In April of 2011 my family heard, “Your mom has advanced stage cancer and one year to live.”
Those are words you never want to hear, words you want to block out, acting like you never heard them! They clanged so loudly in my head, jarring my peaceful world…. they couldn’t be true!
My mom was my rock who I ran to when I was confused. She always knew what the right thing was and could always sort out my problems and mess of emotions. I thought surely God would realize that and wouldn’t actually take her. I thought to myself, He probably just wants to teach us some lessons through her being sick. And besides, God had a whole year to do a miracle and heal her and we had a whole year to pray that He would do it!
But that little ‘But what if he doesn’t’ kept gnawing at me every day! I took more walks than I could count on a peaceful country road near us. I would pour out my confused, hurting, and torn heart to God, the Creator of the universe. I fasted a day every week and prayed like I’d never prayed before. I begged God. I screamed, I cried over and over until I had no more tears left to cry.
I was so confused and torn, but God’s voice kept coming to me and saying, Just trust Me.
I wondered why God who had all power to heal wasn’t choosing to heal my mom. Minutes, hours, days, and months were slipping away so quick! Mom was getting worse. Some days I could feel her slipping… slipping away from being my capable mom. Instead she was weakly lying in bed and I was taking care of her. Time seemed like a terrible enemy… relentless in its pursuit of taking my mother away from me.
One day I was walking And pouring my confused heart out to God who felt so very far away from me and like He had forgotten me and all my prayers and all my fasting. Then suddenly He spoke almost clearer than anything I’d ever hear Him speak before. He asked me, Will you still love me if I take your mom?
I answered as honestly as I could: I can’t in my flesh but if you give me the grace I will do my best.
Then He said, “I will take your pain and make it beautiful!”
I didn’t know exactly what to think but I held that promise like a drowning man would cling to a life raft!
Months ticked by and we spent every moment possible with out dear Momma. I tried to memorize how awesome her hugs felt and savored every single one. For those few seconds when her arms were wrapped tight around me, I felt that nothing bad could touch me and that everything would be ok. I never wanted to forget them or how they made me feel!
But on August 21st, she slipped away to be with Jesus. Her body had become so weak and full of intense pain but now she was in perfect bliss in Heaven. And on August 21st I became one of those motherless teenagers. Something I thought couldn’t actually happen to me, because it only happened to strong kids that could take it and were prepared for it.
On that day God put me on a journey, a journey I never ever wanted to walk. A painful journey He had entrusted to me and I had no choice but to walk it!
The beginning of the journey was hard and I cried buckets of tears but the deep pain of living without mom everyday really hadn’t set in. There were more people than could have ever imagined helping my family in whatever way they could, and prayers for us were poured out like a flood!
But as the journey continued, other people resumed their normal lives. I wanted to, but I couldn’t — my life was changed forever and nothing would never be normal again. My rock that I leaned so heavily on was gone!
And that’s when it really started to sink in: she was gone and NEVER coming back and I would live the rest of my life without a mother to be there for me. Those thoughts were like someone stamping on the already shattered pieces of my heart. Pain hit me like a giant wave and just as I would catch a breath a new wave of pain would wash over me. I was unraveling at the seams and I was falling apart inside.
I was trying to cling desperately to God and the people around me. God began to show me HE is the only one I could cling to that would never ever fail me. Even though I knew it before in my head, I really believed it now.
All the pain was so intense, the struggles were so hard I wondered how I would ever make it through them. I would lay on my bed by myself and just sob and shake till I was so exhausted I would fall asleep, or go out in the woods and just scream. I wanted so bad to be numb and not feel all the pain anymore, I wanted it to just go away!
I had had my fill of pain and didn’t want anymore! I thought surely a person could only take so much pain and then they just had to go numb. But then I realized it was God’s goodness and mercy that let me feel the searing, gut wrenching pain so real and intense and not get bitter and block it out.
But that same pain that I wanted to get rid of so bad and be numb to, was the same pain that was driving me to God and making me cling to Him with a white-knuckled grasp. Because I knew that I, Joanna Ueland, could not make it through losing my mom without totally falling apart, but God could give me HIS strength!
Losing Mom and all the grief and pain that came along with it was nothing like what I had expected and people had told me to expect. They said you grieve in stages like stair steps. But I think I heard a much better comparison from someone. Grief is like a giant pool of grief you are swimming around in, one side is very very deep and one side is shallow. Some days you’re on the shallow side and your struggles are small and quite easily won. But other days you’re in the deep side, struggling just to keep from drowning in pain so severe you feel like a knife is being twisted in your heart!
Its been tough — so hard that sometimes I wonder how I’ve made it this far — but God is keeping His promise and showing me slowly how He is making my pain beautiful. Because this deep, searing gut wrenching pain that shattered my heart and rubs the wound open everyday, is the same pain that is making me see God like I’ve never seen Him before! It’s making me grab a hold of Him in desperation and not let Him go no matter what.
His plan is very painful but he’s making it beautiful!
I can write about my deep pain of losing my mom so young and I can write about how faithful God is and the incredible peace God gives. And both are true and walk hand in hand. It’s peace and pain, tears and trust all mixed together.
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: Job 13:15
Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; Psalms 33:18
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I know my Journey is far from over but my wonderful, trustworthy God, the Creator of the universe is walking with me every single step of the way. He works everything in our lives for good even when we don’t always understand and takes our pain and makes it beautiful.