John, a good friend of Jim’s and mine called last week saying that he was aware that Jim’s birthday was today. “Yes”, I said, “I’ve been thinking about him very strongly. He always enjoyed celebrations and about the only thing I ever heard him boast about was receiving three cakes one year, and unbeknown to us that that would be his last earthly birthday.” “I sure do miss him”, he said. We cried together over our loss and heaven’s gain.
Earlier that day, a devotional from Zephaniah 3:17 especially interested me when the author stated “God takes great delight in you, so much so that He rejoices over you with singing”. The writer clarified that although this message was aimed at his people in Jerusalem, who were struggling with problems, it’s likely God sings over us, too--a fresh and gratifying probability. The author prefaced his message by recounting his singing ‘You are my Sunshine’ over his infant daughter’s bed and continuing as she grew older because he was delighted to have a precious daughter. He ended by saying that his daughter, now an adult, remembers her daddy’s singing and that he still calls her Sunshine. A precious bond.
As I meditated on that delightful possibility that God sings over us because we belong to him and he loves us, I wondered if Dad or Mom ever sang over me. I am sure Dad didn’t because he couldn’t carry a tune. But I remember hearing Mom’s beautiful voice as I stood beside her at church when I was six and seven. I remember hearing her singing as she did her housework. So, my hunch is that she sang to us as well. Then, I wondered, did I ever sing over my children? I prayed for them, but did I sing over them to comfort them or just because I loved them like the author described? All these thoughts suddenly caused a memory which occurred a couple days before Jim died to jump back into my mind.
During my early morning vigil as I was standing over Jim’s hospital bed in the sunroom, we held and squeezed each other’s hands and simply enjoyed being together. He was lucid but the cancerous brain tumors had also weakened the left side of his vocal cords making it difficult for him to speak. He had never been in such a debilitating situation. I quoted several favorite scripture verses that we had memorized together and prayed a brief prayer. Then, I surprised myself and probably Jim as well, by spontaneously breaking out into a song: “This is the day, this is the day, that they Lord hath made, that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it, and be glad in it. This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. This is the Day that the Lord hath made.” Jim squeezed my hand. And that morning, marking his 2nd birthday in heaven, I realized that that was the first time I had ever sung over Jim. And like our rejoicing in God’s singing over us, I was assured by Jim’s hand-squeeze that he found joy in hearing our song, the last song he heard before he left this world. We both knew he was ready to go through the gates that he said earlier he had seen. He wasn’t dramatic or a dreamer, so if he said he saw the gates, he surely must have. I urged him to walk to the gates, that I’d walk with him. “Don’t linger for me.”
Now, why do I pass this on to you? Several reasons. First, I shared Zephania 3:17--God Singing over us and my never-shared memory with John, and then with daughter, Kay, who arrived mid-morning bearing milk shakes to celebrate Jim’s birthday as was our family routine. These visits and shared tears were so comforting.
Later that day several relatives called and I shared how God sings over His beloved children and my precious memory of singing over Jim. They were comforted as well. Then, a day later when my older brother John called, I asked him if he was aware of God singing over us and that particular scripture? He said he had never preached on it but had read it. So, I told him my memory account about Jim’s last song. He said, “Ruthie, this would be a great blog.” So, how many reasons does one need before beginning to write?
For you who are partners in the grieving process, I want to encourage you to pay attention to little reminders that come to you, maybe in the middle of the night or while you’re showering, walking, riding or weeding. They are important to your healing process. Not only am I extremely comforted by memories, but friends and relatives who also miss Jim receive closure and comfort as they share their memories.
Later in the week I realized I hadn’t seen an aquatic friend yet and wanted to connect with her. Normally we only went by first names but I had asked for her last name to put in my friends list. I googled hoping out of the listing of several same last names this would be her number. The lady who answered didn’t recognize my name and was wisely very cautious about the caller. I asked if she was a nurse and she said ‘Yes’. Did you work in Baltimore? ‘Yes’. And if she was a member at aquatics. ‘Yes.’ When I told her what class I was in, where I stood and that I have white hair, she still couldn’t place me. “You gave me good advice about my recovery from carpal tunnel surgery. I missed a lot of classes because of my husband’s illness.” Neither of those facts rang a bell. “Do you remember one Sunday when my husband Jim and I ran into you and your husband at Panara? We met your daughter who was planning to get married.” “Oh, now, I remember and can visualize you. And how is your husband?” So, I shared his struggle with glioblastoma tumors and how we managed Covid at the same time, his homegoing and that today would have been his 88thbirthday. Then, she expressed how pleased she was that I took time to look her up. Then, we planned to attend the same class.
I understand from others who’ve lost mates years ago, that remembering what a person said or did is more comforting than memories of places that they visited. Receiving phone calls specifically to talk about your loved one is comforting. There are meaningful ways to comfort and encourage people adjusting to the loss of a mate which translates into healing. After a faithful member of the church died suddenly a few years ago, daughter Kay and a friend, reached out to the young widow who was about their age, taking her out for dinner once a month. They’ve continued that routine for many years becoming close friends. Phone calls, covered dishes or lunches, the easiest gifts to give, contribute the greatest encouragement and blessing. Knowing you are loved brings joy. And a gentle reminder is that not just those who’ve lost mates suffer silently, but those who’ve lost siblings, parents or children cherish special time to be out with friends with the opportunity to talk about who they are missing.
Perhaps this blog will trigger a call-of-joy that you could make. I’ve said before, that I write what I need to read, so I, too, have a call or two to make.
We can be assured that since God’s song is born out of His love, we can trust Him emphatically.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. John 15: 9.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 12 (NIV)
Dear God, we thank you that when we pass on love and concern for others, we are doing what you did and told us to do. Thank you for giving us opportunities to encourage others.