An Empty Place

By John Ballinger

August 17, 2015

This week is a special week in my life. On August 18, 1979, I married my best friend and this year we celebrate 36 years of marriage. This feat alone makes her an amazing woman (How has she put up with me for that long?), but that is a subject for another blog. Our anniversary has always been a special time, not just because we are celebrating, but because the day after our anniversary, my in-laws celebrated their wedding anniversary. We have always enjoyed celebrating the two special days together.


This year, however, is different. Last October, we lost my mother-in-law suddenly. It hurts. I don’t have to tell any of you that to lose someone who is close to you suddenly without having a chance to say goodbye hurts. My father-in-law is doing the best he can and over time we all come up with our own coping mechanisms. We survive when someone we love passes away, but there will always be that hole in our lives that can never be filled by anyone other than that specific person.


When we lose someone close to us, one of the first things we want to do is to cry out to God and to get angry with Him. It is the greatest thing in the world when we are in love and surrounded by those who love us but when we lose someone we love, it hurts.


Why go through all of the pain when that person leaves our lives? At times like these we ask, why is there death? Why is someone taken before what we consider their time? But before we get too mad at God for death, we need to ask another question: Why life? Why did God ever give the human race life?


Why did God decide to populate this world with such fragile beings? The answer: We were created to have a perfect relationship with God. Our time here on this big ball of dust is for us to make the most of what God created us to be. Part of that is accomplishing goals, part of that is learning to help others, and part of that is learning about love and loss and leaning on the One who will never stop loving us.


In the words of one of this country’s greatest doctors, Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.” It is hard to lose someone and the first year is the worst as we go through birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries for the first time without that person. Still, we need to focus on the positives. We need to focus on the life of that person versus the missing. Because of their life, we are who we are. Their love helped to shape us into the people we are today.


I miss Mom a lot. She was one of the most encouraging people I ever knew. She saw past the bad and always tried to find the good in a situation. She was the family peacemaker and her extravagant love will be missed by all who knew her. She lived her life with joy. When we would go out to dinner with her, it was just assumed we would end our meal with something sweet. She had a sweet tooth she wasn’t hesitant about indulging. As a matter of fact, this woman was York Peppermint Patties best friend. I cannot tell you the number of times she’d open her purse, pull out a plastic bag of mints, and pass them around. We were always surprised at how the mints survived being carried around in her purse, but we finally came to the conclusion: No one patty was in there long enough to get smashed. She felt there was no situation that couldn’t be made better by those mints, but it was in the giving that those mints made a difference to someone. Mom could very easily have hoarded those mints and kept them for herself—but she didn’t. I can’t tell you the times I’ve seen her offer everyone at the table—including our waitress—a mint. Life was meant to be shared.


Isn’t life like a meal with the best part served at the end? The best part of our lives is yet to come for us as we leave this world and go to spend eternity with Jesus. That is the promise for all who put their trust in the Lord and the only way we know our eternity.


Death of any kind is hard. The hurt will remain for a long time, so I try to heed the words of Dr. Seuss and remember the gift we had of Mom in our lives. I don’t know how much you hurt today or what you hurt about. Perhaps you have recently lost someone and the hurt is deep. Maybe you are in the midst of strife and you need peace. Maybe you have a relationship that is failing but whatever it is, take heart. The best is yet to come. And you’ve got God’s promise on that.


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