I remember exactly what I was doing six years ago tonight. I was at Huntsville Hospital with my younger sister who was dying. On past anniversaries of her death of course I’ve remembered…but not like I am tonight. I remember laying my head on her pillow and singing “His Eye is on the Sparrow”. I can almost hear the voices of everyone with us in the room. I can recite the prayers and recall the people I met & the conversations we had. Why this year? I don’t want to remember all the details. I had a “trigger” today, a jolt back to that time in my life. I’ve tried all day long not to go “there” to no avail. I’m there and it’s sad & painful.

I’m also seeing what a profound season that was in my life in many ways. The lessons God taught me are numerous and, as a dear friend pointed out to me tonight, defined my faith in Him more than I realized until now.

I’ve had many experiences through which God has shown me who He is and taught me lessons but at no time in my life was He more real to me than He was when Joy died. This is a “footprints” moment. Through every moment of those three days she was in the hospital, her funeral and that first year I look back and see I was being carried. I’m here now so I obviously lived through it though I don’t know how…only one explanation: the carrying grace of God.

That’s when I learned that God isn’t obligated to explain Himself (unfortunately). All the times I’d heard of what He is capable of and His great love for us; His one-on-one personal attention to every detail of our lives came through those days. I saw it & experienced it through one of the worst things I had ever gone through. How crazy is that! I literally felt every cliche’ thing I had ever heard…and believed by the way…but there’s something about KNOWING all of it based on, well, knowing that changes you and your perspective. The knowledge of a personal God…my personal God makes it impossible to ever be the same.

Through her death, I learned the real meaning of Psalm 23:4. Walking through the “shadow of death” is just that: a shadow of death. It’s going through (with Him) what you think will surely kill you. Maybe it’s practice for the real thing. I don’t know. I just know that I didn’t WANT to live through such pain & loss and I’m sure God saw me through it; more than that He carried me. He tended to this grief-stricken pitiful child.

I remember the second I decided not to blame Him. Before that moment it could’ve gone either way. I’m an alcoholic (if you don’t know that already)~I’ve been sober 23 years thanks be to God. On this day six yrs ago I almost went back…I remember it so clearly. I almost decided not to trust Him,that this was my last straw…but I chose to hang onto Him rather than turn away. Why I don’t know, I just did.

Most of the time I try to look forward instead of back. I may take glances because I never want to forget where God brought me from but I don’t dwell in it. Tonight He’s taking me through every moment of that “shadow of death” and I think I know why. I think it’s meant for me to see how far He’s brought me through what He’s brought me through. Many things I had fogotten about that time, many things I chose to forget because it just hurt too much. Not tonight. I remember. This is a bonified rerun, just like watching a movie.

I clearly see that time in my life as forming who this woman of God is now. I’m who I am largely due to back then. I KNOW God now. I know what He did for me and I’ll never get over it, at least I hope I don’t. I’m quite tenacious where He’s concerned. He’s my favorite topic of conversation. Studying His Word & writing/sharing what He brings out of our time together is my “sweet spot” and all of that started with my sister’s death. I loved Him before; I was saved years before. I knew Jesus before…but not like I KNOW Him now. I’m no longer going to apologize for that.

Romans 8:28. ALL things. I know that to be true. Absolutely true. Even in death and loss and yes, especially through “the valley of the shadow of death”. 

So I said all that to say this: when you look back on any of your past, no matter how painful, look back purposefully. Make a point to take in where you were then and where you are now. Somehow miraculously regardless of how devastating it was you’ll see as I have that God has an amazing ability to bring something beautiful out of all the pain. If you don’t see it now, I’m praying you soon will.


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