I should warn you that today’s post is pretty heavy. But it’s a topic that we can’t escape, so might as well talk about it.
As many of you may have heard, Miss New Jersey 2013 passed away on Monday morning. She was only 24 years old, known as a happy-go-lucky news reporter, brilliant Princeton graduate, devoted girlfriend, comedic friend, and loving daughter and sister.
The entire pageant community is shaken by her death, which was the result of a terrible car accident on a rainy night the Monday after Valentine’s Day. Cara’s Mustang slid off of the highway into a row of trees, leaving her in ICU for a week before she passed on.
Sudden deaths of young people like Cara McCollum are the most chilling because of all the memories that were left to be made, on top of the unexpected loss. One second, they’re posting selfies on Instagram– the next, they’re gone. Although we never met, Cara friended me on Facebook since we had many mutual friends, plus I was Miss New York only one year before her reign as Miss New Jersey. I couldn’t help but scroll through her photos as I prayed during her week in ICU. A picture attending a friend’s bachelorette party the weekend before the crash. Pictures with her boyfriend on vacation over the holidays. A snapshot while ice skating a few weeks ago. She was just here.
I’ve said this before, but I can’t imagine losing someone instantly. While there are major drawbacks of losing someone to a sickness over time– as was my experience with my mother, losing someone without warning absolutely terrifies me. I’m sure it terrifies us all. The thought of parting ways with someone, never to hear their voice again, is one of the scariest parts about being mortal. Ultimately, no matter the amount of preparation, death is a painful matter for those of us left behind.
My wish for this blog is to provide humor and entertainment, but also to provide comfort for readers who inevitably face the most heartbreaking of challenges. I can’t make things easier, nor can I relate to everyone’s specific tragedy, but I can at least say I understand what it’s like to lose someone you love deeply, daily, and unconditionally. The only comfort I can provide under circumstances so crushing is by way of faith.
Comfort can be found in wonderful memories, the ways you carry forth a person’s legacy through mannerisms or adopted outlooks, and by trust in that person’s fulfillment during the years they were given. Those are all absolutely beautiful, significant, and undeniable ways to feel rays of joy during the darkest of times. I urge anyone who experiences loss to reflect on all of those sources of light.
Yet here on this blog, I can provide none of those comfort options– which is why I want to talk about faith. Sometimes faith is a strange thing to mention, when not everyone who dies lives by faith in the Christian sense to which I’m referring. Nonetheless, I’m going bring it up because I strongly believe in its truth and magnitude.
We never know what God is doing, but we do know why He does it. And that is for the greater good of His kingdom. The greater good doesn’t always feel so great while we’re humans, but that’s because this world is fleeting. Our pain here is short-lived. Perhaps we live 24 years like Cara, 54 years like my mom, or 94 years like my great-grandmother. No matter what, all of our earthly lives will come to an end. Then what? Well, then we’ll understand why God is much more intent on bringing people to Heaven than he is on making our earthly lives easy.
I don’t know much, but I do know that with Cara’s or anyone else’s death, the timing serves some sort of purpose to bring more souls into eternity. That’s what the “greater good of His kingdom” means– to wrap His arms around more of His children. Someone, somewhere, is going to enter Heaven because of any event, including another person’s death. Often times we’ll never see those results firsthand, but sometimes we do– like when my faith was renewed in wake of losing my mom.
Faith gets wrapped up in “religion” so frequently that we forget its deepest meaning in our every day lives. It’s not about attending church or praying every night before bed– it’s about trusting in God’s will over our own. It’s about recognizing that everything we have that makes us happy– money, food, shelter, and even people we love– belong to Him. The way we view those things should be in complete gratitude, and also in hopes that God will use them in whatever way is best in the long run. I mean, the really long run. The never-ending, not-in-this-world long run.
It’s easy for me to question God’s goodness. Why would God hurt us if He loves us? Why would He give me my husband, only to let him die? (I will admit that this is my greatest fear.) Why would He make our lives miserable and painful and gut-wrenching? These questions plague me more often than a “strong” Christian should be willing to admit. I go through peaks of complete surrender, mixed in with valleys of terrifying doubt.
The most reassuring knowledge of God’s goodness that keeps me afloat when doubt tries to drown my peace is my mother’s firm proclamation from her literal death bed. As a woman who struggled with her believe in God’s unwavering goodness, my mother propped herself up with every ounce of strength she had left, so that she could look a friend in the eye and say, “God is good. ALL the time.” This friend of hers was from church, and knew that my mom often battled with her feelings about the book of Job, a book in the Old Testament where God essentially tortures one of his most faithful followers. “Why?” My mom would ask. “Why would a good God do that?” Therefore, as she faced death, this friend bravely asked my mother, “Now that you’re here, Kathy, what do you think? Is God good all the time?”
Her answer was clear.
I don’t think my mom ever found the answer she was looking for when it came to Job or other violent books of the Old Testament, but there she was, about to die after living a remarkably healthy life as a triathlete, R.N., and steadfast Christian (not converted until she was 30– so it wasn’t like she believed in God just because of how she was raised), and she felt God’s hand at work. She knew that her death was for the greater good. She knew that because of her death, God was good. What strange phenomenon, and even stranger timing to finally nail down that belief.
Listening to my mom say those words with such conviction will forever be the reason I know God has a goodness that transcends our understanding. My mom knew something in her experience of facing inescapable death that I do not know. But I trust it. And therefore, I trust Him.
I’m still brought to tears at even the thought of suddenly losing my most loved ones, but I hope these words can bring some sort of comfort to those of you who have endured that kind of loss. My heart and prayers are with you, Cara’s loved ones, and with any and all of you who have recently said a final goodbye to someone you love– under any circumstance. There’s nothing more I can possibly say other than to repeat my mom’s words: God is good. All the time.