Yesterday we celebrated my mom’s life.
It was not a funeral, but a tribute to a woman that has changed thousands of lives. This isn’t me boasting about my mom, this is just me testifying to what I saw yesterday. Around 800 people showed up to gather around us, to witness, to learn more, and to wonder about this incredible woman that I got to call “mom.” Have you ever been to a funeral where 800 people showed up? I’m shocked.
I’m not shocked to learn that she was great. I already knew that. I’m not really shocked that that many people showed up. We had suspected that much.
I was more shocked to be seeing what I was seeing. To be doing what I was doing.
I led worship, because it is what she wanted, and so from the stage, with words coming from my lips, I looked around the room, trying to connect with as many faces as I could. And I saw the same shock that I felt inside, mirrored in every face. Shock. Absolutely shock. That we were all there honoring Dawn Burroughs. Because none of us could really believe that she was gone.
As we sang about being sweetly broken and wholly surrendered, arms all throughout the room lifted. Voices joining with mine. It was one of those beautiful, yet awful moments. When you feel completely honored to be apart of something that you NEVER wanted to happen.
Like leading 800 people in worship before the King who chose to heal mom in heaven, and not on earth.
We worshiped because what else could we do???
What do you do when someone beautiful is torn from your world suddenly? Someone beloved? When one of the “good” ones is told that she has cancer and there is NOTHING that can be done? What do you do? Do you get angry at God and turn your back on Him? I guess we could have done that.
I guess no one would blame me if I cursed HIM. Or if I hated HIM. Or if I never, ever, turned my face to HIS again.
My four year old daughter misses her grandma. She asks me if I miss her too. She asks me why grandma is in heaven. She cries because she will not see grandma for a really long time. Today I tried to explain to her why Jesus didn’t just heal her here on earth and leave her with us. I HATE that I have to have these conversations with her. I don’t have answers. I just have my memories.
I remember when my mom held my sisters in her arms. Two modern miracles. Two medical mysteries.
I remember when my father, crippled with a broken back, was healed. Able to jump and dance. Another modern miracle. Another mystery.
I remember when my heart was absolutely broken by a boy that I thought loved me… and months later when Nick Ristow came into my life. When suddenly nothing and no one else mattered like he did. And does. When a love that I had never felt before completely flooded my heart. And is still flooding.
I remember when when Izzy, only 6 months old, lifted her head and smiled at Nick and said, “Dada.” A miracle of the heart. Instant healing for a grown man.
I remember when post-partum depression hit me like a truck just days after Eva was born. I had never felt anything so awful before. The guilt was terrible. Mom would come and sit next to me on the couch while I cried, and she would hold Eva and tell me how in love she was with her. She would tell me that I would be okay. That this would pass. And again how much she loved Eva. I remember when I told Eva I loved her for the first time. And how it felt like a dam had broken in my heart and all the love that had been somewhere inside came flooding out again onto another human being.
I remember every time I have looked around my little family and wondered how God could love me so much to give me these people. Nick. Izzy. Eva. The three most amazing people I have ever known.
I remember sitting in my in-laws driveway in December. It was cold and Nick had just run inside to help his grandpa with something. The back of the car was full of Christmas presents and our girls were sleeping in the backseat. My mom called and told me she had cancer.
I remember standing in front of my Christmas tree, the green and white lights twinkling, when both my parents called and told me that it was Pancreatic cancer. That there was nothing that could be done. Mom made me promise to take my sisters shopping for graduation dresses and wedding dresses. To tell them how much she loved them and wanted them… I will never forget hearing her cry. The tears of a mother who has to say goodbye TOO SOON.
I remember avoiding mom because it was too hard to see her weak. I am so ashamed. If only I could go back, I would never leave her side.
I remember her last birthday, March 11. I bought her leopard print underwear because “if you can’t wear it now, Mom, when can you wear it?”
I remember climbing into her bed in April and dictating letters for her. Somewhere between the first letter and the third letter, over the course of two hours, her brain started slipping away. It happened right in front of me. She was there… and then she wasn’t.
I remember when she started seeing angels and having visions of heaven. They were beautiful.
I remember the day when she came out of her stupor enough to tell each of us girls those “last words.” She told us the most wonderful words we have ever heard. I remember when she held my Dad and told him she didn’t want to leave.
I remember sitting by her side with other members of the family into the night. I kept touching her arm and her hair because I didn’t want to forget how she felt to me. Finally, we all left to take a break because hours had passed and she continued to breathe.
Then I remember hearing her voice. I ran down the hall and into her bedroom. I will never forget the moment her eyes opened and found mine. She turned to me. I told her I loved her.
I remember her last wonderful breath.
I remember everything that followed that moment. The awfulness of it all. The horrible realization that we are all so human. Every awful part. Every awful part. Every awful part. Every awful part. Every. Awful. Part. There is nothing that could prepare someone for those things. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…. these are the groanings of my heart…. the things that hurt so much… the things that feel like a bad dream…
And yet I can say, that I have walked in the shadow of death. And I can tell you that even there God is good. Even there He is gracious.
And I can say that in 28 years God has not forsaken me. I will not turn away from Him in this one moment. How can I turn away from the One that has loved me through it all? Who has carried me? Who carries me now? Who holds my mother?
I don’t understand heaven. But I feel like I have one entire part of me there now. Like I’m one arm in. My mama is there. Worshiping.
I give you all those memories, because it is from them that I answer my daughter’s questions. It is from them that I face each moment. It is from them that I know that healing mom in heaven was God’s greatest gift to her. That broken body is whole. That muddled brain is perfect. Those weak legs are running. That strained voice is singing. How could I be angry at Him for giving her all of that?
I want her back.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so is His love for me. And so is His love for her.
But I do not understand. Maybe I never will.
After a two and half hours service yesterday, we ended by singing “How He loves.” This was the song I sang over mom in her last hours. And so, almost all 800 of us sang, voices filling the room and swirling about like a sweet embrace.
The embrace of the One saying, “I am here, and she is with me. She’s more beautiful than you could ever imagine. Her parents didn’t know why they named her ‘Dawn’ but it was because I told them to. I whispered that name in their ears. It was the perfect name for this woman that I would love all of her days on earth, and that I will love for eternity. Oh, she was lovely on earth… but you should see her now.”