Shortly after Rare Bird came out, a friend from my kids' old school invited me to lunch.
We mainly knew each other from the car pool line and quick hellos at school concerts, but I knew enough about Lori to know she is a big pray-er. In Christian circles we call this a "prayer warrior." I knew she had been praying about Rare Bird for more than a year, as well as praying for our family in other ways, because I had asked her to.
You see, Lori's knees hit the floor before her feet do in the mornings. And she doesn't just say, "I'll be praying for you," she does it. It doesn't matter if you are in the Target parking lot or the aisle at church, she will pray for you right then and there, and I love that about her. She is also very real, approachable, and easy to talk to.
When we met for lunch, Lori brought her journals from the time of Jack's accident.
She had something to share, but hoped I wouldn't think it was strange. I assured her that not a whole lot seems strange to me any more. Losing a child is the ultimate in strange.
Lori opened her journal and read about how God spoke to her during her prayers one morning a few days after the accident, telling her, "Go where they found him, and I will meet you there." She knew God was talking about Jack. I asked her what that was like; did she hear an audible voice? She replied that it was a clear knowing inside of her that God was speaking to her. I like thinking about how just as a sheep knows the shepherd's voice, we, too, can recognize the voice of God, especially as we spend more time with Him and know his nature.
The problem was, Lori didn't want to go to the creek. She resisted. Our small community was wracked with grief and confusion, and she didn't want to go to the spot where Jack was found. It was too sad, too hard.
She put it off, but one day, upon driving over the road where Jack's body was found, she pulled over, parked, and walked down to sit in the (dry) creek bed, the steep banks looming up on either side of her.
"Okay, God, I'm here and I'm ready."
And she waited.
She said God showed her a few things pertinent to her own life and her family, but nothing about Jack. Then she looked up toward where she knew our neighborhood was, and the direction Jack's body had traveled. At that moment she saw a large bush hanging out over the side of the creek, in front of a big bend. In that bush were three cardinals, which to her had been signs of God's faithfulness during a very difficult time in her life. At that moment, God spoke to Lori's spirit again, saying,
"Before he was there, he was with me."
God was sharing with her that before Jack's body was trapped and stuck, he was already in God's presence. What Lori experienced that day mirrored what I feel in my heart, and what others have shared with me.
She also felt God was telling her the words, "Sacred Ground" about where she sat.
Lori didn't explain why she hadn't shared her journal with me three years earlier, and I didn't ask.
I just figured there must have been a good reason. That is one difference between the Anna today and the Anna of three years ago. I have started to embrace mystery, and let go of having all the answers.
I don't get to choose to have Jack safe and alive with us to adulthood.
I don't get to choose which prayers get answered in the way I want them to.
I don't even get to choose how and when comfort comes to me!
You see, with my conservative faith background, Lori would have been the ideal, even expected, messenger to deliver God's comfort to me, and I would have surely put her story in my book.
But she didn't share it. Not then.
Yet still the comfort came. Through the Holy Spirit. Through blog readers around the world. Through a dear friend whose spiritual side had seemed wacky to me. Through dreams and visions. Through symbols as seemingly insignificant as clouds, blue jays, songs on the radio, and now, three years later, the hearts I seem to find everywhere around me.
I believe that if God wants to tell us something, in this case an assurance that Jack was with his Heavenly Father almost immediately, His message will get through. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
I wonder if this was a case of my being stretched, personally, so that when the time came for me to use my broken heart to start reaching out to many other grievers, I would be able to listen to their experiences solely with love and not skepticism, even if their experiences differed widely from my own. Perhaps it was so that I would have to trust that the examples I put in my book would be the right ones to touch readers in a way they needed.
I don't know. It's a mystery.
But I am grateful to Lori, who listens to God. I am grateful to God, who finds ways to get through to us again and again. And I'm grateful to YOU, for being here with me.