Aurelia (Ree) Cathey is a member of Keysville United Methodist Church, a church I served as pastor years ago. Ree writes a monthly devotional column for the church newsletter. Her son, Mark who was the same age as my daughter was a member of our youth group, helped with many of our worship services and acted in several of our Christmas musicals. Later Mark went on to college then medical school, got married and recently became a doctor.
Several weeks ago, Mark died suddenly. In the midst of her grief, Ree somehow found the courage to continue writing her monthly devotion for the church newsletter. Moved, by her honest sharing of grief, I asked her permission to share her devotion.
She immediately wrote back: “It’s been hard to communicate with everyone, and I hope that this column will do that for me. I wanted it to be a statement of faith – and to share what is helping us through every day. My goal is always to encourage others – so please use this however you would like. I feel your prayers constantly, and I thank you more than I can say.” – Ree
What follows is her response to a tragedy that claimed her family and her church.
On the first of December, on the evening of an ordinary day, the lives of our family changed forever when we learned that we had lost our precious son. In the days and weeks that followed, we found ourselves surrounded by the comfort that only love can bring – the love of family and friends and God.
Almost immediately, prayers were sent up on our behalf – prayers for our strength to walk through this great sadness and find peace.
We still feel ourselves carried above and beyond our own strength, and we hope that the prayers will never stop. Beginning that next day, friends came to our house, bringing wonderful gifts of homemade food; each one made with love and care and prayer. We’ll never be able to repay those kindnesses, except by doing the same for someone else. The cards, the calls, the hugs, the “I love you’s” all helped to heal our hurting spirits. And the love of God was always there – praying for us, holding us up, and giving us hope that with Him we could face each new day.
There are two other sources of comfort that have helped most of all. The first is knowing that without a doubt, Mark is with God. I always teased him that he needed two angels to watch over him instead of just one. I have an image in my mind of two strong angels standing on either side of him, waiting until it was time for him to go to heaven. I see them taking his hands and saying, “Let’s go!” as they led him up. Mark knew God and loved God, and I know he is safe with Him.
The other great comfort is knowing that every day of his life, Mark knew how much we loved him. We told him that we did at the end of every phone call and every time we were with him. He was a gift from God to us, and we treasured him; and he knew that.
We go through the ordinary days of our lives doing ordinary – but terribly important – things: living out our faith, teaching our children about God, and letting our family and friends know how much we love them. I often fall short, but every day I try to live out these four simple phrases from Jan Karon: “Draw close. Hold hands. Life is short. God is good.” Amen.
“Draw close. Hold hands. Life is short. God is good.”