by Grettel Loney
It was a sunny and unseasonably warm December morning in 1997. I was in my five-month-old son’s room and playing on the floor with him. The phone rang. It was my brother in a panicked voice telling me our mom had been in a bad car accident and that I needed to get to the hospital. I wanted more details, but he said he didn’t have any. I remember getting off the phone and feeling so relieved that at least she had survived. My husband worked afternoons, so I went to wake him up. We immediately started to get ready to go see my mom.
The phone rang again. My husband answered. Just seconds later he came into the bathroom where I was putting on mascara. His eyes instantly became bloodshot and full of tears. Right away I knew what he was trying to tell me. I shouted angrily at him, “NO!” He just shook his head and said, “I’m so sorry.” “NO!” I repeated, this time with a pleading in my voice, as if he could change this horrific reality. “No! She can’t be!” this time much softer and now with tears streaming down my face. He held me as I sobbed.
My brother had called me first and then had called my older brother. My older brother had been able to get more information from him. My older brother then called my house, and that’s when my husband had answered the phone.
My mom was driving on Highway 169 in Tulsa going south in the right lane when a driver of a dump truck was switching lanes and clipped the back of her small work car. She was driving a handicapped young man to his work. The impact sent the car across the median into an oncoming 18-wheeler. So many people died on Highway 169 in Tulsa that year–hers and her passenger’s deaths were the last before they put up a concrete median.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15
My Mom had just turned 51 a few days earlier on December 7th. We buried her on December 19th. I remember coming home from her funeral and wanting to take down the Christmas tree and all the decorations. In my mind, Christmas was over. I’d always loved Christmas, but I was a mess of emotions from moment to moment: devastated, angry, confused, shocked, and numb.
I know it’s easy to romanticize people after they’ve passed away, but I can honestly say, and most anyone who knew my mom would agree, my mom was an amazing person. She was joyful, she had a most beautiful smile, she loved to laugh, and she was the life of any party. My mom was also the most generous person I’ve ever known.
My parents were immigrants to this country. We didn’t grow up middle class, yet she taught me by example: it’s much more blessed to give than to receive. When she was able to get back to her home country of Costa Rica, she would return to the U.S. with very few of her belongings. She’d give most everything away knowing eventually she’d be able to replace her things, or not, it didn’t matter to her. So it was quite fitting that when she died, she left us all presents wrapped under her tree.
“God is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
A week before my mom died, I’d had a dream. I don’t have these dreams too often, but sometimes I know for sure a dream is from God. Thankfully I’ve learned to write them down right after I wake up so I won’t forget.
From my journal 12/9/97:
Last night I had a dream. A tornado was coming. I saw it while standing on a balcony. I stopped to close the curtains then I ran to the kitchen and I got on my knees to pray under the table. There was ruckus everywhere. I wondered why I’d bothered to close the curtains, as they were blown off. It didn’t seem like we could all escape harm, but we did. I asked God what it meant when I woke up. He told me when the storm is bad, when the attack is hard, don’t stop to do irrelevant things (close the curtains.) Quickly drop to my knees and pray.
The night before her funeral, I was so exhausted. I had barely slept since her death. I was looking at cards she’d written me through the years and bawling. I remember my heart aching. Then I thought about that dream. I got out my journal and read about it. I quickly put away the cards and got on my knees. That night I learned the power of getting on my knees to pray. I felt God’s love enveloping me. I simply cried and cried, and He held me. I also learned that night that God’s grace is sufficient for us—even in our darkest moments.
January 1st, 1998 I was already thinking ahead to Mother’s Day.
From my journal: Will the pain ever go away? What will it be like this Mother’s Day? Or my birthday? Or Bryant’s birthday? Or hers? I can’t seem to believe the pain will subside. I have an ache in my soul. I’ve never missed anyone like this. Not even close. I hate not knowing how long I have to wait to see her again. I hate that I didn’t say good bye…
Had I known I’d only have her for 26 years… but I didn’t. She was snatched from me and I feel so cheated… It’s so unfair. I needed her…
January 12, 1998
It’s been four weeks since I last talked to her… why does it seem like four years? I miss her voice. I miss her calling me “mamita”…
February 27, 1998
God, what can I say I haven’t already said a million times? You know my pain. You see my tears. I need you. Today I went to her grave site. It was so cold, and I hated that her body lay under my feet in the cold cold ground. Then I reminded myself that it was just her shell. And I looked up to the sky and I knew she was somewhere “out there”—but she seemed way too far away. I hate this, God. I want to be happy. It’s hard to be happy with a hole in your heart.
March 4, 1998
God, please don’t think I don’t accept You are Sovereign. I do. I just cannot understand this. Why her? But just as you told Job, you need no counsel, and we should never question you. Please let me hurt less when I miss her… I feel so alone…
April 16, 1998
I’d do anything for a hug from her, for a phone call. She used to call me all the time. Yesterday I had a mental lapse and I wondered if there was a message from her on the answering machine. Duh…
Mother’s Day rolled around, and I wished so badly I could fast forward time and just skip it. Unfortunately, for many years Mother’s Day became my least favorite day of the year. When social media came around, it was the first time it became so in my face that I didn’t have a mom. It’s not that I resented my friends for having their mothers. I simply felt cheated. Why couldn’t I have my mom?
June 17, 1998
Lord, I know mom wouldn’t want me to be so sad. When will the tears stop? Surely this can’t go on forever… I remember her crying over the death of her mother many years after the fact. I guess sorrow is just a part of this life.
August 10, 1998
I wish this entire year was over. Surely next year will be better. Surely every holiday will be easier. I hope so…
And my journal goes on and on like this.
As most everyone who has lost a loved one can attest, the first year is brutal. There are so many firsts. I’m not sure I believe that “time heals all wounds.” Or, maybe it does, maybe it’s just that my mom being gone isn’t a wound. It’s a fact! I will always miss her. I wish I could say that after 18 years, Mother’s Day is now a piece of cake, but it’s not. Thankfully I can say I’ve learned to reach out to my friends, to let my kids and my husband know when I’m sad and why. I don’t feel so alone when I let others in.
This Mother’s Day, inevitably I will shed some tears. I will also enjoy the blessing of getting to celebrate the day as a mom myself. And if I find my heart aching all over again, I will remember to get on my knees. I’m so thankful for the hope through Jesus Christ that one day I will see my mother again, and there will be no more good byes!
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4
Grettel Loney moved to Tulsa in 1989 to attend Oral Roberts University. She is married and has two children: a son at the University of Tulsa, and a daughter at Carver Middle School. Grettel enjoys Bible study, playing the guitar, traveling, learning languages, and is an avid sports fan. Her other work for the918 includes 9-18 Tips To Help You Deal with Back Pain, Her Journey With Chronic Pain Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Her Journey Through Grace to Gracie, and Tips to Help You with Your Spiritual New Year’s Resolutions.