This past Saturday (June 24) marked 21 years since my mother left this world.
I remember it like it was yesterday -- actually I remember almost everything like it was yesterday anymore -- I just don’t remember yesterday. Or this morning…
Once again, I digress. I was working at The Chronicle in those days when the call came in from my sister Lisa that our mother had died. She was 54, just short of her 55th birthday. Too young. Too soon.
Any of you who have lost a parent, particularly a mom, can relate to the emotions that I experienced at the time. From the time I got in the car and left Clinton to head to Greenville until the days and weeks after her funeral, everything seemed like a blur.
I do remember arriving at her room, where my mother was still laying. I was too late. She was gone. For some reason I was alone in the room. I remember it because I remember looking at her and then looking at the ceiling.
For the first time, I became interested in God’s role in my life -- saying to no one in particular, “How could You (meaning God, I presume) do this to me?”
As those memories come racing back into my mind, as they often do, I realize that God did indeed have a divine purpose in mind, because my mother's death has become part of my testimony.
While I don’t believe that God took my mother to get my attention, He just might have. All I know is that after my mother died, I felt a great big hole in my heart. For the longest time, I was convinced that the reason for that hole was missing my mother. She had been, up to that point, the most influential person in my life.
What I came to discover as time passed was that I needed a Savior. As I look back on it now, it is clear for me to see that the loss of my mother was the beginning of God drawing me to Him.
I remember thinking at the time of my mother’s funeral and burial that I would never attend another one of those services ever again. Too painful.
But again, because I didn’t have prior knowledge of God’s grand plan, I wound up as a hospice chaplain and not only minister to patients and families dealing with end-of-life issues, but also am asked to conduct a good many funerals, memorial services and the like.
I guess the saying is truer than I could have imagined: Don’t ever tell God what you’re not going to do.
Even though more than two decades has now passed since my mother died, there is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t think about her in some way. I remember how close we were, how we laughed together, cried together, how she’d get on to me when I stepped out of line (as if that ever happened!).
If you are someone who has lost a parent, I share my story to remind all of us that all is not lost and that God is with us, no matter how painful our circumstances might be and how dark things may seem in the moment, there is a brighter day coming.
(Rick Hendricks is a former editor of The Chronicle and now works as a chaplain for Hospice Care of South Carolina.)