I’m CSPC member Pam Stovall, and here’s more of how God has been working in my life, enabling me to live deeply.
Mary Mitchell was a spunky little redhead. She loved donuts, loved to laugh, loved life. When we were in New York for her surgery, we would stroll her through the city and she would hold out her hands from her stroller and sing Jesus Loves Me. So I truly believe that she somehow, in her young little life, knew Jesus. Before she was sick, she was so happy. I won’t talk about her illness a lot, but she had a degenerative condition they call childhood Alzheimer’s. God called my beautiful little granddaughter home a little over three years ago. She was only five. It’s a very cruel disease. Watching her struggle to communicate, try to form a word that wouldn’t come to her, lose the ability to feed herself, to walk… it just breaks your heart. At the end of her life, I saw how grief and joy can collide. Until then, I don’t think I understood how grief and joy could be in the same sentence. But I learned as deep as the grief is, the joy is just as great. How sorrowful, how broken my heart was to lose Mary Mitchell! But at the same time, how joyful I was that she went to live with Jesus, knowing her body is healed and Jesus is loving her and taking care of her! It made me, in a way I never had ever before, really long for heaven. I’d had to ask myself all these things that, for years, I said I believed about the Lord. Did I really believe them? Is He good? Is He faithful? Is His plan perfect? And I came to realize I don’t have to understand His plan to know and trust that it is perfect. Deeply-felt grief really does point to an even deeper joy, and a day is coming when the joy is ALL we’ll know. I love God in a different way because of that precious little girl and what the hardness of her life taught me.
That weekend Mary Mitchell was dying, we spent a lot of time in her room with praise music on, waiting for her to take her last breath. As she did, it was almost relief. We were so sad to lose her, but felt relief to release her so she wasn’t suffering anymore. But then, the grief- it hits hard at different times. I still have days where it will hit me. You’ve heard people say, ‘If there’s really a God, he’s not going to do this.’ On some level these trials tempt you to doubt God’s character like that. I’d also bought into the idea that God will never give you more than you can handle. But our entire family learned that He will- because in our humanness we cannot handle something like this. We need a Father, we need God. Now I look back on the last three days of Mary Mitchell’s life and my humanness wants to ask, ‘How did we get through it?’ But I know how we all got through it: God’s presence was so real. He was right there with us and it was His strength giving us what we needed when we needed it. I mean, I can look back and with 100% confidence say I know He was there. As a mom watching my child lose her child, when Sarah brought Mary Mitchell’s body down the stairs to hand over to the funeral home people, I watched God give her and Mitch the strength. God was so present to them; so real, so very real. And His Fatherly care –which I talked about discovering in last week’s Live Deeply posts- is still so evident in Sarah, Mitch, and Reynolds’s lives. He knew what they needed, and in 2022 He blessed them with a beautiful adopted daughter and sister: sweet little Poppy Jane. They’ve had her since birth. She smiles all the time and God mixed up her personality just perfectly. Poppy Jane is not a replacement in any sense, but a blessing all her own. She will grow up knowing about Mary Mitchell, and they will meet one day, after all. It has been such a sweet balm for my Mama’s heart to see my daughter and her family experiencing this joy. We won’t fully understand the collision of joy and grief in this life, but knowing it comes from our trustworthy Father’s hand frees us to accept it. He is good. His presence is enough.