In the Valley- Losing a Loved One.
One of my best friends, Remington, never ends a phone call without saying, “Bye, Love You!” Through simple actions like this, she has taught me so much. She has shown me never hesitate to tell others I love them. She has taught me to cherish every moment, for you never know when it will be your last. She makes others feel loved, chosen, and beautiful in every encounter she has with them. Positivity and love for Jesus radiate off of her.
I had the opportunity to listen to Remington’s testimony. It is a beautifully broken testimony about losing her father when she was eight years old. There are three parts: the death, the grief, and the healing. I am writing my blog post about her healing journey because she wants to show others how Jesus provides comfort in the midst of heartache and grief. She longs to help others who may be walking through the valley of the shadow of death. She stated, “I love talking about my dad because it reminds me he lived. I strive to live the life he would have wanted me to.” I present the real, raw Remi:
Part One- The Death
Isn’t it crazy how a single moment in time can change our lives forever? How can something, or someone, slip beyond our reach in an instant? Growing up, Remington’s greatest fear was her hero, her daddy, dying. She looked up to him. Sometimes, he took her to work. When she was six, she remembers waiting in the car for her dad to finish a client meeting. He was in the meeting for a while, and she started freaking out. Her six-year-old imagination raced with a billion possibilities of what could have happened to him. She had to do something! She ran to the door and banged on it with all the force her little body could muster. After her dad came out, he asked her what in the world was wrong. She looked at him, living and breathing, and told him she thought he was dead. She thought her favorite person in the world was gone. Forever. He told her, “Honey doll, you don’t need to worry about me because I’ll always be here for you.” If only that was true.
Two years later: One morning, Remi was going to go to work with him again. Instead, he decided to let her sleep in and left for work. He got into a car accident and was pronounced dead from a head injury. She always wonders what the outcome would have been if she would have gone. Would he still be here? Or would she have died?
Remi was the last to know about the death. Her brother asked her mom, “Can we please just not tell Remi?” He wanted to protect her from the deep grief he was feeling. Her mom knew they had to tell her. But how do you explain to an eight-year-old her life was about to change forever? How do you break the news that her favorite person in the world is gone? She took little Remington’s hands and said eleven life-altering words: “Remi, your daddy got into a car accident and he died.”
Remi could not believe it. It could not be true. She refused to let it be true. She would not believe it. She threw up. She ran out of the door, looking for her brother. She needed her brother. He wouldn’t ever lie to her. Her mom grabbed her, attempting to calm her down. Later that night, she remembers going to church with all of her family and friends. Someone was talking about her dad and stated, “He was always smiling and happy.” Her dad’s favorite quote was, “Always smile and be happy. Even though you’re sad. Even though you’re angry.”
She made a decision then and there. She would be a bright, shining light in the middle of the darkness. Her mom just lost the father of her children and the man she was married to for twenty years. Her stepmom lost her husband. Her brother lost the man he aspired to be. Her grandma lost her precious son. Remi wanted to alleviate the burden off of their chests.
Part Two- the Grief
Although the pain was sharper than a two-edged sword, it didn’t slice her heart open until years later. One example of her heart being sliced open was a year after the death. She had gone to a daddy-daughter dance with her dad the year before and had an amazing time. The time was coming up for the dance again. One of her friends asked if she wanted to attend it with her and her dad. A tsunami of pain hit Remi at once. She immediately collapsed to the floor, bawling her eyes out.
Remi told me, “It’s nobody’s fault. You know, they never know what will hurt you. You don’t even know what words will hurt you until they’re said.” Sometimes, others tried to comfort her by convincing her everything was okay. They would say, “In time, you’ll heal.” She remembers a particular comment, “It could have been worse. At least your mom didn’t die.” When, in reality, it was not okay. She felt as if she would never be okay again. She just needed a shoulder to cry on.
When she watched girls playing sports with dads cheering them on, all she could think about was “I don’t have that. They don’t know how blessed they are to have someone like that in their lives.” In the eight years since his death, she has had other father-like figures but nothing comes close to her actual dad.
Middle school was hard for Remi. She couldn’t go a day without crying a river of tears. However, she didn’t show it. She told me every day after school, from third to seventh grade, she would go into her closet alone and cry. Her anxiety skyrocketed. She intensely feared losing her mom. Her dad died while going to work, so what if her mom did? She never wanted to leave her side. She called her every day to make sure she was alive.
Every day, she threw up before school because of anxiety. Her mom took her to the doctor, who said it was causing gastrointestinal perforation, a hole in the acid wall of her stomach. If she couldn’t control her anxiety, it would lead to serious issues.
She felt as if she was alone. She attended therapy, but she couldn’t open up. Nothing was working. She could not talk about death. She refused. Or, if she did mention the death, it was to play the victim card. Her heart burned with anger at God. Why did good people have to die?
