David Callahan embraced his sobbing daughter. She had been so strong through the funeral, but now the tears fell unhindered. Her mother’s passing has all but crushed her, he mused as he stroked her auburn tresses. Mustering his strength, David lifted his daughter’s chin until her swollen, hazel eyes met his own. “Amelia,” he took a deep breath before continuing, “God must have a reason for–for taking Mother to be with Him.” His voice broke with emotion. “Right now, we can’t understand it–and that’s alright. Someday we will. That’s what I keep telling myself. We just need to trust that God will–”
That was it. She had heard enough about “trusting God.” She had trusted God; she had trusted that he would heal her mother from cancer, but He had not. With a determined shove, she tore herself away from her father.
“Amelia, come here–” Her father’s gentle beckoning faded into the distance as she bounded out the back door. Forward, forward, her legs carried her across the backyard, through the cut in the woods, and down the rutted, snaking path shrouded by pines. She often escaped to the woods when something troubled her, usually carrying her Bible, but not today. She didn’t feel as if she had the strength to carry anything at the moment, especially a book containing forgotten promises.
Life wasn’t fair. God wasn’t fair. She was mad at life and mad at God. How could He have allowed this to happen? How could He have taken Elizabeth Callahan, her selfless, loving mother? It was only a month ago that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and then, three weeks later, she was gone. It had all happened so suddenly, but now it was finally penetrating her. Maybe it’s because of the funeral, she concluded.
Her frail body writhed with sobs. I thought I’d always have her. I wish I would have spent more time with her, listened more to her, learned more from her, been a better daughter. The regrets overwhelmed her adolescent heart. She felt grief pulling her down like gravity.The treetops started spinning as her fatigued body collapsed onto the dusty path. The world became suddenly dark as she passed into the realm of unconsciousness.
* * *
I roused to the sound of someone talking to me. I tossed restlessly; my head ached and every muscle of my body seemed to be protesting. I realized someone was squeezing my hand and caressing my forehead. I tried to open my eyes and was able to distinguish a girl about my age with long, black hair hovering over me.
“Are you okay?” The girl asked, but her words seemed from a distant land.
In my daze, she managed to lift me off the ground and situate me next to her on a fallen tree trunk.
“What happened to you? Were you frightened or something?” she inquired caringly. She reached over and attempted to wipe the streaks of dirt from my face.
What had happened to me? I was too scatterbrained to recollect. I shrugged my shoulders.
My reply didn’t seem to satisfy her. She stared at me worriedly for a while. Eventually, her gaze turned toward the rain clouds accumulating in the afternoon sky. “We better get you home,” she concluded. “It looks like it’s going to rain.”
I felt lifeless. I wasn’t sure if I possessed the strength to walk home. My head was still throbbing to the beat of a frantic drummer. “I think I’d like to just sit for a while,” I managed to say.
As I began to regain my composure, I realized I didn’t know who this girl seated next to me was. The recognition caused me to flush. “Who are you?” I asked shyly.
“Sorry, I guess I should have introduced myself,” she chuckled. “I’m Sarah. I just moved here.”
“Where do you live?”
“Twenty-eight Maple Street.”
“Oh, then you must be my new next door neighbor.” I could feel the warmth rising to my cheeks again. Well, this is definitely an embarrassing way to meet a new neighbor. I decided to change the subject. “How did you find this path?” I asked.
Sarah smiled, “I’m the adventurous type. I decided to go tramping through the woods and ended up finding this trail, and then I found you.”
Ah, yes, the subject is somehow focusing on me again. I tried a different approach. “So, why did you move here?”
“My grandparents wanted to move to the country.”
“You live with your grandparents?” I questioned.
“Yes, for a year now.” A shadow passed over her pretty face. “My father passed away two years ago, and my mother only last year,” her voice barely whispered.
The mention of her mother’s passing caused the waves of sorrow to once again come crashing down on me. The torrential tears returned; I bent over and rested my head in my hands. A mortified Sarah grasped my heaving shoulders, her frightened eyes staring at me, her mouth gaping.
“Sorry,” I stammered in between weeping spasms. “It’s just–that–I–” I gave into the wrenching sobs, and a few minutes passed before I could speak. I willed myself to lift my teary eyes to meet her concerned ones, “My mother–passed away last week,” I finished in a whisper.
Her expression transformed from fear to empathy. Tears began to flow unchecked down her cheeks too. Her arms wrapped around me in a sisterly embrace, and we cried on each other’s shoulders for quite some time.
Through my bewailing I heard her gentle voice begin to pray, “God, I know that you care about–” She stopped short, a puzzled look on her face.
“What is your name?”
“God, I know that you care very much about–Amelia and I.” Her voice labored with the words. “You love us more than we could ever know. I know I would never have made it through my own sorrow without you, and I know Amelia can’t either. God, give her Your peace. Help her to know that You are near. Help her to come closer to You through this.” She stopped to wipe her eyes. Shakily she continued, “Help her to have faith that you can make something beautiful out of this brokenness. I know you have done that for me, so I know you can do it for her.”
I stared at her through my haze of tears. How could she pray like that, so confident yet humble? How could someone who had endured more tragedy than myself still believe that God loves them, still trust in his faithfulness?
“Sarah,” I dared to broach the subject, “How can you still believe that–that–God loves you after He–He–took your parents?”
