My wife and I have had to deal with grief and sorrow over the death of family and friends. Both of our parents have passed away. We have lost other relatives and several close friends. I lost my brother and sister by death. We certainly know sorrow firsthand.
But nothing we had ever experienced prepared us for the losing of our oldest daughter, Jamie. I think both of us thought our children would not die before we did. We felt, as do many others, that we were not supposed to live longer than our children.
The shock of her death was unbelievable. Our thoughts included the thoughts that others have. “This can’t be true. This isn’t real.” It was hard to fathom. We had to come face-to-face with the fact that Jamie had, in fact, passed away.
We had much grief and sorrow. The dictionary definition for grief is to cause to suffer. It also means deep distress. Annette and I certainly had a lot of grief. In the midst of that grief and sorrow was some anger. Why did this happen? Jamie was a great daughter. She was a schoolteacher who was much loved by students and other faculty members. She played the piano for a small church in the Benton area. We both went through a time of real grief and sorrow. We still grieve when we think about her. Grief and sorrow do not go away quickly.
We also felt a lot of pain. Heartache is real at a time like this. The pain of losing a daughter even affected my stomach. I hurt deeply. Annette felt the same kind of pain.
Often as a minister trying to help people work through the loss of a loved one, I would suggest that the person not ask, “Why?” There sometimes is no logic when trying to answer this question. We cannot get an answer to that question. I would suggest that people ask the “what” question. What is God trying to show me in the midst of this situation?
Well, when it’s your own daughter, it’s not as easy as it sounds. We inevitably, in our minds, were asking “Why?” Of course, after some time, I could begin to think and ask the “what” question.
One of the answers to the “what” question that I learned from God is that He is still in control. I had to ultimately say, “Okay, God, I trust you and your will. Show me how to live like I really trust you.” That’s not easy, but it gave me relief.
As Annette and I worked through the grief process, we began to deal with Jamie’s death in very specific ways. First of all, we had to just trust God. To do this, we prayed a lot. We read God’s Word for His promises. God is God. We are not. We just have to trust Him at a time like this.
We also began to remember all the good times we had with Jamie. As a result, we became more thankful for her life and legacy. She loved her family and she really liked for all of us to be together. We would think about those times and rejoice that we had her for sixty years. What a blessing!
In addition, we had to accept the fact that grief didn’t go away instantly. Jamie went to Heaven on December 16, 2020. A year later, we still find ourselves grieving. Annette and I grieve differently. She cries openly. I usually stuff my feelings; but I really feel the pain of her leaving us so soon.
We learned that you have to take it a day at a time. You make it through the current day, and then you start over the next day. It may be getting better, but it still is a matter we have to think about and deal with every day.
We also learned that it was okay to talk about her passing. The first few months we did not talk about it openly. Now, a year later we feel more comfortable talking about her and her death.
We made an intentional effort to talk about her when her children and grandchildren would gather at our house. We had Thanksgiving dinner together recently. As we gathered and prepared to eat, I talked about Jamie. I encouraged her children to remember the good times we had with her. We acknowledged her death, but I really wanted everyone to remember how we loved her and the good times we had together through the years. I think it really helped.
As we think of the future Annette and I want to establish a legacy of her life. One of the jobs she had as a teacher was serving as the leader of the school cheer squad. She had done this for several years. The school has now established a scholarship in her honor for students who need financial help to be a cheer squad member. Annette and I will give funds to that scholarship to keep her legacy going. What a privilege that will be.
In addition, in the future we will do activities with grandchildren and great grandchildren to remember and celebrate Jamie’s life. We will have times together during the year, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas when we will have the opportunity to remember her and express gratitude to God for her life. One of those activities involves all the grands and greats in our annual tradition of Christmas cookie decorating. Jamie loved that activity. We are looking forward to that time together this year and in the years to come.
Dealing with the death of a child is not easy, but by God’s grace we will continue to thank God for her life and testimony. We will celebrate her life and remember that we will see her again. That will be a great reunion!