Grieving with Hope
By Lauren Sweigart
Lauren is the sister to Amanda Ranck,
who's story was post last week.
There are a handful of moments in life that will be forever imprinted in your memory. They are life altering moments—whether the occasion is a time of celebration or tragedy. These moments are so vivid that in an instant you are back in time feeling the exact emotions, seeing every detail in the foreground, and reliving every second as if for the first time. It could be just a few seconds or a long season in life, but one thing is for sure, those moments define you. How you accept or react to these joyous or sad occasions mold you into the person you are today. They are the character that is etched into your personality, the wisdom behind your kind eyes, and the true soul within your heart.
I was 25 years old and married to my high-school sweetheart for two years. We were pregnant with our first child, a boy. I was ironically (which now I believe nothing is ironic but all are in the hands and timing of God) pregnant along with my sister/best friend having our due dates only four days apart. Life was simple. I worked full-time as a RN for a NICU, and my husband worked with his 3 brothers, mom, and dad on their dairy farms. God was good and had certainly blessed us.
While working at the hospital on April 12, 2015, I walked my five month pregnant belly towards lunch and received a text from my husband saying his 19 year old brother, Jed, was in a motorcycle accident and to call. I frantically called to hear for the first time my husband crying and saying to leave work immediately— “The EMTs were doing CPR with no response.” In a flash my husband’s brother, friend, and coworker was gone, entering the Lord’s presence. We were bewildered and devastated. Neal’s family of 6 kids would forever be missing a member. A true friend was lost.
Still grieving, we started figuring out a new way of life. In July, my mom, who struggled with her health most of her life, was told she needed open heart surgery immediately. She was in fairly good health at the time, which would give her the best odds of a good recovery after the surgery. We listened to the doctors, prayed, and felt at peace having her go into surgery at the end of the month even though my sister and I would be 38 weeks pregnant. My mom fought with everything she had for five days after surgery, but ultimately her body was not strong enough to recover. She too entered into the Lord’s presence on August 2, 2015. My family would forever be missing a member, a leader, and one of my best friends and confidantes.
That night at exactly midnight, a new morning, my sister went into labor and had her daughter. After helping take care of her older daughter, I went into labor the day after my sister came home from the hospital. My first born child was born August 5, 2015.—three days after my mom passed away and just shy of four months of my brother-in-law’s passing. To say my world was rocked, shattered into pieces, and spread across the floor is an understatement.
The moment that is ingrained in my brain is coming home from the hospital. My husband brought the bags in and laid them by the laundry room. I gently unbuckled my newborn son, Austin, from his car seat and carried him into our family room. He was such a perfect little miracle and already looked like his daddy. Sitting down in our over-sized armchair, I felt completely exhausted—physically and emotionally. What a whirlwind! My head felt like it was spinning. Adjusting to motherhood for the first time is life-altering to begin with and then grieving the passing of your mom just that week made it all seem impossible.
Then my dear husband came in and said he was leaving for work. It was harvest season on the farms, and he was needed. So there I sat staring at this precious little one and feeling completely and utterly alone. Such loneliness I had never felt before, nor do I hope to ever feel again. It was gut wrenching, making me feel nauseous and the world so unstable. I felt like I was 7 years old again being caught in a larger then expected ocean wave and being tossed and turned under water...not sure which direction I needed to swim to get back up to air.
I just kept thinking, “Neal’s family is forever changed. My family is forever changed. And now Neal and my little family is forever changed by the joining of our son. Lord what is happening?!? Where are you in all of this?!? Why all of this now?!?” And the Lord just kept pressing on my heart, “And if not, He is still good. For He is the Almighty. The Alpha and the Omega. Who is and who was and who is to come. My God stands forever.”(1)
Yes, the world around us is temporary and constantly changing. Everything can change in an instant. But the God that I believe in is unchanging. He stands in the middle of my pain with me because he sent his son Jesus to die on the cross. God knows what suffering is. (2) In John 11, Jesus cried when finding out his dear friend Lazarus had died. But Jesus knew he was to go raise him up from the dead. He purposely took too long to get there so he could perform the miracle. He obviously wasn't weeping over Lazarus. He was crying because death even exists. God intended the Garden of Eden to have no death. He was also weeping right along with Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters in mourning. He was joining in their sorrow. Jesus is right there in your and my grief and will continue to be.
Even though I sat in that chair feeling so alone and distraught, I was eventually filled with hope, peace, and reassurance of the presence of the Lord. I wasn’t alone nor will I ever be. My Savior knows the intricate plans of the world and the details of my life. I don’t understand his reasoning for why all of those events happened within 4 months of my life (and many other trials that have presented in my life since), but I do have reassurance that He is there providing provisions. He is walking along side of us so we are never alone. He is the steady Rock that will hold us up within the craziness of the world. We can grieve, but we can grieve with hope. We can be sad and miss our loved ones, but also have faith that there is a better tomorrow, or at least, a better day to come in heaven. God is good all the time. He has picked up my shattered pieces of my life and has made me whole again. He has made my life more whole and richly filled with loved ones then what it would have been if 2015 never happened. Praise God for sacrificing His son so we can rejoin each other again in Heaven and have an eternal hope that makes this world attainable! (3)
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(1) Daniel 3:18, Revelation 1:8 and Isaiah 40:8
(2) Isaiah 53:3-5(3) John 3:16
Lauren Sweigart lives with her husband, 2 boys and one little girl on-the-way in Lancaster, PA. She works part-time as a registered nurse and helps milk cows on the family’s dairy farm. In her free-time she enjoys running, playing cards, leading ChristFit ministry and renovating their farmhouse.
Lauren is the sister to Amanda Ranck,
who's story was post last week.