The last two weeks, I have been longing for May. This sounds dramatic, but it’s not, really: April was mostly cold and gross here in Ohio and we had some unpleasant family news in April and I was longing for the sunshine I KNEW May would bring physically at least. But last night, on May 1, the day I was longing for, I realized that some people dread this spring month, even with it’s promise of summer. For some, May Day comes in like a Lion, and as each day passes, the roar gets louder and louder. This is true especially for Mary Beth Chapman. The Christian author and wife of singer Steven Curtis Chapman took to her blog yesterday and wrote a rather raw, honest, and painfully beautiful article called “I Hate May,” about the loss of their daughter Maria ten years ago this month. Maria, you may recall, was tragically and accidentally killed when struck by a family car in her own driveway, driven by one of her older brothers. She was seven.
Photo: Mary Beth Chapman/Facebook
With the brutal honesty of a mom who lives with grief every day, Mary Beth Chapman describes how she carries her daughter’s loss – signified by the month of May – with her at all times. She says:
I’ve been in major reflective mode these last couple of months and in particular, this month, the month of May. Let it be known that I hate the month of May. I feel it coming all year long. As soon as one May ends, the journey to the next begins. It’s daunting. Like going around a racetrack over and over again. As soon as I pass through May, I literally see the next one way out in the distance around a few curves and the journey starts all over again, fresh track to travel on, but the same journey. The journey toward the month of May is when everything went terribly wrong. Or did it?
Chapman honestly explores the grief a Christian mom in particular must wrestle with when they lose a child: yes, there is constant grief. Yes, there is hope in the knowledge that her child is with Christ, and that they will be together again one day. Yes, God’s timing is perfect. And yes, being here without Maria, Mary Beth says, “sucks. I hate that word, but I’m here to tell you, that is a mild word to describe it.”
I myself have not buried a child, but I have friends who have. Their grief is raw, and the question of “What if that happened to me?” is so painful, that I can only glance at it sidelong. To stare their grief in the face is too hard. When I allow myself to try, I can almost feel it start burning my heart from the inside out. How do they continue on, and put one foot in front of the other for their other kids?
Photo: Mary Beth Chapman/Facebook
With God’s help, is the only way. Chapman clearly outlines this as she describes her thought life since losing Maria. Though she and Steven Curtis Chapman take great joy in their five other children and now, six grandchildren, the struggle is, as the trendy saying goes…REAL. She continues:
I’m guessing that those reading this who have lost loved ones, or are struggling with something hard in their life know what I’m talking about. It is still so dang (and trust me, dang is not the word I want to type) hard. Let me show you. Here is an example of some of the thoughts I battle…
The anchor of our faith is hope. (Yippee…thought sarcastically.)
We know we will SEE her again. (Great, but I’m not with her now.)
We are walking towards her not away from her. (I have a hard time not looking back and seeing the mess. I miss her.)
Lean on your community. (We ran most of them off because we are miserable humans to be around a lot of the time because of the journey we are on.)
Hold tight to Jesus. (Trying, but hard to do when you just can’t see or hear anything from Him, so it seems.)
Love the ones well that you still have here. (Trying, but yeah, we are all broken and moms try so hard, but it is just so broken a lot of the time and we make it worse somehow.)
Good things have happened since. (Great! Good for you, still sad for us.)
Those thoughts have at one moment or another entered my heart and my mind. In reality, more times than I’d care to admit. Still, I try somehow to take the thoughts captive and keep walking in what I know to be true.
Okay, so here is where I’m supposed to turn the corner and wrap this all up in a big pretty bow. Um…. Okay. Not as easy as it sounds, and all the good is tangled up with so many hard days. I’m just being honest, so here goes!
Good news! The Chapmans are still together and still a family. By God’s grace, this journey of losing Maria has without a doubt made us a family that knows what is important and knows that we are for each other and not against, and that we absolutely have each other’s backs.
“By God’s grace.” I honestly have nothing to add…I just wanted you all to read Mary Beth’s brave words. So many Christians are afraid of being REAL – even in grief – because they are afraid of being judged. I love it that Chapman is, even in her grief and questioning, strong enough to admit that it “sucks” but that God is in it with her. She knows His grace covers – and does not judge or shun – her grief, doubt and questioning. What some may see as weak faith, I see as unbreakably strong. And I wanted to share her words with you hear in case some of you really needed to hear them and know that you aren’t alone.