you have other children dealing with the death of a brother or sister, Josh’s sister, Mariah, wrote a wonderful blog post, Year of Grace. I encourage you to read it, and use it to comfort your children.
John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:4
Photo credits: Clari Noel Photography; Beverly & Pack