It was Monday night. My family had moved overseas three weeks earlier. Hubby and I were sitting in bed laughing and talking about our crazy new experiences. It was late. As we were talking, my phone bleeped. Seriously…who is texting me this late?!?! As I picked up my phone, I read the four words that changed everything. “Mamma isn’t doing well.” Hubby kept talking, but I have no idea what he said. Everything became a big blur. I knew Mamma (my mom’s mom) hadn’t been “doing well” for sometime. I mean, she was getting older. She had been put on oxygen a few months earlier. She needed to be pushed in a wheel chair when we took her to the mall to buy her that new hat. She didn’t even cook anymore. But last time I saw her, she was “just fine.” As I read the text, I knew it was serious. I couldn’t speak. Tears just flowed. I passed the phone to Hubby, who wrapped his loving arms around me.
Just 3 weeks earlier, we stopped by Mamma’s house on our way to the airport to tell her and Pappa one last goodbye. That day as I looked at Mamma sitting in “her chair,” I prayed, “Lord, please, please let her live 3 more years!” NOOOO!!! God, I did not say 3 weeks!!! I still want to talk to Mamma! I want to send her pictures of my growing children! I want her to be in her chair when I get back to the States! I want my girls to know her! But now it’s too late. None of that will ever happen. Two days after that text, Mamma went to be with Jesus.
I felt alone.
I have a wonderful husband, but I wanted my mom, my sister, my cousins, my brothers….No one here on the other side of the world knew Mamma like we all did. I couldn’t sit and laugh and cry telling wonderful stories about this amazing woman. Stories about staying up late to play Rummy and Sequence. Stories about Mamma sitting outside her cabin at Camp Spofford. Who always had an extra (insert random item you forgot to pack)? Mamma did! Stories of amazing gravy and KrumKake. Stories of how Mamma was always so kind and so polite and so willing to give even if she had to do without.
But no one was here…no one was here to cry with me. During this short time living abroad, we had a language tutor to help us and a city tour guide to show us all the exciting sites in the Big City. I wanted to stay in my bed and cry all day (I actually wanted to go home, but didn’t have $5000 just lying around), but instead I had to slap on a smile and tour the volcano. Don’t get me wrong, it helped the time pass; but every day it just seemed like the world was running in super speed and I was standing still, lost and confused. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, or what to tell people. I just stood there.
Mamma’s funeral was on Friday, that’s my Saturday morning. The service was broadcasted live, so I set my alarm for 5:30 am. It didn’t matter how early the alarm went off- I couldn’t sleep anyway. It was dark outside. I didn’t want to wake the girls, so I quietly went into the office and shut the door. I could have woken Hubby, but I just wanted to be alone. I sat in the office chair and watched my grandmother’s funeral. I saw Pappa….Pappa, I’m so sorry! I wish I could be there and wrap my arms around you and tell you how much I miss Mamma too. I saw my mom….my mom who had just lost her mom. I can’t imagine life without my mom! I can’t imagine what she is feeling right now. I saw everyone crying and hugging and laughing. I heard beautiful stories about how Mamma prayed for all her children and her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren (which is a LOT of people!). I heard how God allowed Mamma to hang in there until her sister arrived from Canada to tell her goodbye and and to tell her it was OK to go home to be with Jesus. Watching the live broadcast of my grandmother’s funeral from the other end of the planet was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
However, knowing that she was a believer and that she will get to spend eternity walking …no, running on streets of gold, was just a beautiful reminder of why I live overseas. We live here surrounded by people who don’t have the same hope that I do. Families who won’t get to see their “Mamma” running on streets of gold. Families who don’t have the loving arms of God wrapped around them when hard times come.
I know many of us will suffer the loss of a loved one while we serve overseas, but I pray that our Father will be your comfort. He called your family to live overseas. Even when things are rough and you just want to hide under a rock, I know the Rock will protect you and be your strength.
Have you lost loved ones while living abroad? How did you cope with the loss while living so far away? What were some things that helped you work through the grieving process?