Freshman year of high school, she was going through the same turmoil; however, she covered it up with perfectionism. She wanted to look like she had it all together; when in reality, she was falling apart. She dressed up for school every day. No one saw her shed a single tear. She was kind to others, but hard on herself. Every hour of every day her schedule was filled. She wanted to stay busy and distracted so she wouldn’t have time to feel her emotions at all. Satan used busyness as a tactic to prevent her from healing.
Part Three- the Healing
In 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the world, affecting billions of lives. The world was placed on pause. Remi was forced to spend time with herself, alone with her thoughts. Alone with her anxiety. Alone with her grief. Until she came to the realization she truly wasn’t alone.
She began spending more time reading her Bible and praying. She told me the moment she stopped being angry at God was when she dove deeper into the Word and learned more about who He was.
He is not the designer of death; He is death’s defeater.
He is not the producer of pain; He is the provider of peace.
He doesn’t promise we will never go through the valley of the shadow of death.
He promises even in the valley, He is with us. His rod and staff will comfort us.
He was her comfort. He was her healing. Although she wasn’t able to voice her grief, He heard it.
“Everyone heals in different ways,” stated Remi. So, you cannot listen to how the world says to heal. The world will send you in a million different directions. Instead, she started to be still and listen to the Lord’s voice. She silenced her notifications and spent less time on social media. In her car, she turned off the radio to be still in the Lord’s presence. This time in the presence of God helped her overcome her anxiety.
God showed her that healing is found in forgiveness. She had so much built-up anger. She told me she started by silently forgiving the little things like the comments that hurt her. The words others say can’t provide peace. Only the word of God can. Humans are not perfect. Only God is. With every act of forgiveness, she felt more love, more peace, and more joy. If she found it difficult to forgive, she would pray.
“When you can forgive someone for something small, it compounds. You can forgive them for the big stuff,” she stated. With every little comment she forgave, she began to forgive herself. She realized she placed some of the blame on herself for not waking up and going with her dad that dark day. A part of her felt like if she had, she could have saved him. She eventually forgave herself by forgiving others.
Not only did she forgive herself; but she also opened up to others. She had understood her dad’s quote the wrong way. She thought it meant never showing emotion. To hide her pain. To try to be happy all the time and appear perfect. She told me she realized that the quote doesn’t mean vulnerability is a negative thing. Instead, it means to find happiness in the little things. “You don’t have to be perfect to be happy. You can’t wait for your life to be perfect either.”
Even on her darkest days, Remi remembers this quote and she cherishes the little things. In the valley of the shadow, she finds joy. During moments of grief, she practices gratitude. She calls it “finding a vacation every day.” Her definition of finding a vacation is simple, like going on a walk, making cookies, or calling a friend.
Sometimes, when you are in the valley, you have to remember the time spent in the depths of the darkness is what gives you the strength to climb to the top of the mountain. Remi knows if she can make it through this, she can make it through anything. She can climb any mountain. She looks at the little things it taught her. It gave her a firm foundation. “Wind came, rain blew, but my house was built on you” is a line she proclaims from a Maverick City Music song.
She knows her story isn’t the saddest. She knows it is sad, but she also knows others go through so much heartbreak. Luckily, she has an amazing mom and support system. She realizes the time she felt like she was alone she truly wasn’t. She had a multitude of people willing to offer their shoulders for her to cry on. She is extremely thankful for everyone who loves and supports her.
Remi told me she will never be 100% healed. She will always experience moments of sadness. However, when she is sad, she will remember the memories she has with her dad and find joy. Her favorite memory with him is the night he told her that no matter what happened, he would always be in her heart. Remi has such a big heart because she has both Jesus and her dad in it.
“With the help of God, I grew. I transformed. Especially at a young age when I didn’t even know what had hit me. My healing journey isn’t perfect. It includes a million broken pieces. A lot of things are more beautiful when they are put back together. Just like mosaic art, it includes all of these different pieces put together. It is beautiful in all of its flaws. It’s perfect. It may not look perfect to some people, but to you it is.” I couldn’t have described it better than her words. Remi’s story is beautifully broken.
I wrote two poems: the first poem is about her grief, and the second poem is about her comfort found in Jesus.
I see your empty seat at the table.
Suddenly, I don’t feel emotionally stable.
I know you’ll never be replaced.
But I miss your hugs, your embrace.
I wish I could have taken your place.
My heart feels pierced with a million holes.
Deep turmoil stirs within my soul.
How can I celebrate?
When I see your empty chair, your empty plate?
You would have wanted me to smile,
But I think about how you will never walk me down the aisle.
I feel so sad.
I miss you, dad.
Although I am aching with loss,
You carry my pain on the cross.
Although there is an empty seat
I know in Spirit my dad is here
Because your presence is near.
My dad died.
But it is not goodbye.
I know he is heaven, flying high.
My heart is torn.
But you bless those who mourn.
You comfort my broken heart
And mend every part.
Now I completely depend on you
To help me heal and make me new.
Jesus, thank you.