I first met Kim Hickey 30 years ago, when she was in high school. There’s a steadiness about her, a quiet strength, an easy smile. Few people know the hardships she’s endured, but I do. So when she found love again after raising her three daughters alone, I was ecstatic. No one deserves love and joy more than Kim! And then, just as Kim and Mark were planning a life together, he contracted Covid-19. In seven grueling weeks, he went from diagnosis to final goodbye, with Kim at his side. How does one even begin to cope with such a cruel and tragic loss, I wondered? And then Kim posted on Facebook her reflections on finding perspective in the midst of agonizing grief. She graciously agreed to let me share her thoughts with you. I hope her insights bless you as much as they did me.
This week I said goodbye to my love and the hope we had of spending the rest of our lives together. It was an agony. I feel overwhelmed by sadness and disappointment.
During his illness, Mark impressed me by the strength he showed as he faced one challenge after another. His determination and good character shone brightly through it all.
Mark was a kind, thoughtful, compassionate man. He made me feel cherished, cared for, and emotionally safe. I didn’t realize how healing this would be for my heart. His love has changed me and I am immensely grateful for that.
We had a good relationship, enjoying each other’s company and long, engaging conversations. We just seemed right for each other and at peace together. This makes our time together feel all too short. We hoped to spend many years, decades together. But this was not meant to be and it feels like a terrible loss.
In my deep disappointment I’ve called out to God for help, for strength, for comfort, for answers. I know that he is the source of all good things and everything that I need. I also remember that the ways of God, the plans of God, and the wisdom of God are all beyond the grasp of my human mind and heart. So in humility I ask for a way forward, taking one step at a time through this grief, asking God for strength and courage, asking him for hope.
From within this storm of emotions my heart wants to ask God “Why?” Why bring Mark into my life when he would leave so quickly? Why allow me to hope for a wonderful future together just to have that dream shattered? Why has my joy been overshadowed by such pain?
Throughout my life God has taught me to recognize the incredible importance of perspective. The perspective through which we view our life, our past, our future, and the world around us has tremendous power. It shapes our expectations. It influences our relationships. It fuels our emotions.
With perspective, I can see that I have a choice. When I pray about the “whys” of life, I realize that I’m comparing my circumstances to an ideal of my own choosing; something that I think God has given to someone else or that I hope to have. I might feel it’s not fair. But is anything in life ever fair? Fairness is not reality. We all walk a different path through life with our own unique joys and challenges.
Then I recognize that, in asking “Why?,” I could have looked the other direction. I could have considered the lives of so many others who’ve endured much greater difficulties. Compared to millions of people around the world, I’ve lived an amazing life. Why has God blessed me so? Ultimately, I have a choice between clenched fists held high in the “Why?” of discontented entitlement or open palms bowed low in the “Why?” of unmerited favor. But it seems we are given very few answers to either “why” this side of heaven because his wisdom and his ways are so beyond our grasp.
In God’s mercy, he has helped me to see this time of my life from a different perspective. If this was meant to be Mark’s last year this side of heaven, then how could I be anything but grateful for the opportunity to be part of his life during this time? Getting to know Mark has been a tremendous blessing. Being loved by him, even more so.
If I had been given a choice between experiencing all this joy and pain or living a simpler, quieter, calmer life without ever knowing Mark, I would choose this emotional roller coaster ride again. No doubt. In a heartbeat. Yes, saying goodbye now is agonizingly difficult, but never knowing him would have been so much more tragic. So I chose to be humbly grateful to a good, wise, and loving God who has blessed me with this precious gift of time with Mark, and every joyous and painful experience that has come along this journey.
accepting in faith
I see, now more than ever, that life is a gift. I did nothing to create my own life and, ultimately, I am powerless to sustain it apart from the mercies of God. I accept that I’m not entitled to any certain length or quality of life. God does not owe me anything. But He has promised to love me and I can trust him.
So I surrender my expectations and I place my hope in God’s unchanging character. I lean into trust in God, who knows my limitations and loves me still, who understands my pain and bears my suffering, who calls me into a deeper relationship and gives me everything I need to take each step of this journey with him. Soberingly I am faced with the question, “What will I choose to do with the gift of today?” I pray that my heart and my will are guided by the Spirit of God so that my life will bring glory to him.