Six weeks ago, my grandma Charlotte passed away. We knew there was a good chance we wouldn’t see her again after we moved, so it wasn’t completely shocking. I still remember the really surreal feeling of walking out the door the last time we went to see her, wondering if that would be the last time on this side of glory that I got to kiss her on the cheek and tell her I loved her. Turns out it was.
She was the best. My mom always tells me I’m going to be just like her when I get old. Which is I think a nice way of saying I’ll still be abrasively competitive and unapologetically opinionated, but I’ll take it. Grandma Charlotte was a feisty little Italian lady — and she was a magician of a chef. I proudly carry the honor of being the only one of the six grandchildren who got “the gene” in the kitchen.
On July 19, my dad called to tell me he thought she was probably on her last day. About two hours later, I got a message that she had officially gone to Heaven, and that my dad was going to fly me home two days later so I could be there for her funeral.
Even when it’s expected and you’ve been able to prepare, it hurts to lose someone you love. There is something so “other” about experiencing death — we don’t have a grid for it because we weren’t made for it. God never intended for us to taste death. It’s a result of the fall of man.
What He did do though, was redeem it.
On July 20, I was packing my bags for Houston when I got a message from my little sister. She was pregnant with a baby girl, to be named after the grandma we had just lost. She wasn’t due for three more weeks, but she texted to tell me her water had broken and she was on her way to the hospital. There was going to be a baby by the time I got there the next afternoon.
Just thinking about the kindness of God in that moment right now, tears stream down my cheeks. I had spent nine months grieving the fact that I knew I’d miss the birth of my first niece. I had spent 24 hours grieving the loss of my grandma, reliving that last day I got to see her over and over in my head. And right there in the middle of my grief, God was bringing new life.
Because that’s what He does. In the economy of the kingdom, death is always followed by resurrection. He always brings new life. Beauty for ashes. Joy for mourning.
I will never forget how sweet it was to hold baby Charlotte on July 21, and at the same time grieving Grandma Charlotte with my family, who would have been 81 the next day. I learned over those few days that this dichotomy of emotions is one that I had become familiar with in this season of my life.
A few weeks later was Judah’s due date. I found myself reliving the grief of that Friday morning in May all over again, wishing he was here, still not understanding why God allows these things to happen sometimes.
And all the while, we are living inside of an unprecedented move of God in Salt Lake City, Utah right now. I’m looking around at the way God is growing His Church and our ministry here, and I feel like I haven’t done anything to make that happen. I’m just a mess, and He’s just moving.
I still feel the sting of death and the ache of loss every single day. And in the same breath, I feel the most alive in ministry I have ever felt. Familiar with suffering and at the same time unable to escape the goodness and favor of God.
This is the gospel. More alive in my own story than I’ve ever known. Deepest grief and highest praise seem to be the simultaneous cries of my heart in this season.
And something feels right about that.