James Prescott is one of those rare souls on the internet who always seems to be encouraging others and cheering people on. He has some great things to say about art and creativity, and his writing comes from a deep place, as today’s beautiful post shows. Over to James:
It happened April 29, 2000. At 8.30am.
I was awoken by the sound of my brick-like mobile phone. It was my dad. I was still half asleep, eyes not really open, when he began to speak, in a tone unlike his normal one.
It was soft. Melancholy. Serious. Simple.
Four simple words.
“Your Mum’s passed away.”
No one who hasn’t experienced grief of this nature can understand the feeling of hearing those words.
I was numb. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t even know what to think.
So I just got doing. Went to see the body in the hospital.
When I saw the body in the hospital, I recognised my mum. It had all her little unique features. Right down to the messy hair, and the writing on the hand.
But it wasn’t my Mum. She had gone.
It was a shell. The mother I loved, who had loved me from the moment I was born, was not here anymore. She had gone somewhere else.
My immediate emotion, believe it or not, was anger. I was angry my mum had abandoned me. Gone and died and not asked my permission. Left me in the lurch. And angry at God for sitting by, able to do something about it, but doing nothing.
It didn’t help when people said kind things, or that they understood…or told me Mum was in heaven.
Frankly, I didn’t want her in heaven. I wanted her back. And they didn’t understand at all.
The anger at my Mum passed quickly. But not my anger with God. However, I quickly chose to numb my emotions. My job was to be strong for everyone else.
Except this didn’t work. What was actually doing burying my pain. Refusing to feel anything, because if I did, it would destroy me.
But ten days later this changed. We were preparing mum’s funeral music. And we played a song – ‘Diamonds on the soles of her shoes” by Paul Simon – which we all knew perfectly encapsulated my Mum.
And that was it. I began crying. And I kept on crying.
I apologised to my sister as I collapsed into her arms, and she admonished me – she said it was OK to feel this way, that crying was actually a good thing. She didn’t need me to be strong. I needed to cry.
This was the beginning of a long process of healing. It took counselling and prayer, but eventually I came to terms with the loss of my mum.
But something had changed forever. My level of consciousness shifted.
Suddenly, my faith, which up until this moment had been built on certainty and rules, was up for questioning. I had doubts. I had questions for God. Part of my faith didn’t make sense anymore.
I now saw beyond the boundaries of the Christian bubble. I had sampled grim reality. The truth that unlike many parts of the Christian church still like to think, God doesn’t solve every problem. The sick person doesn’t always get healed. The dead person doesn’t always rise from the grave.
There had to be more to God than I’d experienced. There was something bigger, deeper, more mysterious going on which I didn’t understand.
I couldn’t go back.
For four years, I couldn’t articulate this. But then I picked up the book ‘Velvet Elvis’ at a conference. I read it inside two hours, cover to cover. And inside I found a new way of understanding my relationship with the divine. Allowing for doubt, mystery, questioning, and seeing old truths and stories in new ways.
Next spring I found a new church, where doubts and questions were welcomed and talked about openly. Where there was room for mystery and unknowing. Where I could finally ask those questions I’d had.
I began to find a deeper, more mysterious, bigger, intimate relationship with God. Expanding far wider than I would ever have known otherwise. And it’s still expanding today.
But my anger at God still remained. He’d still not told me why He let this happen.
It was still unresolved.
Then in 2014, two of my good friends lost a parent. In fact, both lost their mothers.
One sent Facebook messages telling me how frustrating it could be to get well messages saying “I understand” from friends, which as I knew, actually just made things worse.
And another friend, who I sent a text to, saying I was sorry, and that if they needed to talk, or anything else, I was here.
I didn’t give them answers. But I was able to be a listening ear. To stand in solidarity.
And as I reflected on these two experiences, something happened in me. I felt a warmth in my heart. My whole body was slowly overwhelmed by the peace and presence of God. And for the first time in a long time, I heard His gentle voice, saying simply:
Even recounting this story now brings tears to my eyes. It did then, and does now. I felt humbled, privileged to be able to be a part of someone else’s healing.
And I felt something in me was healed too.
I still have my why moments about my Mum’s death. The pain is still there. Sometimes it still makes no sense. It’s still unresolved in some ways.
