Seventeen years ago, my mother planted a lonesome seed. It wasn’t just an ordinary seed. It was a seed that spoke of her hope that something good was to grow from the most difficult time in her life. She had to dig incredibly hard underneath the thickest, blackest mud that was her son’s death in order to plant it way below the surface, far underneath the obvious. Still, she did, with no guarantee that it would ever grow. She could only hope.
I’ve been reading my mother’s journal. On the first page, ‘My child is dead – 23 July 2001’, words written in her beautiful handwriting. Words that caused my heart to squirm like a weak little worm in the midst of its ugliest enemy. With her permission, I’m reading the thoughts she captured during the worst time in her life. The fact that she was able to put even one word on paper during that time is a miracle to me. Some days she wrote only the date, at a complete loss for any words. Other days she poured her heart out on pages and pages and pages on end.
Light vanished the night my brother died. Literally, street lamps on the way to the accident scene were devoid of any light. Darkness and cold ruthlessly came down upon the little town where we lived like thick, black mud. Even the weather that night attuned to this. The mud that came from nowhere to draw life from us, both physically and spiritually, surrounded us relentlessly. In the time afterwards, we were able to escape this mud from time to time and gasp for air so that we could only barely survive. But mostly, the darkened street lamps were appropriate metaphors for our hearts, all light smothered, all hope confused, all openness turned inwards in the face of the terrible finality of death. We were paralyzed, powerless. My father, mother, sister and I had to find our way through this thick mud to try to find each other. We had to fight with all we had to not be completely consumed by this mud. It was easier to turn away and inside. For a while, darkness prevailed. Or so I thought.
Until I started to read my mother’s journal seventeen years on. Until I realized what happened underneath the surface during that dark time. Until I read how, every day, she intentionally set out to find her Father, the One who decided over her son’s life and death. How she put her heart on paper in order to try to understand His heart for her and us. How she mourned her son, who was very dear to her. How she documented her concerns for us. How she tried her best to find the words to describe her grief. How she fought, how she cried, how she pleaded. How, with shuffled little steps in complete darkness in search of light, she found switches to turn them on in order to take the next excruciating step. By putting her heart on paper, she chose life over death. She had to let go of what was inside of her or it would have been the cause of even more death. She didn’t choose to vanish underneath inexpressible hurt. She could have and it would have been completely understandable. She chose to make her hurt known. She chose Life. She chose to believe in something good.
This ‘something good’ is not yet clear to us. Maybe it will never be. But what I know now is that what grew from this seed is the tallest and most beautiful of trees. From this mud, against all odds, shelter and protection came forth. This tree is now a source of rest and grace. We stop underneath it on our way to battle. But while we rest there and gather ourselves, we realize that the ground beyond this tree is already seized. The battle with our brother’s death and with death itself is already won. It was won when my mother and father chose to seek the Lord in the midst of the mud on our behalf seventeen years ago. While we sit there, we realize with intense relief that we need not fight this battle, we need not go any further. We can rest there and then return to where God has planted us.
And so part of our roles as mothers and fathers are indeed to fight and win a few battles on our children’s behalf. I am thankful for the battles won by my parents. Battles that I do not need to take on now. Battles that happened behind the scenes that I am mostly not even aware of. Battles won that make us and all generations to come victorious from the start. Territory won that we can walk upon as conquerors. For we have our own battles and our children theirs. It’s incredible to know that we can rest underneath tall trees grown from lonesome seeds in the darkest of mud. Seeds that our fathers and mothers sowed in order for us to be able to be the light in darkness. Seeds of hope, seeds of faith. Seeds grown against all odds.
May we be brave enough to fight the battles we need to fight. May we plant lonesome seeds in the darkest of mud in genuine hope and faith. May our children rest under the trees grown from these battles.
And that is all I need to know now.