Living with Loss

Steve was a cheerful little boy with big brown eyes, curly blond hair, and a dimple that appeared on his right cheek every time he smiled. He had dreamy eyes, and often sat by the window to gaze at the rain, the clouds, or the birds.

“He has been kissed by an angel,” the Japanese midwife had told me with a smile when she first placed the small warm bundle in my arms, pointing out a snow-white streak of hair at the back of his head. “He has a special calling in life.” Over the years, her words often came back to me and I wondered what they meant.

Fifteen years later, Steve, then a handsome teenager with an athletic physique, suddenly became very ill. I was sure it was a bout of malaria, as we had travelled to the coast regularly during our missionary work in East Africa. The grave look on the doctor’s face said otherwise, even before he relayed the findings of the tests he had ordered. “Acute lymphoblastic leukemia.” My mind was suddenly flooded with questions. What did that mean? Could it be healed? How would this affect his future?

Because of the seriousness of Steve’s condition, we were in a race against time. Within a few hours, Steve was flown from Kenya to Europe where better treatments were available. He was hospitalized and put on chemotherapy.

The next two years were long and agonizing. Hopeful moments were followed by setbacks as one chemotherapy session was followed by the next.

Then came the day when it became clear that our dear Steve was not going to recover. His doctors pronounced the treatments unsuccessful and gave him six weeks to live. It was Steve’s wish to return to Mombasa, Kenya, where he had grown up. It was there, surrounded by his friends and family, that he got to fulfill some of his final wishes, like a day of sailing in the bay before watching the hot tropical sun spread bright hues over the Indian Ocean at sunset.

When Steve’s last breath passed his lips early one morning in a small hospital room overlooking the ocean, the world stood still for me. A large yellow butterfly fluttered through the open window, and I felt God reassuring me that He had taken Steve gently to His unseen realm. Still, the impact of losing my son left me in shambles long after everyone else’s mourning had passed.

“Let go and move on” was the well-meaning advice I seemed to get from every side. But where was I to move on to? And how? Deep inside, I felt bitter and angry with God for snatching my vibrant young son from me. I felt cheated and empty. My heart remained heavy as the months dragged by and I pondered my loss again and again.

Eventually I decided to meet God on my porch early each morning to tell Him of my woes. Days stretched to weeks as I poured on Him all my grief, remorse, and anger over what had happened. “If love is the essence of Your nature, as the Bible says, how could You deal so harshly with me and my son?” I asked over and over.

What a patient and longsuffering listener I found.

I cried and pleaded and reasoned, until finally one morning I felt I had said all that I wanted and poured out all my emotions. It was then, when I was willing to make peace with God, that tranquility filled my soul. In a still, soothing voice, God began to speak to my heart. From that point on, my solitary morning porch meetings with God took another direction. I learned to listen to Him and to allow Him to comfort me and heal my pain.