But now I can take comfort, from remembering the healing my experience brought to others. How my suffering became a source of life to people I love.
I remember how the experience has led me to a deeper, bigger, more intimate and mysterious relationship with the divine, which I would never have known otherwise.
And I feel a sense of joy. From knowing Mum’s death was not in vain.
James Prescott is a writer, author & coach from Sutton, near London. He is the author of ‘Dance Of the Writer: A Beginners Guide To Authentic Writing’, available free on his blog. He shares about identity, calling, & spirituality on his blog JamesPrescott.co.uk & his upcoming podcast ‘James Talks’. James loves movies, writing, and is a big advocate of lip sync battles. You can find him on Twitter & Instagram at @JamesPrescott77 & on Facebook at James Prescott – Writer.
[tweetit]”I didn’t want her in heaven. I wanted her back.” – @JamesPrescott77 A Grief Unresolved:[/tweetit]
[tweetit]”God doesn’t solve every problem. The sick person doesn’t always get healed.” – @JamesPrescott77 A Grief Unresolved:[/tweetit]
[tweetit]”I began to find a deeper, more mysterious, bigger, intimate relationship with God.” – @JamesPrescott77 for @tanya_Marlow: [/tweetit]
[tweetit]”My suffering became a source of life to people I love.” – @JamesPrescott77 A Grief Unresolved:[/tweetit]
Over to you:
Like James’ experience, Paul writes this in the New Testament:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Cor 1:3-4
- When have you been able to relate to this?
This is so beautiful James. Just wow when you get to the “that’s why” part. I’m sure your story will minister to many more. I especially love when you share what not to say to someone who is grieving, as it helps people realize they can’t fix it. I read a book on grief, and that was one of the most valuable take-a-ways, was to learn what not to say. Thanks for being so transparent, and obedient to the Lord to share your story.
Thanks Doris for your kind & encouraging words – so glad the post spoke to you, it’s so encouraging to see your own story being helpful to others. Thanks.
Reading your story brought tears to my eyes, James. Thank you for sharing it!
Wow, thanks so much for this kind comment Rebecka…appreciate it so much. So glad the post was helpful. Grateful.
James I had a similar experience at 15 years old, my beloved aunt who had brought me up until age 15 suddenly and unexpectedly died. Like you I didn’t cry but went to the mortuary as you described….. She just wasn’t there. I never forgot that experience. That was 48 years ago…… But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really began to cry….. I long to see her again. Recently I wrote a tribute to her on my blog …. The sadness remains though……. Now my father is old and frail I’ve been crying for him for months …. But he hasn’t died yet….. Life is a mystery
Angie, thanks for bravely sharing this part of your story. I agree completely, life is a mystery. Thanks again.
James thank you for sharing your story. Great post and so comforting to be reminded of how God uses our stories for good for ourselves and for others!
Thanks Julie-Anne for your kind comment – so so pleased this post was helpful, always love your encouragement!! 🙂
Really appreciated this post. It was transparent without apologies. I believe grief is misunderstood by many. Those who have not gone through the grief of a loved one, how can they know what it’s like. And those who have gone through grief make the mistake of thinking they understand how the person feels. We are all individuals, unique. And no two people go through grief alike. Even two in the same family. When I am in great loss poetry comes. And recently I have compiled those poems to share with those with heavy hearts. The one good thing about grief is that God draws those with broken hearts. Because he understands like no one else could. He really does. He made those hearts that are now broken. Great post.
Thanks for this kind comment Anne – really appreciate it. So glad the post was helpful. I completely agree that even when you have been through it, you need to be careful to not assume others will react the same.
My basic principle when people I know suffer loss is to simply say I’m sorry for your loss, I love you, I’m praying for you & your family, and whatever you need, I’m here if you need me, don’t be afraid to ask, it’s not a problem.
And leave it there.
That way, they know I know it’s painful for them, they know they are loved, they know I am behind them, and they know I’m around if they need me for anything. If they want advice, or a hug, or anything practical, they know they can ask. No platitudes or trying to make it OK, no trying to fix things, just love, prayers, and solidarity.
Thanks for reading and your comment Anne. So grateful.