There is a line in a hymn, “God will make a way when there seems to be no way.” It’s difficult when we’re confronted with a situation that seems to have no solution. When we’re in the thick of things, it can feel like being lost in a dense thicket under tall trees, with no way of finding our direction. Have you ever been suddenly thrust into a situation where you are struggling to keep your head above water?
Each time I come out the other side, I’m amazed at how things were happening to benefit me without me even recognizing them for what they were at the time. Nine and a half years ago, I was between teaching jobs after having gotten my Master’s degree. I had never had a hard time finding work, so I wasn’t concerned. This year, 2008, was gearing up to be a challenge. I had applied for job after job but to no avail. Frustrated, I confided in my mom. “I’ve never had a hard time finding a job! What am I going to do?” I queried one evening at her house. She told me it would be fine and that maybe God had other plans for me. In the meantime, she had some things I could help her with in her apartment. We came together and made a plan for the necessary improvements. We bought the supplies, and I started to get to work. I could bring the kids, so it was no big deal to do stuff there. It was lovely because it gave me the opportunity to hang out with her after she got home from work. September, October, November passed with little incident. I just kept plugging along.
December rolled around, and we continued to enjoy our after-work cups of tea with toast and chatter in the evenings. Then one Sunday, A little before Christmas, my kids were in the pageant at church, and I forgot to bring donuts. I called her to ask if she could bring some for me, but there was no answer. I figured either she was in the shower or already on her way. The pageant progressed with tears from my little angel because she had stage fright, but peculiarly Mom didn’t show up. Occasionally, she would visit the chapel at her job on Sundays, and I thought this might be the case – at least that’s what I told myself as I tried to quell the uneasy feeling rising in my stomach.
I took the kids over to her place as I did on most Sundays and walked down from the parking lot to her apartment. At this time, she would typically be in the kitchen with the light over the sink on doing dishes or getting the kettle ready, but on this day, it was dark. My heart sank as I walked closer and closer until we were through the outside door, up the stairs, and at the door to her apartment. I knocked – nothing. I took out my key and started to open the door only to find the chain barring my entry. I tried to peek inside – no lights were on. I called out to her, thinking she must be sick. I called again; this time, I thought I heard a moan. I moved the kids back from the door and threw all my weight against it to break the chain. I pulled the children in behind me while I scanned the living and kitchen areas. I ran to her room and found her collapsed on the floor, head swollen, eye almost popping out of her head with the swelling, and her fist twisted characteristically. I thought she had had a stroke.
I did everything wrong then; she had fallen and hit her head, there was blood on the floor. I gently picked her up and laid her on the bed on her left side. I wiped away some of the blood and told her I was getting help, that I loved her and that she would be ok. I called the ambulance & had my son call my husband to get them and my brother to let him know what had happened. My husband arrived as the paramedics were wheeling her out, and I begged them to let the children say goodbye. They told me to drive slowly, but I flew. I was at the hospital before them. While she was getting her X-rays and MRIs and I called my aunt in Florida, Mom’s younger sister.
The next 38 days were, by far, the worst days of my life. It was the dead of winter; my children were only 2, 5, & 7 at the time. I would take the baby to the hospital and stay with my mom until I needed to come home to get the older ones. I would wait until my husband got home and then go back again until visiting hours were over. I sang to her. I talked to her. My baby girl sang to her and napped next to her on the bed. Mom’s brothers and sisters came from Florida and Ireland, and Thailand; people who worked with her, church friends, my friends, and in-laws visited her as well. It was heartbreaking. I prayed and pleaded with God to bring her back. I held out every hope for her survival. My grief was held in check only by the hope that she would pull through.
On day 38, I called my brother. I was exhausted and trying to pull together funeral clothes for her at her apartment. I didn’t want to miss visiting her, but it was the job with which I’d been tasked. He said he would visit in my stead so that I could get some things done. I finished up and went home to get my children from the bus. Back from the bus stop, I had just walked in the door when the phone rang. She had died, and I hadn’t been there to hold her hand; no one had. That was the beginning of a time when my grief swallowed me whole. There was no one in the world with whom I had a relationship like I had with my mom. Without her, I wanted to die too.
I spent the next month barely functioning. I took care of my little one and the others, but I cried all my waking hours. A few weeks later, I got a phone call, I had to pretend I had a cold, and that was why I sounded the way I did. It was a school calling me for an interview. I didn’t know why I was getting this interview; it wasn’t a job to which I had applied. I called my friend, and she volunteered her mother to babysit. I grabbed whatever I could find to wear and drove over. The principal told me that I’d been called by special request from the teacher. The strange thing was that I didn’t know her at all. It turned out that the teacher I would be replacing for maternity leave had gotten my resume from the department head at a job I had worked a year prior. This teacher had heard such good things that she held on to my resume for a year, and when she got pregnant, she told the principal she wanted me to take over. Almost a month to the day after Mom’s death, I began working again.
The time I spent at work was my reprieve from grief, and it gave me enough of a break to be able to get through my sorrow. God had provided a way for me to spend extra time with my mother, time I wouldn’t have had if I’d been working before she died. He then provided me with a break from my grief and a job for which I hadn’t applied. God hadn’t given me sorrow this great without giving me a way out, a way to bear it. He made a way where there seemed to be no way.
Jeremiah 42:3 “Pray that the LORD your God may tell us the way we should walk and the thing we should do.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.”
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