Last month I shared about our hope in knowing we will see my brother again when we get to heaven. This month, I find myself being reminded that when unexpected tragedy strikes, that hope is still alive to carry us through. This time, though, the news is still so very fresh.
Just over a week ago, a family gathered for worship in their little country church in Texas. It was a small church very much like where I grew up. As the associate pastor stepped up to bring the message, a gunman entered the sanctuary and hit nearly everyone inside with a bullet. Many were wounded, and 26 were killed that day – 10 victims representing 3 generations of the Holcombe family – including a baby yet to be born but already given nickname by older siblings.
My friend JoCheryl Holcombe’s brother was the one preaching that day. She lost half her family in a matter of seconds. I won’t go into the devastation – this part is within reach for us to imagine.
What I find harder to imagine is the unspeakable peace the remaining family members have been experiencing this week. Even they are astonished. But why should we be surprised? The world was praying for this family. They felt it. In fact, one family member commented to another, “did you feel it?” As they compared notes, they found that ALL of them felt a wave of peace wash over them the day after this horrible loss.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
There was no natural explanation for this peace. But there was a supernatural one. God promised to send the Holy Spirit as our comforter and advocate. The prayers of so many surely moved the Spirit to be present in the hearts of those who were mourning.
The intention was defeat and destruction, but this horrendous act unleashed a torrent of love and goodness. I hope and pray this family will see fruit from this story for decades to come.
Today, the Holcombe family laid to rest their 10 family members. Yes, it was gut-wrenching, but it also was a testimony to the fact that these folks who so tragically lost their lives will live on through their story. A story of hope and love, and the knowledge that they are together in heaven now, and this is not the end.
Here are a few words written by JoCheryl in a public post on Facebook – I don’t think I could be so eloquent nor gracious at such a terrible time….
we made it through this day…i’m sad, but you know…i’m also filled with bliss because of LOVE, and…i’m actually filled with so much love, and friendship and memories and the joy from being around authentic awesome people whose faith is stronger than any tragedy…so proud of my brother, who i will miss so much…but oh WOW!!!! his awesome family…and my parents who exemplify joyful living, who know how to be strong and tender, joyful and heartbroken at the same time. as the days get easier, i want to write a few stories about those who have left and the rest who are left behind…so much inspiration…
yeah, my guts were wrenched today, but there were so many people there with their arms around us holding us, the comfort far outweighed the sorrow!
i am so grateful for the thousands of people who stood in line for hours, some only to get turned away because there was no more room, i am so grateful for all the people who drove HOURS to get here from all over Texas, (some drove 10 hours, and waited in line only to get turned away at the last minute ) i am so grateful for all the people who were there that i didn’t even get to see…i am so grateful for all the professionals who took a chaotic, unprecedented, event of enormous proportions and turned it into the most amazing beautiful celebration with the most poignant creative touches.
i am grateful for friends and neighbors, who hosted the most amazingly delicious meal and country gathering that was filled with love and joy, perfection and beauty.
i am grateful for old friends and new friends, and i am grateful for love that spans a lifetime…i am grateful that we have forever!
i am grateful for all the local and county police and sheriff’s departments and DPS for keeping the press away and coordinating traffic and managing a procession that stretched from one town to the next and still kept coming.. we had no intrusions as we celebrated and mourned.
i am grateful for the streets lined with people who stopped their days, held their hands over their hearts in vigil for that long procession paying tribute to my family, for all the signs along the highway, for all the flowers along the route, for the mountains of cards, for all the hugs, gifts and expressions of love, for the beautiful memorial at the church in Sutherland Springs where my family members graduated to heaven.
this was an awful thing but it was also awesome because love is eternal and we will all be together again. may the love unleashed today be ever present in all our lives
as i reflect on this last week i can say that there is absolutely no way a person could ever imagine what it has been like, i pray nothing like this EVER happens again to anyone…it should not have even happened this time…
so, when you think of those you love and it feels like you have forever, just remember you don’t, but then again, YOU DO! make this life matter, our soul is the only thing we take with us when we are done…it’s worth tending, it’s worth making meaningful deep connections and living each moment in the fullest most meaningful way. BECAUSE everything can change in a holy instant.
i love you all, thank you for making this so much easier for my family..i feel like i have thousands of new family members.
Our hope is not in this life, but those remaining still have to live this life without 10 members of their family, and it will be so very hard. Please continue to pray for the families of those lost in the tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
More info here: Houston Chronicle Article