Two rivers of tears rush down my cheeks as I write. Tomorrow is his birthday. He would have been forty-nine.
In 1996 I was a young wife and new mother in my early twenties, kneeling on the floor of a hospital bathroom stall pouring the agony of my heart out to God, pleading for strength to let go of the greatest love I had ever known. My young husband, unconscious and attached to “life” support, lay in a bed at the end of the ICU hallway. Our precious ten-month-old baby boy was at home with my sister. A horrifying storm of emotions rolled inside of me, nearly turning my heart inside-out.
The doctors had made no announcement of impending complications of the brain cancer resection surgery, yet Mark was quietly slipping away. We were watching and waiting. Watching and waiting. He never woke up, and never responded to efforts to communicate with him. I knew in my heart that in a few moments I would face the brain surgeon and hear the words my heart already knew. He was gone. While waiting I had already felt a part of me leave. Though he was technically still alive, life support machines do not manufacture an animated, mortal connection.
In circumstances such as losing a loved one to death, nothing in mortality manufactures true comfort and peace. And yet, I unequivocally declare that amid the torment of that moment, God heard my bathroom stall prayer. As I heard the tragic words from the brain surgeon, I crumpled to the floor and held his feet. I could feel him shaking as he cried. The family all around me cried in agony and grief. I heard his mother ask in tender and heart-wrenching grief two questions every loving, faithful mother would ask, “Is there a miracle that we can hope for? Is there anything we can do?”
As the brain surgeon expressed his regrets that nothing could be done, a miracle was truly in the process of blooming inside of my heart and mind. Like the cool, refreshing waters of a gentle river on a scorching day, I felt the most overwhelming peace wash over me. It was instantaneous and very, very real. What is it that causes peace like a river to rush in and wash away the sting of death? What is it that speaks peace to the mind that rushes like a river through my body in my darkest hours? It is Love. God’s Love.
An hour later, my mother, also in shock, found the strength to drive us both home so I could feed and hold my baby. All I can remember saying to my mother over and over is, “God loves us so much. All I can feel is His love.”
That night all eight of my husband’s siblings and their spouses, my parents and my sister sang my husband to his final sleep with the most beautiful song called “I Am A Child of God.” We turned off the machines and watched my husband take his last breath and slip through the veil. I held his hand, my face was near his. I felt his heart stop. I saw him leave, my love, my son’s father, our future. And still, the peace remained. It was like watching a spiritual birth. It was peaceful and powerful as I bathed in a golden light that brought with it the spiritual insights and unexpected and unspeakable visions I had only heard of but had not experienced until that moment. I learned that day that peace is like a golden river that is brighter than the physical eyes can handle.
I feel that peace to this day. The pain, the agony, the shock, the disbelief, the love- they are all allowed under the protection of heavenly peace. His love is the peace that runs through my soul like a river. In reality, this peace runs like a river through every moment of our lives. Ours is the challenge of seeing it. Feeling it. Being it. It breathes life into faith, hope, and love. It is the product of these three pillars of spiritual strength. This eternal round of peace, faith, hope, love circles around for eternity. The peace has been a balm that I have used to soothe the rough times when the hurt was hard to handle. The peace is what allowed me to open my heart to love again. So now, my spiritual mantra is this: Follow the peace. I have yet to regret a peace-led decision.
It took me a while, but I eventually realized that my sole mission in life is to invite others to feel that peace by being that love that He gives me. It happens through a look, a touch, a word, a deed, even a song. Every human being on Earth is bearing heavy burdens, and I believe God does not leave us comfortless. When we share our love with our fellow man, we spread the peace that flows through love. We can be God’s hands here on Earth. The night Mark died taught me that God’s love heals and cleanses. It is steady, deep, and peaceful like a river. May you ever feel its cleansing and refreshing healing now and throughout your life.