Sarah peered at me for a while, calculating what to say. She seemed to look straight through my mournful eyes and into my travailing heart. It unnerved me. I was afraid she understood my condition far better than I did. At last, in a measured tone, she spoke, “Amelia, I’ve been right where you are before. I was only beginning to recover from my father’s death when my mother passed away too. I was heartbroken and didn’t talk to God for months. Those were the loneliest, most miserable months of my life, but one day I found a biography on my grandparents’ shelf about George Müller, a man who started an orphanage. Have you ever heard of him?”
I shook my head no.
“Well, neither had I,” she began again, “But something about the book drew me, and I read the whole thing in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down. I was so enthralled, that I didn’t even eat supper. What I read about in the that book changed my life forever. I got down on my hands and knees, right then and there in my bedroom, and sobbed and begged God to forgive me for the way I had been treating Him. I committed my life over to Him, Amelia, and I’ve never been the same since.”
“What happened in the book?” I queried.
“Amazing stuff. It told of real miracles that helped orphans. It touched my heart. I decided that I wanted God to use me in amazing ways too, and before I knew it, it started happening.” She paused, contemplating whether she should continue. Eventually she reached over and clasped my aimless hand in her own. Looking me straight in the eyes, she resumed, “One thing I can tell you, Amelia, is that my relationship with God has grown so much deeper because of what I went though. I still miss my parents more than words can say. I imagine I always will, but He has helped me bear my grief. I’ve held onto all those verses about how ‘He cares for the fatherless,’ and I’ve found them to be true. I am a better person because of what I went through. I know that you might not be able to comprehend this right now,” she stopped to squeeze my hand, “but I know you will be too.”
I was speechless. I did notice that my tears had stopped falling as freely, my head was not throbbing as badly, and a strange peace seemed to encircle me. Maybe God still cares about me. Maybe it is His peace that I am feeling, I pondered
We were silent for a while. The sun peeked out occasionally from behind the brooding rain clouds and showered us with its warm rays. Gusts of wind swayed the branches overhead. I could sense the humidity rising. Sarah’s eyes turned toward the darkening sky. “I better go home,” she resolved.
“I should too, but I think I’ll stay just a little longer.”
Sarah wrapped her arms around me one last time, “I’ll be praying for you, Amelia, and you know where to find me now.”
“Oh, Sarah, I can’t thank you enough–”
“No,” she reminded, “ Thank God. He was the One who led us to each other.”
I nodded and surprisingly, was even able to manage a smile.
She had taken only a few steps down the path when she stopped. Turning around, she asked, “Amelia, was your mother a Christian?”
Her question took me off guard, but I knew the answer beyond a doubt. “Yes, a very good one.”
Instantly, joy radiated from her face, and before turning to leave she said, “Good, then I will be able to meet her someday.”
It was like blinders fell from my eyes. The truth hit me straight in the heart, and I let it penetrate slowly. Sarah was right; she would get to meet my mother in heaven. This was not “Good-bye, Mom.” It was actually “See you later, Mom.” Death was not the end of life; it was the beginning of eternal life. My mother had found that eternal life, and I had been mourning for her. Instead of being grateful to God for accepting her into His loving arms, I had begrudged Him. I had been angry at Him when He had given my mother what she had always dreamed of–acceptance into heaven.
“But, why did you have to take her in the first place?” the question lingered in my mind, yet I recognized now that God was too vastly supreme for me to question. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” the verse from Isaiah flitted through my mind. I had always viewed it as an inspiring verse, yet it had never hit me as powerfully as now. God felt closer than ever before. I could almost hear his still, small voice reassuring me of his love and faithfulness.
The tears began to cascade again; this time they were tears of thankfulness. I dropped to my knees on the dusty path. “Thank you, God,” I whispered into the sky. “Thank you that I will see her again.” It seemed like such a naive prayer, yet after saying it, I felt like a burden was lifted from my shoulders.
At that moment, the rain clouds that had been brewing overhead began to shower. I allowed the gentle rain to wash the tears from my face, wiping away the hurt, anger, and confusion. God was bestowing His healing rain upon my broken life, softening the hardened soil of my heart.
Peace enraptured my soul, yet I knew my grieving was not complete. In my heart, I acknowledged that I would always yearn for my devoted, caring mother, but by God’s grace, I was confident that I would survive. With renewed vigor, I rose to my feet off the now muddy trail and retraced my steps home. As I approached the edge of the woods, I saw my father coming toward me, holding an umbrella. Hastening toward him, I wrapped my soaking arms around him and rested my head on his shoulder.
“Amelia, I was worried about you,” he whispered against my wet hair.
I was drenched from head to toe, and Dad was growing quite wet himself. I knew I should say an apology for causing him to search for me in the rain, but I wasn’t at all sorry for the experience I had just had, and I knew he wouldn’t be either. We huddled under the umbrella, seemingly locked in time, listening to the rain tapping overhead.
At last my voice broke the reverie. “Daddy,” I paused to regard his loving eyes, “We are going to be okay.”
His grip around me tightened, and I could tell he was crying. I was too. Under his breath I heard him whisper, “God is faithful.”
“Yes, Daddy,” I let the tears fall freely onto his shoulder,“He most certainly is.”