Driving through rush hour traffic in Chicago, on our way home from World Dairy Expo, my phone rang, it was my son. He was calling to tell me his girlfriend had just been in a car accident and it was bad. I comforted him as well as I could from 150 miles away and told him we were coming home as quick as we could. But the most important thing he needed to do was pray.
Much to my dismay, my son called back and told me she had died. It was a shock for all of us to absorb that this young, vibrant, freshman nursing student at U of M was gone. She had just posted on Facebook that she was going to the fair with JW. She was home for the weekend and was looking forward to hanging with her friends. She was on her way to pick up her best friend but would never arrive that afternoon.
When I finally arrived home that evening, I sat down with my son and we both cried. I felt like the mother of a young boy again, like I could fix it all, but this time there was nothing I could do. No words would make him feel better; no actions could bring her back. This was the final chapter on earth for Leah and we had to close the book and move on.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, JW and I prayed together. I kissed him, told him I loved him and when I got up to leave I heard him crying quietly. At that moment, I realized nothing will ever prepare a mother to hear her 19 year old son quietly sobbing in pain. Nothing.
Sitting in the silence of my room, I began to sob as well. Why did we have to face days like this? Why do we have to hurt so much? Where did I sign my name to having my heart yanked out of my chest from a child’s pain?
The next few days were filled with waves of grief. Laughing about a situation one minute led to silent staring and a teary eyed glance the next. Each of my kids cried at different times and for different reasons. Unbelief was still staring us in the face as each night Leah didn’t show up at the door with her laptop and book bag ready to do homework.
Questions were asked, thoughts were pondered, stories were told and prayers were prayed.
In the high school gym, where three months earlier she had graduated as the salutatorian, we were sitting in the third row on the right staring at the flowers surrounding her casket. Poems were read, songs were sung and a message was preached. Having been through this before, I was prepared for the sentiments that washed over me and handled them with dry eyes. But when I looked to my left and saw my 17 year old with his jaw clenched and tears running down his face and then watched my 13 and 15 year old wiping their wet cheeks I began to stretch out my arms like a mother hen with her chicks offering a warm, comforting touch.
As I rubbed and patted and offered tissues, I listened to the sniffling teenagers behind me and wondered how I could offer them comfort as well. Then I looked into the bleachers and saw the hundreds of young, sorrowful faces and their pain was overwhelming to this mom.
When the service was over and we walked down the hallways of the school, lined with crying teenagers with seemingly no hope at all. I wanted to reach out to each one and tell them it was going to be okay. I wanted to let them know they could see Leah again, if they had a relationship with Jesus.
Honestly, I wanted to bring them all home, give them a cup of hot chocolate, some cookies and kiss and hug each one of them. But I couldn’t.
While I am assured hope springs eternal, some of these kids aren’t so sure. You see, without God there is no future with their fallen friend. But those who know Jesus have the promise that Leah is a much bigger part of their future than she ever was in their past. And that is our comfort today and the days to come.