My son brought home a list of words from school to write out personal definitions. Towards the end of the list was the word grief. He asked me if he’d ever felt grief. I reminded him of when his Aunt Lu had passed away. We sat quietly for a moment. Then came the question I’d been expecting for quite some time, but was grateful I hadn’t had to answer till now. “Mom, how did Aunt Lu die?” My eyes watered, and I told him that she had taken her own life. He looked sad and shocked at the same time. He asked me how. I explained in not too many details. We talked about depression and sadness, and then we talked about how much we loved Aunt Lu.

It’s been four-and-a-half years since my sister-in-law died. It doesn’t seem possible that she’s been gone that long, and yet, it’s seems like a lifetime ago. The day it happened, each minute seemed as an hour. I felt like I was walking in water: slow motion, with voices reverberating around me. In the moment the phone call came, I had jumped into action choosing to be strong for those around me. I lead worship that morning, and we had just finished our late Sunday lunch. I didn’t even put my shoes on; I just grabbed my keys and left.

Lu was one of my closest friends. She and I had known each other since high school. We were the same age. We’d grown up together, double dated, gone through pregnancy at the same time and loved music. It wasn’t a flawless friendship. We’d had our disagreements, but we’d worked through them and our friendship had grown stronger. Lu was beautiful. No, she was naturally stunning. At times, it was hard standing next to her, because others only seemed to see her. When I first heard that she had taken her life, I envisioned her as sleeping beauty, peacefully drifting off to heaven. But, when the police told me the minimal details, I nearly fainted. In that moment, I heard a strange cry between gasps for air. Not until my husband shook me, did I realize the noises came from me. I’ve tried all my life to be in control of my demeanor but, there was no control at that moment. That was pure grief.

In the days that followed, I hosted many people in my home. My sister and I asked to do Lu’s hair and makeup. It was a beautiful, therapeutic, and somewhat spiritual act between sisters. It was something I never knew I had the strength to do. But when the time came, I needed to do it for Lu.

Every so often, like today, I get to thinking back to that time: the details, the days that preceded, and the days that followed. As I remember, I can see how God carried us through that time and how he has continued to walk with us, moving forward. This experience was life changing. I learned to not care so much about what people thought of appearances.

I also learned:

  1. A house that is a home is much more important than dusted surfaces or vacumed floors.
  2. Dreams are to be worked for, not just envisioned.
  3. It’s important and necessary to tell the dear ones around me “I love you.”
  4. I need to value who God created me to be, rejecting the thoughts of what I assumed others wanted me to be.
  5. I have to learn to be comfortable in my own skin and to love myself.
  6. With God, I can do the hard stuff: even the emotionally hard stuff.