I cannot believe it's been three years. How has it been three years? That's longer than the lifespan of one of my children.
The ache still hurts everyday. Oh, there's joy too. Increasing joy. So much joy in remembering her laugh and her talking with her hands and her voice inflection and her contagious giggles and her constant memory lapse which I've totally inherited.
Yes, there's joy in the ache, but I refuse to be fake. The ache aches. It's less full body ache now and more limited to just my heart, but it's well and present just the same.
The memories now include more laughing and a little less crying. (Except today. Crocodile tears today. You might want to stay away or only come near if you can handle it.)
Everyday there is still no earthly thing I wouldn't give up in a heartbeat if it meant I could have her back. Everyday there still isn't one activity I wouldn't instantly cancel if it meant I could drink one cup of coffee with her.
Everyday it brings tears to my eyes to see the huge, laughing, mischievous turquoise eyes of her youngest grandson, whom she never met, knowing she would have driven 3 hours any day just to look into those eyes. Everyday I think, "I can't believe she's never gotten to tickle that belly-button."
I still need my mom. I'll always need my mom. My mentor, my comic relief, my stress relief, my friend who gave the best hugs, my guide who always said in her way, "Oh Rebecca..." if I was being a fool. The woman who seemed to know the answer to every question I ever called her about.
In 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul writes that in the resurrection, death is swallowed up in victory. So he asks, "Then where, O death, is your sting?"
These words were read at my Mom's funeral. They are a profound declaration of hope in the resurrection. These words are a truth that I cling to.
They have also been a profound challenge to me for three years.
Because you know what? Death stings. Death hurts more than anything has ever hurt me before. Death slaps me in my face and knocks the breath out of me. Yes, death stings.
It's possible that I've wrestled more with this one little verse in the last three years than any truth of the Bible ever. Wrestling with God isn't disbelief or doubt. It's simply wrestling. It's being honest with God and saying, "Okay, I know this is true because Your Word is true. But I don't get it. Help me get it." Sometimes it's a short wrestle-match. This one's been three years. Maybe I'm slow.
But three years of wrestling with God on this have brought me to this:
God's okay with the fact that I still think death stings. Jesus is the good shepherd who leads us through the valley of the shadow of death...he knows the sting. He's experienced the sting of death fully and more completely than any of us ever will. He knows how dark the valley of the shadow of death really is, and he join us in the valley to lead us through it. He will not let us face this sting alone.
In a Max Lucado book I read many years ago, I was struck by his explanation of "the valley of the shadow of death" in Psalm 23 (also read at my Mom's funeral). Max's revelation on that Scripture was that because of the resurrection, we no longer have to walk through the "valley of death" but instead the "valley of the shadow of death." A profound difference. Because of the resurrection, death will always be temporary for those who are walking with the Good Shepherd. And that means the sting is temporary too. It doesn't mean the sting doesn't hurt...but it won't hurt beyond this earth.
While we walk this earth, death is going to sting utterly. We were not made for death. Death is completely counter to Creation, a result of the fall, and it stings. Here. For now. Temporarily.
But I think the Holy Spirit whispers to me in this verse, "Hold on...Hold on Rebecca. I'm with you in the darkest valley, the valley of stings. It won't sting forever."
Death was, is and will be swallowed up in victory, forever, and one day I will be able to say, "O death, where is your sting?"
For now, I'm holding on. I'm clinging to the truth that the stinging will end. Maybe not on earth, but one day. And I'm so grateful for a Good Shepherd who will never leave my side and who goes through the sting with me.