Focus Scripture – Luke 7:11-17
Carrie Mae came bearing gifts. She placed the pound cake on the counter in the kitchen, which was abuzz with activity. The bereavement ministry was busy heating up fried chicken and greens and macaroni and cheese they had prepared and brought over for CJ’s family and friends. Three or four of the deacons from Calvary stopped by to console Louise Johnson.
Quite a few of CJ’s friends had also come to pay their respects. Quite a few of them were on Jefferson’s basketball team. Carrie Mae didn’t recognize some of the young men and women. They stood together in the corner of the living room and remained quiet, as the young men held their skullcaps in their hands and bowed their heads in reverence. They declined the offer of food. After about a half hour, they left as a group, each of them passing by CJ’s mother and offering condolences.
Louise Johnson seemed to appreciate that her son’s friends had stopped by to visit. It showed that they still cared about life, in her opinion. Over the years, Louise Johnson had learned a lot about life and death.
The living room was empty now, except for Carrie Mae and Louise who sat beside each other on the sofa.
“I am so sorry for your loss,” Carrie Mae said.
“Calvin was trying to do something positive with his life. He wasn’t like all the rest of those thugs out there. He was in activities at school. He was involved in student council. He was making good grades. I just can’t understand why this would happen to him.”
“The police say there’s been a gang feud in this area. A turf fight. CJ just got caught in the crossfire. It was a case of mistaken identity,” Carrie Mae said.
“I know what they said. The police always have some reason or other. CJ was my only living child. You may or may not know I had four children. Now I have none. My daughter was shot and killed when she was 15. She was on her way to the library. CJ’s brothers were gunshot victims, too. Chris died when he was 18 years old. He was arguing with another boy over some gym shoes, and the boy pulled out a gun and shot him. Then there was CJ’s brother Tommy. Somebody killed Tommy when he was 17. He was standing at a pay phone when a van pulled up, and someone opened fire. It was a mistaken identity, too.”
Carrie Mae sat closer to Louise.
“This is crazy,” Louise said. “These kids haven’t even had a chance to develop an identity of any kind – let alone, mistaken identity! What does that even mean?”
“It’s all so senseless,” Carrie Mae whispered. “You hate to see the gangs killing each other and wounding innocent people in the crossfire.”
“CJ wasn’t doing anything to anybody. I never thought I’d be burying all my children before I died. That goes against the natural order of things.”
Carrie Mae had no words to say. How could she console this grieving mother?
“You can’t even imagine what it’s like to lose a child – let alone all your kids.”
Carrie Mae was tempted to tell Louise not to cry because God’s plan was beyond our understanding. She came very close to telling Louise that weeping endures for only a night, but joy comes in the morning. Perhaps, now was not the right time to say to Louise that Jesus’ love has conquered death. In her present state of mind, Louise was not ready to hear any of it.
Deep in her spirit, however, Carrie Mae knew that she should say nothing. So the two women sat silently for a long time.
“You never get over it, you know,” Louise whispered after several minutes. The death of a child. No matter what else happens, you’ll love that child forever. I still love every one of my four children, as if they were still here with me. Love never dies. And because of that, the grief never dies. The emptiness never goes away. It’s especially painful during holidays and special occasions that your kids should be celebrating birthdays. Or graduations. Or Christmas.”
“I can only imagine,” said Carrie Mae.
“My support group helps a lot. All of us in the group have lost children. All of us share that same profound sense of loss and emptiness. We’re each other’s angels, I guess. We encourage each other to take the next step. You know what I mean?”
Carrie Mae began to weep silently, involuntarily.
But Louise’s eyes were perfectly dry.