I remember the phone call like it was yesterday; arrows that pierce the heart have a tendency to embed themselves into one’s memory. I was still smack in the center of my own storm, when a well-intentioned friend called to tell me about the loss of, yet another, young life. She tearfully choked out how this death was horrific, unbearable, and a true tragedy on so many levels. “How must his family be coping under such extreme loss?” she exclaimed. You see, this young man died in the line of duty. He was a hero with a magnanimous future ahead of him.
My heart sunk deeper with each lamenting word about his ‘good life,’ ‘his accomplishments,’ ‘his many accolades’ and, ‘oh how much his mother had lost in his death.’ She must have forgotten that I too was a mom who had suffered loss a few months earlier. It was my oldest son. But his was one of the ‘ignoble deaths.’ Those who have died as a result of drugs, alcohol, suicide or other consequence of unhealthy choices, lives whose inherent worth—especially in death-- are devalued and overshadowed by their struggles and ultimate demise.
These losses are different. They come with public scrutiny and judgment and add strain and guilt to an already traumatic situation. There is no legacy of praise or honor because of the wonderful life the deceased had lived. Instead the passing of this person will be acknowledged by some as an act of failure, a self-inflicted collapse unworthy of any attention aside from the fodder it provides for the gossip mill or pity from those who feel sorry for you.
BUT that is the world’s view--NOT God’s! So in the midst of my own soul conflict, I centered my thoughts on Jesus. He is the only One who looks at all mankind as valuable regardless of who we are, or what credentials, status, or achievements we wear. So much so, that while we were sinning against Him, He sacrificed His own life for us. He is the One who graciously claims ALL who have accepted His free gift of life and views them as royalty, chosen ones -- flaws and all.
My son struggled much of his life, but he also loved God and his missteps often caused a new and fresh revelation on the character, goodness, mercy and unfailing love of God. Gifts so much more valuable than earthly treasures.
I imagine Jesus was waiting at those pearly gates with arms wide open as He saw one of his children coming home. He didn’t evaluate his life –or his death--on the basis of works. He simply saw his redeemed heart and welcomed him home.
And in His eyes, all broken hearts weigh equally, and thankfully He is a restorer of all things broken.
Andrea Maher is the former editor-in chief of PARENT ABC’s, a monthly magazine dedicated to helping parents navigate the everyday concerns of family life. She is the author of the newly released book, SLAMMED: Overcoming Tragedy in the Wave of Grief, A Survival Guide She has been married to her husband, John, for 40 years and are the parents of four sons, and enjoy their six grandchildren in Cape May, New Jersey where they reside. You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.