Espressos of Faith is excited to have Tammie Wommack back in our continued series on “Stories of Hope, Healing, and Courage.” Tammie has joined us several times to share her journey from the incredible pain of losing her son Joshua to finding moments of hope, healing, and even joy again.
What I love about my friend Tammie is that she is not afraid to be raw and real. She wants to take parents who have lost a child through the real phases of healing, letting them know that their experiences/feelings are normal, they aren’t alone, and peace can be found despite the ongoing ache left when a child is no longer here. I have been on the other end of this—the desperation of depression—and because her story ran parallel to my own and I knew her when her loss was new and raw and I was lost and broken, I believe she can truly minister to those left behind grieving with her beautiful words of encouragement. Our stories coincided in 2008 in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and through God’s grace and despite moving away to different locations, we are still heart-connected.
Please share this with anyone you know who needs her words as a soothing balm, and feel free to leave a comment for Tammie. She would love to connect with you. She is making a deliberate choice to live in intentional ministry. Please feel free to reference her other articles at the end of this blog as well as the resources (suicide hotline) listed there.
And now, here’s Tammie….
I initially began writing this blog for Mother’s Day because it was the last time I actually saw my son Joshua alive. God led me in a different direction, so I put it on hold. Recently, I met another mother who has lost her son, and just talking with her and listening to her story made me remember (not that I ever forget) my own loss and relive the first moments and days of this grief journey (again, not that I ever forget).
It was time. The funeral director came and said the family could have a few moments to say goodbye before they would close the casket. My entire body, mind, and soul were screaming on the inside.
This couldn’t really be happening!
Please, God, wake me up from this terrible nightmare! He cannot be dead; he just can’t be!
But he was!
I watched as all of my family said goodbye to him, each in a special way. I wanted them to take a long time so that I wouldn’t have to say goodbye.
The longer they were up there, he was still here with me.
Finally, everyone had left, even Rick, my husband, and now I had no more time.
I had to make that long walk from my seat to the casket.
There he was: my baby boy, whom I loved with all my heart and soul, lying there looking so sweet—half-man and half-boy.
How could this have happened? How could a personality that loved to live and laugh be snuffed out? It couldn’t really be the last time I would see his face, be able to touch him, hug him, kiss him. I was not ready.
Somehow I managed to kiss him and touch his face. I bent over and asked him: “Why? Why? Why?”
And then I had to turn and walk away.
At this point, the casket sat in the chapel, and it was time for the funeral. So many people were in the chapel, but it was truly a blur to me. I couldn’t even form a coherent sentence. I was sure I would die from the pain I was feeling. I wanted to die. It was unbearable.
I had my Bible. I had kept it with me since we left Kwajalein (Republic of the Marshall Islands), but I had not been able to find any comfort between the pages—not that I had not tried. I had prayed longer and harder than ever in my life.
I knew that God was there but could not find comfort.
I held on to my Bible as if it were a life preserver. Just holding it seemed to keep me afloat in this sea of anguish. I cannot tell you even today what songs were sung or words were spoken at the funeral. I trusted Chaplain Currie and just kept wishing it was not happening. The funeral home gave us a tape of the funeral, and to this day, I have not listened to it.
Once the service was over, it was time to ride to the cemetery. Everyone was so quiet in the car. It hurt so much that I just wanted to scream and shout:
Why God? Why did You let this happen? Why him? His life was just beginning!
I was sure that I would explode. I kept going from a rag doll to a mad momma in milliseconds. In the end, I actually said nothing. All of this was happening inside my mind.
When we arrived at the cemetery, I was truly glad to see that all of his friends were there, even some that had not come to the service but came to the graveside. I really didn’t speak to many of them. I just couldn’t really cope with talking to anyone other than Rick. After the service was over, we got in the car and drove to O’Charleys for lunch. It was like: “Okay that’s done. Now let’s get back to normal life.”
Didn’t they realize that life was not normal? Nothing would ever be normal again!
I wasn’t interested in anything to eat but did have a glass of wine. After we ate, we returned to the cemetery to the grave. My baby boy was now in the ground. My mother’s instinct had not accepted that he was gone. I kept thinking that he would be cold or wet or…
God, where are You????
Many of his friends were still there. They were all sitting by his grave talking to him, toasting him. I wanted to stay with them, but I couldn’t.
In that moment, I couldn’t help but remember saying goodbye to him just a few short months ago when I was leaving for Kwajalein to meet Rick. It was Mother’s Day. Joshua was up with me in the kitchen while I was getting ready. He loaded my suitcases into the car and drove me to the airport in Nashville. He came into the airport with me. He handed me a card and a sack and said, “Happy Mother’s Day!” In the sack was a lunch and snack. That was the last time I saw him alive. That is the memory I want to keep as my Last Goodbye.
I can choose to let the grave be the memory of my last goodbye, or I can choose to celebrate the last goodbye when he was living. Many days, the graveside is my memory, but more and more, the goodbye at the airport comes to mind first. God has brought me so far from that rag doll shell of grief ready to burst at any moment.
I have chosen joy over sadness, and I am praising my God every day for carrying me when I couldn’t walk and leading me into the light again.
Psalm 18:28, ESV, David writing
For it is you who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
A great resource for suicide prevention is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
To find out more about Tammie and Rick, you can read part of their story at Giving-Back-For-Joshua.
Here are a few more places where Tammie shares her heart:
Honoring Josh: A Mother’s Heart in the Aftermath of Suicide
Journey to Joy: How Giving Back Brings Hope and Healing to Hurting Hearts
Would You Do Anything to End the Pain of Grief? Even Give Up Loving Memories?
Why Grieving Mothers Find Comfort in a Tattoo
Let God Be Your Handhold to Joy
What Your Mom Really Wants for Mother’s Day
*This post has been shared at Grace & Truth, Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesdays, RaRa Linkup, Blessing Counters, Faith-Filled Fridays, Saturday Soirée Blog Party, A Little R & R, Coffee & Conversation, Dance With Jesus, and Christian Mommy Blogger.