More from Mary Fran Heitzman
"Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die." That’s the retort Job of the Old Testament heard from his wife when God allowed him to be tested by the loss of all their children, their herds, and their servants. But Job asked, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and shall we not accept adversity?” Then Scripture tells us that Job’s friends came and sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights and no one spoke a word to him as his grief was very great (Job 2:9-13).
The summer my brother and father died in separate accidents, just 29 days apart, my attitude toward God was less drastic than Job’s wife's, but far from Job’s faithfulness.
No matter where I was, whether in my upstairs bedroom looking out over the fields, lying in bed at night, or sitting in our old church with its stained-glass windows, I wondered, Why has God abandoned our family?
But after a time, I loosened my grip on anger enough to see what remained. While it was true that two chairs sat empty at our kitchen table, I still had three brothers and our mother. Neighboring farmers helped bring in the autumn harvest. Aunts and uncles called on the phone, came to the house, and brought sandwiches, salads, and cakes. Friends at church reached out with kind words and reassuring squeezes. After the funerals, cousins invited me to sleepovers and girlfriends sensed when I needed to talk. They all listened to me tell the same stories over and over because they understood that repetition was therapy.
I bought a notebook and filled line after line and page after page with questions and frustrations that held no answers. But as my mind slowed to the speed of my writing, grief that I’d stuffed deep into my heart emerged so that I could sort through it one issue at a time. Then when my soul was soothed, I’d put the notes in a drawer until the next time. Eventually I’d take my writing out again to sort through the latest battles and heartaches.
Initially, well-meaning suggestions that I focus on a “new normal” felt impossible to embrace. But during those early years, I gradually saw the wisdom of giving the “new normal” a chance. Accepting change was necessary to moving forward. It was not a betrayal to those we’d lost, but a belief that we would see them again. And a belief that their wish for us would be happiness and peace.
Several decades have passed, and I’m grateful to those who kept me busy, to those who were there to listen, and to those who sensed, as Job’s friends did, that sometimes my pain was so deep there were no words of consolation that could be spoken. But most of all I am grateful to God for his provision during those dark days.
- Mary Fran Heitzman