It was the last time I would ever be in my mother’s house. I’d been dreading this moment since she’d died 18 months before. Neither of us was prepared for her to go so quickly. Diagnosed with cancer in the middle of summer, she’d died six days before Christmas.
Her little house in Willimantic, Conn., was just as she’d left it when she’d walked out the door for an appointment, expecting to come right back. Instead, she’d ended up in the hospital, and after that, a rehabilitation center. She never came home.
Everything was just as she’d left it. Her breakfast dishes drying in the rack beside the sink. Her Bible and study notes beside her chair in the living room. Her desk strewn with projects she never got to finish. The pain was suffocating.
Over the last year, I sorted and packed and decided what to do with the things she’d left while questioning why God would allow her to suffer so and to lose what was most precious to her—sharing the gospel with others—at the height of her work. Who could trust a God like that?
The house itself had been something of a gift. Mom had sold her own house two decades before to pursue her work, presuming that she’d never be able to buy a house again. Dilapidated and abandoned to the mice and birds and bats, she’d bought it with her small savings and was grateful as other Christians came alongside her to fix it into a cozy cottage just right for visiting grandchildren.
If only her house could go to others in full-time ministry. In January, we got a phone call that a couple serving the church in Ethiopia wanted to buy the house. They’d sold their own house 35 years ago to work overseas, expecting, like my mom, that they could never afford to buy another home of their own. They’d seen my mom’s house at Christmas while visiting their son’s family in the town next door.
And so at the end of June, I drove to Connecticut to spend one final week packing and to enjoy my mother’s house with my youngest children. I was nervous about meeting the new buyers, wanting only to imagine my mother in the place she’d so beautifully restored. But when they pulled up in their car and introduced themselves, the kindness and humility and love on their faces wiped away my fears.
As I shared about my mom, and they shared about their own lives and ministry, it was like meeting family. And, I knew that God still guides and works even when we don’t understand his ways. “Can you trust a God like this?” I felt the Lord ask, as they drove away.
And I knew that I could.
The weeks since I returned home have brought devastating sorrow to those whose lives have been shattered by loss and death, fueled not by cancer but by hate. While we seek to bring comfort and justice to those who are hurting, let us also pray that they may see God’s hand at work.
Indeed, let us participate in that work, which brings healing to others. May our kindness and humility and love wipe away their tears and their fears.
“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too,” II Cor. 1:5.