It’s been over seventeen years since she passed away. And it feels like yesterday. Now it’s time for Godly Grieving.
The home I grew up in always smelled like a bake off had just happened and my mother kicked some serious ass against the competition. From fresh baked cookies to cakes with amazing, homemade frosting, the house always had an amazing smell. Candles, fresh baked goods, dinner on the stove, milkshakes being whipped up, treats for friends, if the walls could talk!
I was 23 and helping manage a food-stand in Camden Yards down in Baltimore when I got the call.
Mom had cancer, and she was given 8 months to live.
So without much of a word, I quit on the spot and drove home from Baltimore to Syracuse to “take care” of mom. After all, she raised me and helped me become who I am today.
By take care, looking back, I retreated into my room, the bartending job I took, and totally missed the time I had left with my mother. From starting a relationship, to bartending, to driving mom to appointments, I busied myself, but wasn’t mature enough to lean in. To understand how to love her well, to be present.
I was never present as a kid, and especially when things got hard, I didn’t want to be. Even at the age of 23 I was very immature and my wisdom had yet to take hold.
The year was 2000 and it was February 21st, around 7am. My mother took her last breath in my arms that morning.
A whirlwind happened, plans, ceremonies, friends, family, money, flowers, and then…. nothing. My mother wasn’t coming back and I was pissed off at God for it. It was all His fault for leaving me here, without her. He took my mother for no apparent reason at all. How could a God, so loving, so caring, take away my mother while I was so young. I wasn’t ready, I hadn’t figured out how to be present, to engage on a level that He wants us to.
Hours turned into days, and days into years and it was all stuffed. Stuffed under the carpet to deal with later. Hidden from plain sight, or so I thought.
I began walling off myself from others, and brought an attitude of hatred towards mostly everyone in my life. I was an asshole, and never really cared about many people from then on. All in a desperate plea to be healed, to have my mom back, just to call her one last time. This wall was big, it wasn’t just my wall, but began to push into other’s lives as well. It came into my marriage, has brought issues into my parenting and impacted more than what I would have wanted to admit, nor still do.
But I need to deal with it. I need healing, I need the Lord to walk along side me and hold my hand through this process.
I need to Grieve.
What does that even mean? At the age of 40, I am still not sure of anything except that fact that I need to do this. For myself, my wife, for my kids, and for those around me. I bring a grudge with me, everywhere I go.
On a cold rainy Monday morning, the Lord spoke through my wife, in a painful way. A conversation that was hard to have, to hear, to be reminder of, but the outcome has been nothing short of miraculous. That conversation ended with a few words, “what are you going to do about it!?!”
And I just did that, did something. I made my fears known to my wife and the Lord, asked for help in understanding next steps, and let my Life Group in on where I was headed. Or at least where I thought I was headed.
Once I got to work that morning, a Monday morning that started off like a car wreck, the Lord answered my prayer with a divine appointment. An appointment with a spiritual mentor of ours was setup for just a few days later and the Lord met me there. I knew the wife had plans that day so I was on my own, but I will never forget the text from her reading: “I was with you when this wound was started, I will be there with you when it ends”. Queue the tears as work. She was in this right alongside me and it felt great.
Driving up to the appointment, it felt hard, I was fearful, but I couldn’t really explain what it all was. Confronting an ache in my soul that had been there for years was terrifying, and I am not sure I truly wanted to be there. But with my box of tissues, and my wife by my side, we were entering territory new to us both!
Our mentor sat us down and just looked at us. “Okay Holy Spirit what do you have for us today!” After a terrible joke to ease my own tensions I began telling her of the reason I was there. How I was very fragile the last few weeks, how I would cry at these dumb movies, tears would well up during Church and more. She asked pointed questions, about what was going on, what had happened in my past, how I reacted when Mom passed and the situations that presented afterwards.
For the first time ever, I heard from someone the words I needed to hear “I am so sorry Matthew“. The pain I had kept inside was out, in the form of snot and tears, and it was hard to control it all at once. I fought it, I didn’t want it out, I was afraid that if I let it out, I would loose a part of my mother. A part of me.
I was encouraged to start grieving. But what the hell is that? What do you mean? How do I do this?
I was encouraged to find a safe place to go to, to meet with Jesus and write Him a letter. To let him know how I truly feel about my loss, how I feel He is responsible, to let it all out. To grieve.
So I sat with it, the meeting, what was said, what the Lord did for me, how he changed my memories of what had happened, and more. He met me where I needed to be met, and was so gentle in it. The lord held me tight, when I most needed it.
But there is work to be done.
The below steps were given to me by a dear friend that I plan on sitting with throughout my time in that treehouse (yes then above). While I dig out my roots, begin to heal from them, I plan on going through the following to heal. Fully from a wound I have carried for far too long.
The following comes from the fine folks over at Nothing Hidden Ministries.
- Choose one issue, and fully acknowledge your pain and suffer- ing. Don’t try to minimize the pain or find a way to “make it
- Freely communicate your suffering to the Lord.
- Know that He cares about your tears and sorrows. Cry out to the
- Continue talking to the Lord about your pain and seeking His help until you receive His direction.
- When He speaks, obey! You must be willing to follow however He directs you.
So what’s next?
That meeting was a bit over a month ago now, and I have found my place, and scheduled some time to be there. It’s a tree house (yes the one you see above) to be alone with the Lord. With my heart, my feelings, my wall I have built up over the years, and to start a process I have feared for far too long.
To lean in, to grow, to heal, to cry, to fight with Him, to understand His heart for me, and to start. It’s a process that will be painful, but one that must happen. The roots must be dug out so growth can be had, so emotions can be reset, so my relationships, both with my family and the Lord are righted.
I can’t wait. Stay with me and you will get to hear of what happens next! Hope to see you in the tree house!
Also published on Medium.