“I think we need to make some turtles.”
We hadn’t seen Anne for several years. She had completed her education, married, and moved to another town. She enjoyed a successful teaching career and was expecting her first child. Although as beautiful and outgoing as always, grief overwhelmed her.
Standing with her mother and sister, she accepted condolences from friends and family during visitation at a local funeral home. Her father had suffered a sudden, massive heart attack. He died moments later. The physical and emotional strain left her drained. Yet, when my husband and I drew near, she smiled through her tears. While we hugged and held to one another, she whispered her desire to make turtles.
We created those wonderful gooey, caramel-filled, chocolate-covered candies when she and her sister were elementary school age. My turtle molds had been relegated to a shelf of seldom- or never-used items soon after. However, with those few words, floods of memories returned.
Anne and Val’s father and my husband worked together, and our friendship grew through shared family recreation. We invited the girls to stay with us several times, and one of our favorite activities was working in the kitchen, especially making turtles. Although probably the least nutritious of our creations, what fun to pop them from their molds and hear the girls exclaim, “We made them all by ourselves!” Vitally important decisions followed: “Whose turtle do you think looks best?” “Should we eat the head or body first?”
In the process we made messes, giggled, talked, and endured endless teasing from my husband. While busy putting her turtles together, Anne remained at his mercy. Nevertheless, she shot back verbal retorts and became a master at creative faces.
I can’t recall spending a great deal of time discussing deep theological issues. We said our usual prayer of thanks before eating. We read the Bible and prayed together at night. We discussed school and other activities But most of the time we simply enjoyed one another’s company.
Little did we realize how God would use those fun-filled days to help us through one of the hardest times of our lives.
Through our grief, we gained several insights.
- Recognize the uniqueness of every situation. We don’t have a mold that fits all. Therefore, respect each person and family for where they are and what they need.
- Presence trumps platitudes. Sometimes we need no words. Instead we quietly share the moment or offer a clasped hand or hug.
- Remember special times together. Making turtles helped our situation. Remembering, laughing, and holding did not remove the grief. They did make our grief more manageable. Romans 12:15 (HCSB) tells us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”
- Admit limitations. Sometimes we must simply say, “I don’t know why this is happening, but I want you to know that I will be here for you through it all.”
- Hold fast to faith. Pray. Embrace God’s comfort and presence. Experience and share God’s agape love.
- Look for the good that can come from every difficulty. As Paul said in Romans 8:28 (HCSB), “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”
Ann’s family and ours loved and supported one another. In a far greater way, God loves and supports each of us.
God desires time with us. We don’t have to use lofty theological language or pray only when our hearts fill with sorrow. God offers to share our daily joys and provide for our ongoing growth. Then when life’s inevitable difficulties arise, that relationship, strong and vital, provides an unlimited source of comfort.