First person: The goodness of God amid grief 

"God is present. He is good — even in the waiting, the silence and the tragedy," a daughter reflects following the loss of her father to a 25-year battle with heart disease.
pink and white flowers on gray concrete tomb
Unsplash photo

First person: The goodness of God amid grief 

By Jackie Shumate
Union Springs, Alabama

Just a little over four months ago, I said “goodbye for now” to my daddy. He was just 71 when his 25-year battle with heart disease ended. But the goodness of God and the gifts He provided during my daddy’s last few months are some I will always cherish.

Following the sudden death of my mother in an accident several years ago, my sisters and I, along with a team of medical providers and helpers, became dad’s caregivers. Due to his heart condition, he had several medical devices that would alarm multiple times each day and medications that also required a lot of attention. God granted us a year without hospital stays which was a miracle in his condition.

My sisters and I learned how to help with the required tasks, but it was tiring and overwhelming at times. During drives to and from his home, I prayed for God to heal or take him home, to take away his anxiety and to give him joy again somehow.

Washing feet

Since Dad couldn’t bathe and shower easily, one of my duties was to wash his feet and clip his toenails. Most couldn’t or wouldn’t do this, but each time, I made the comment that my Jesus did it. He never hesitated. He served. Those intimate moments are some of my most cherished memories.

Dad continued to battle daily, and the hospital stays came more frequently. During a therapy session with the team palliative care doctor, my dad opened up about how he was tired of fighting, yet he wanted to live to see his grandkids some more and see my husband’s deacon ordination.

His dying wish would be honored by God. The Holy Spirit was present at that ordination service. That day, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” was sung, and Daddy truly was “safe and secure from all alarms!” He made it through the service and lunch, and it was a joyful day.

Those alarms didn’t stop for good, however, and soon a new medication was added as a last resort. Within a few hours, he was a changed person! He had energy, and the alarms came less frequently.

During his last two months, he had joy and peace with God. I’m not sure if it really was the medicine helping or just God providing some goodness for us, his already grieving children. A man who had battled his faith and control most of my life had what I can only call surrendered to the Almighty One. He had complete peace with God and was ready spiritually.

Renewed energy

His last few phone calls were so fun. He would ask about us, the kids and life in general. He was able to do some yardwork, and he talked about the future. Finally, it was not about death, dying and despair. God gave us two months filled with joy, hope and beauty. His best friend even said how at peace he was and so close to God.

When the end came, we held him while he breathed that last breath. We were there for one another like he was always there for us.

I often ask the question, Why did mom have to go first? We don’t have the answer, but perhaps it was to teach all of us just how much strength and endurance we have. Maybe it was for Dad to get close to God and fully surrender. Maybe it was to remind us that God is merciful. Maybe it was for reasons we will never see or know.

During his time without Mom, Dad would read his Bible daily and picked out verses to help him through the darkest days. One of those passages was 2 Corinthians 12:7–10:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I would hear him quote the passage, and he would text me about it. Those words were read at his funeral.

God’s goodness

It’s easy to say God is good when life is good, but what about when it isn’t? When death hits or trials happen? Or when things aren’t going the way we want them to? Where is the good?

I am quickly reminded that it is always there — we just have to look for it. God works through the silence. He is working to fulfill His glory. He works to the good for those that love Him.

I share my story to remind me that even in the midst of trials, God is present. He is good — even in the waiting, the silence and the tragedy. Death is not the end, and I know that because I know Who holds tomorrow thanks to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.