My story began in 1969 when I married my husband, Tommy. He was an officer in the mortuary division for the United States Army, and we were stationed in Germany. We agreed not to have children for the first few years of marriage so we could enjoy each other. After we were ready to start our family, I was pregnant within three months.
Due to my husband’s field, we knew the mortality rate was high for babies born in Germany, so we decided that I would have the baby back home in New Jersey, and then we would return. With the Vietnam War started to subside, Tommy was given the opportunity to leave the service early. I left Germany six weeks before my due date, Tommy followed a few weeks later, and our baby was born in June. Tommy was so happy to have a son; Tyrone was his pride and joy. We were excited to start this new phase of lives.
As our family grew, my four daughters admired and had such high regard for their big brother. I noticed how it gave Tyrone so much pride to be seen that way in their eyes, giving him such confidence.
My husband’s hopes and dreams were centered on the great man he wanted Tyrone to become. He dreamt that Tyrone would follow in his footsteps; first by becoming an outstanding athlete and excelling in multiple sports. Tyrone was relatively small compared to his opponents in wrestling and football; I was concerned about him competing at his size, but Tommy was sure he would be fine. I quickly learned my husband could see something special in him. It became a joy for me to watch him compete as a child. He really held his own; he was a phenomenal wrestler and ran like a speeding bullet on the football field.
My husband also wanted Tyrone to go into mortuary science and become a funeral director. He began working at the May Funeral Home, our family business, handing out flowers at gravesites when he was five years old. As he grew older, so did his responsibilities, and after graduating from high school, he was supporting the business full time.
In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit our region hard. On a Sunday at the end of March, I received a call that Tyrone was not feeling well, had a really bad cough, and difficulty breathing. After going to Urgent Care, the medical team felt his symptoms were quite severe and sent him to the hospital via ambulance. He had pneumonia and his O2 saturation was too low.
After being admitted, he was placed on oxygen and tested positive for COVID-19. In those early days of the pandemic, we were not able to visit him in the hospital, which was a very rough experience. We had to rely on texting because it was too difficult for him to speak with all the coughing. Tyrone texted me not to tell his dad that he was in the hospital. Unfortunately, he got progressively worse and two days later he was sedated. We never communicated again.
Due to the overwhelming impact the pandemic had on hospitals in our area, we didn’t get much information or updates from the team caring for Tyrone, which often left me wondering what was going on. I recall listening only to Christian music and watching Christian programming during that time, as I only wanted to see and hear things that would uplift and encourage me. That helped me to keep a positive mind and hold onto hope. My daughters and I fasted every day from midnight until 6 pm and alternated hours praying for Tyrone. I had a group text with my daughters and my son’s children so we could all keep each other encouraged and updated. We would send uplifting messages and scriptures, anything to give us hope as we prayed for his healing.
Listening to the music, my mind would go the times my husband sang “Sovereign” at so many funerals for our loved ones. It reminded me that God was never wrong in His choices. This led to a change in my prayers from requests for healing to “not my will, but your will be done, God”. I began to consider the fact that Tyrone may not make it, however I never told anyone. I asked God to give me peace with whatever His decision would be. My prayers began to reflect my desire to accept His will.
Many times, I felt my head saying God’s will be done while simultaneously feeling my heart saying please don’t let my son pass away. I kept feeling like it was so hard not being able to see him, touch him, hold his hand, or just sit in the room with him. The medical staff eventually allowed us to speak to him over the phone. I believed in those moments that he could hear our voices, praying for him and telling him how much we loved him. Knowing we could have encouraged him in this way gave us some comfort.
I held onto so many scriptures during that time. I reminded myself of His word that declared God was my present help and God will not forsake me. I also held onto Psalm 91:5 “not to be afraid of the terror by night nor the arrow by day”. You don’t realize what comfort and peace scriptures give until you have nothing else to rely on. With the isolation COVID-19 brought, my family had few moments to spend together, which also made things very hard. My family wanted to keep my husband and me safe and healthy, so being extra careful was the priority.
The time alone was hard but beneficial as I could just stay in the quiet presence of God and allow Him to minister to my soul. He showed me how to truly lean on Him for the strength I needed to comfort my grandchildren after Tyrone passed away. I tried my best not to fall apart so that I could be there for them.
