“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
Grace… five letters combined to form a word that is so small yet so profound and filled with meaning and love. It seems that in today’s world, we have so little grace toward each other. It seems that way even within the Christian community as well.
I always thought I understood grace. Grace: the ability to show love and kindness to someone wholly undeserving, as Christ exemplified grace when He willingly sacrificed himself for the whole of humanity, even though we are the most undeserving lot. And this is grace on the biggest scale of all, but what does grace look like in the smallest of acts. Again, I thought I understood grace, but it wasn’t until December 24, 2019 that grace smacked me upside the head, knocked me out and helped me back up again, even if at this point I’m only on my knees and not fully standing yet.
God’s grace was there in so many ways… His grace allowed me and my husband to find our daughter. I know it seems all wrong on the surface because wouldn’t God’s grace have kept her hand from pulling the trigger? The short answer is yes, but even if He doesn’t… this is a conversation for another day. That day, we found our daughter, not a stranger… the two people who love her more than any other humans, except maybe her brother. She could have left; she could have been in another state, she could have been anywhere else other than home. God’s grace allowed us to be there in the beginning when she entered this world, and to be there in the end, when she left this world. There’s more grace there than I deserve.
God’s grace was there when a sergeant with the sheriff’s office heard the call go out and even though it wasn’t his call, he came. Not because he could do anything for her, but because he knew us. He knew me, my husband, and our daughter. It’s hard to explain, but when I saw him, there was comfort there because he cared enough to come comfort us even though he knew he couldn’t help her, his presence helped me.
God’s grace was the law enforcement personnel and the… I can’t remember the title, but the woman who came to sit with us, to explain the process to us… her and the law enforcement personnel who came to work the scene. Their compassion, the way they spoke to me and my husband. They weren’t judgemental. They didn’t grill us about what we could’ve, should’ve done. There were questions that had to be asked of course, but in the asking, the grace was there in the way they dealt with us.
God’s grace showed up later that night when my oldest sister rang the doorbell and just hugged us. When she learned of her niece’s death, she got in her car and drove six hours just to hug us, cry with us, pray with us. Although we welcomed her to stay, she didn’t.
God’s grace showed up when two men from our church came that night. One is the music director with whom our daughter loved, and whose family embraced Shelby and took her in as one of their own. He was the one who married Shelby and her husband almost two years earlier. The other young man did not know Shelby, but he knew her brother. Their tears flowed with ours, and their prayers saw us through the night.
God’s grace was exemplified when I had called my closest friend earlier that afternoon and asked if she could go to our son who had remained at school for the holiday break. I didn’t want him to be alone when I told him of his sister’s death. Without a moment’s hesitation, she drove the six hours north. Telling my son of Shelby’s death… I knew his life would never be the same. I dreaded that moment… we had been through so much as a family and he loves his sister with a love that can only be described as unconditional. The sound that emanated from his soul when the words hit his ears… As his mom, it utterly broke what was left of my heart to know that there wasn’t anything I could do to take away his pain, but my friend was there. She was there to comfort, to hold, to take him to her home so we could get him the next day. God’s grace showed up in her love for my son and our family.
God’s grace showed up when my family surrounded me with their love, their hugs, their tears… at different times, my sisters came, my mom came, my dad and second mom came… our son’s cousins came. Each in their own way helped carry the emptiness and the excruciating pain that filled our hearts.
God’s grace was there in the form of another dear friend who drove an hour to come take me to church the Sunday after Shelby died. Sitting next to me, she held my hand… she too loved our Shelby.
God’s grace showed up in the details of planning Shelby’s funeral, from a dear family friend who helped with the writing of the obituary to the admiral who approved the burial to the fly over at her funeral. The funeral home staff… the grace they showed in their handling of every detail.
God’s grace was on full display in each person who attended her funeral, from those who knew Shelby to those who did not, but wanted our family to know they cared, they were praying… it seems a small thing to attend a funeral, but for me, it meant everything that without being asked to attend, they came.
In the days that followed, God’s grace was there in the cards, phone calls, messages, flowers we received. God’s grace was there when I was told of a person – who not too long ago had been so unkind for reasons unknown – reached out to let me know he too understood because he had buried his son. God’s grace allowed me to see past the surface and to see this man’s heart, and in so doing, I have come to appreciate this person for his willingness to share his story and the memory of his son with me.
The shed that held Shelby’s final moments – one we had been planning to take down but hadn’t done yet… God’s grace was there when I asked a friend for his help… without hesitation, he reached out to another who allowed him to borrow the equipment to help with its removal. He spent three days helping us remove the shed. The first day, three other friends were there to help as well. The second day, when he came, I was sitting in the partial shed, looking at the piece of wood that still bore the blood stains of Shelby. I asked him if he could help me remove that section before proceeding any further. I can’t explain it, but I didn’t want anything to fall on that section. I didn’t know what I was going to do with that section yet, but I knew at that moment I had to get it out. He smiled and said, “okay.” He didn’t judge; he didn’t tell me not to. With grace, he said okay.
God’s grace was there when the young man who helps with our yard – if you could call it that at this point – offered the use of his trailer to haul away the shed. He not only allowed us the use of the trailer, but took the debris away – three loads. This young man also helped with our dogs when we had to go to California later to go through Shelby’s belonging and bring back her car.
God’s grace was there when another friend also helped us with our dogs. More than that, she listened, prayed, cried with… she went with me to get Shelby’s belongings that had been collected the night of her death.
Through the compassion of another sargeant who helped me through the process of collecting Shelby’s belongings and retrieving the incident report, God’s grace was there.
Through another friend, God’s grace opened doors to help I need to move forward. This man has allowed God to work through him to create an organization to help veterans (sofmissions.org)
God’s grace is abundantly evident in my husband… this man who I am wholly undeserving of has held me, prayed with me, wiped my tears and snot, has read the Bible with me, has taken my hand, has set aside his own grieve to give to me… God’s grace comes through everyday through my husband.
There were a million other ways God’s grace has appeared since December 24, 2019. So while it may seem that God turned His back on us that day, He did not… He turned His face upon us and provided grace and a peace that surpasses all understanding, but of all the acts of grace we were the recipients of, the most precious one of all is the grace Christ gave at the cross, because that grace – through His love and mercy – means I will see my Shelby again, and she is finally at peace in His arms and then enemy can no longer touch her.