I distinctly recall completing his final arrangements. There was a portion of the paperwork that asked for the names of the parents. I filled in my husband’s name and when I came to my name, that was the moment I fell apart. We often don’t know when we’ll have our “moment”, but trying to write my name as the Mother of the Deceased, I could not hold myself together. My body and my mind simultaneously acknowledged the reality that I had lost my son.
People often tell you how you’re supposed to feel, that you are allowed to be angry, even with God, but I couldn’t bring myself to get angry with Him about this. It bothered me to even think like that. The Bible warns us that we would face trials and hardships, so who was I to feel like I shouldn’t lose my son when I have seen so many people lose their loved ones over the years?
Working in funeral business, I’ve seen so many people lose loved ones, mothers lose multiple children, young people lose their parents, and all sorts of tragedies, so I couldn’t even hold onto the thought of being angry with God. I’d seen people suffer so much, so I could only think of how blessed I was. I had Tyrone in my life and close to me for forty-seven years. I saw him get married, have children, and watched them grow into adults. I even got to see him become a grandpop as I was becoming a great-grandmother. Some people never get those moments. As hard as it is to believe, I began to feel grateful for what God did give me instead of what He chose to take away. It helped me combat my sadness by thinking of all the moments in which He had blessed me with Tyrone’s life.
Sometimes people try so hard to comfort you by trying to find words to say, however, I have learned over the years that sometimes there just are no words to say. People would exclaim that I had lost “my only son” as if to say it would have it been better if I had lost one of my daughters instead, since I had more than one. It is nothing short of heartbreak to lose any child and I don’t feel worse because Tyrone was my son. I just miss my child, period. I appreciated all the cards, texts, acts of love, and kindness people showed. I couldn’t believe how many people reached out in one way or another. There were people I never even knew, who knew Tyrone and would just send so much love and comfort in various ways.
I kept receiving acts of love for weeks on end after his passing. It was such an uplift to have those reminders of Tyrone’s life and how many lives he touched. Mostly, I was grateful to know so many were praying for us. It means so much to have others praying for you when you are having a hard time praying for yourself. All those prayers reminded me that even this was a part of God’s plan and that He would bring us through.
As we approached his funeral, I just kept saying “God please get me through this”. Due to state regulations, we were only permitted ten people at his funeral. I held on to songs about the Lord being the joy and the strength of my life, and it being well with my soul. I just kept listening to them until my heart could accept them again. I didn’t have many questions about why, I was just in a place of leaning on God as I learned to accept His will. The healing was no longer about my loss but God’s unfailing promise and His vow to never leave me.
I thought of Tyrone, and how he knew the word of God. I imagined in those moments alone in the hospital bed that he called on the name of the Lord, that he asked for forgiveness for his sins, and for God to be with him as he went through. I remember thinking the same God who was with me and had never left me, was also with my son the entire time, comforting both him and me at the same time. I imagined Him holding Tyrone’s hand when I couldn’t and giving him peace and helping him to accept God’s will also. Tyrone knew he could lean on God, and I believe that is exactly what he did during those weeks leading up to his passing.
Whenever feelings of sadness come, I immediately think of something positive about my son. Some moments bring laughter and other times there are tears. I’ve learned that God really can get you through the things you thought you would never survive – even the hardest times of your life.
Encouragement for Moms:
God loves us too much to leave us where we are, and He is so mindful to walk through our sorrow with us. We just have to trust Him. You will have hope, joy, and laughter again. Your hope can’t be centered on people but must be fully focused on God.
Yes, you are going to get through the hard days. Experience will teach you not to justify behavior and decisions from your place of sadness and pain. God does not think how people think. He understands that you can love someone with all of your heart and live a healed life after losing them. It doesn’t mean you love them any less because you choose not to wallow in your feelings.
He even sent His Son to die, knowing it would hurt Him but also knowing the world needed Him. The feelings and the hurt will still come, but you can choose, with God’s help, not to stay there. You don’t have to remain in the mindset you are currently in today. God’s word is true, and his promises are real. He will do just as His word says and give you beauty for ashes, joy for your sadness, and exchange your garment of heaviness with a garment of praise. (Isaiah 61:3)
Prayer for Moms:
I bring every grieving mother into your throne of grace. Father, please comfort them and help them to continue to be faithful to you even through their pain.
Lavish them with your love and fill their hearts with your unconditional love.
Help us all get the response of “not our will, but yours be done.”
In Jesus’ powerful name, I believe and pray. Amen
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