Featured #TellHisStory Writer: Tina Howard
#TellHisStory Storytellers Series
Story has the power to change the world, one paragraph at a time. I share this space, once a week, with some great storytellers I’ve met during my years of writing.
This week’s featured storyteller is Tina Howard. She is one of the first bloggers I met, back in 2008, and we’ve become good friends through our work at TheHighCalling.org.
Be sure to come back Wednesday to link your own stories or photos with us in the #TellHisStory community.
We Were Made for Community
By Tina Howard
“To start the process, we will need you to identify her,” he explains as we complete paperwork.
We hardly have time to comprehend this unexpected step as the funeral director leads us down the hallway to a small room. From the doorway it looks like an empty office, but then in my peripheral vision I catch the corner of a bed tucked in a small nook that I didn’t notice when we first walked in. My husband and I, we take a deep breath and walk further into the room so we can see his mother. The director had said she would look like she was sleeping, head on a pillow, covered with a beautiful blanket. But the weight of her stillness and the colorlessness of her skin betrays his promise.
I want to move forward, to be closer, and then I panic, imagining that her eyes will flutter open or her arm will move. I will myself to remember that she has passed – this is no movie – and then grief floods my heart as I force myself to swallow this truth.
My mother-in-law’s daily life has been so intertwined in ours during these last few years, that her absence already leaves a gaping hole. My husband mumbles an affirmation and turns to go. I am momentarily torn because part of me wants to be with her just a little bit longer, but then I quickly follow as I realize I don’t want to be left in the room alone.
We finish the formalities and shake hands with the director in the marble lobby. My husband and I don’t speak much as we walk out. I’m a take charge, action-oriented kind of girl, and the last few days have been a lot of unbearable waiting. But now that I carry a 28-page book of options to consider, the weight of all these “grown up” decisions we will have to make in the coming days is too much.
I sink into the passenger seat and lose everything I had been trying to hold together; the sadness, the frustrations, and the burden of responsibility all stream uncontrollably down my face. I pour out my heart, aware that I am giving my husband one more thing to deal with, but grateful that he understands. He’s felt these waves of emotions, too. We feel overwhelmed by both our loss and the awareness that the daily pattern of our life has changed forever.
The clock on the dashboard reminds us that we should pick up our daughters. I reach for my phone to text that we are on our way, and I see several new messages from friends checking in.
These past few days, I haven’t been able to keep up with the texts, calls, posts, cards (in the mail!) and email coming in. Offering condolences, sharing fond memories, desiring to help, just checking on us.
Our community – both near and far – have enveloped us with love, and I think, This. This is why I was created to live in community.
This world is hard and broken, and to walk it alone is too much to bear. When the words are stricken from my mouth by grief, I know that others approach the Father on my behalf. When we are wearied by a long day of logistics that we feel too young to be coordinating, a meal is brought to sustain us for another moment. When we feel alone, someone checks in just to see how we are doing, and we know that we are remembered.
In every meal, kind word, prayer, and offer to help, the Father whispers to me that community is far deeper than a collection of friendships. It’s more than hanging out with people I like and more than the set of people who I see most often at church or school.
Community gets into the trenches with me, feels my grief with me, and seeks to love me well, in the way I need to be loved, even when I can’t articulate what it is I need. This richness is greater than any material possession I could own. As many tears as I have shed in grief these past few days, I have also shed in gratitude for the overwhelming care we have been receiving. And I begin to see that community is a tangible demonstration of my Father’s great love for me.
Tina lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She is the Content Editor for Laity Lodge Family Camp (link: llfamilycamp.org) and also a professional photographer. She periodically writes for The High Calling, and one of these days will finish the novel she’s writing.
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- We Were Made for Community : Laity Lodge Family Camp – A Christian Family Camp in Texas - […] Read Tina’s entire post at JenniferDukesLee.com. […]
So true. And so blessed to have real community—to be community. Such a tender story and so close to experiences that are familiar though not the same. May I join the community and tell you that this gives me more courage to enter other’s grief. So sorry for your loss.
Deanne, that makes my heart swell…thank you for sharing that. For sure entering another person’s grief takes great courage. It is a weighty decision to bear sadness that is not your own. But the opportunity to see characteristics of the Father…to know them firsthand…that cannot be learned otherwise is a beauty that far surpasses the burden of grief. Thanks for being here.
Tina- powerful words, powerful example community. So glad you and Todd felt it. Just beautiful to see all of YOUR pouring out to others, getting in the trenches with them, boomerangs back to you in this season.
Oh my friend. Thanks for stopping in here. You are such an encouraged and I am grateful to live in physical community with you.
My heart goes out to you in so many ways! I lost my precious father almost 14 years ago, and my dear mother almost 2 years ago. Losing a parent is truly one of life’s greatest sorrows. Walking through those stages of grief is one of the loneliest, most heart-wrenching paths of all. When it comes time to say good-bye to the last parent, the reality of being an orphan is nearly overwhelming, no matter what our age. Truly, of all of the names Jesus could have used to describe the Holy Spirit…The Comforter suits Him most and describes Him best. May you feel Him especially near to you during these difficult days, and may the dear Lord bless you and your husband and family and hold you close as you grieve.
Cheryl, thank you so much for sharing. Grief and loss are such strange beasts, and I am grateful for friends like you, so I don’t have to face them alone. That simple fact brings an indescribable beauty to this time that makes me grateful even for the sorrow.
Tina, my heart aches for you and I also smile that God weaves community around us~ those who carry strength when ours is depleted. Thanks for sharing your heart here. xoxo.
Amy, isn’t that such a beautiful part of God’s design? That we are linked in this way, using our gifts and abundance to encourage each other? Thank you.
Thank you, Tina, for sharing this story with us. It is precious.
Oh Christie, it was my pleasure. I appreciate the opportunity to honor my community. Thank you for reading!
Absolutely beautiful piece, Tina – thank you for sharing this. Big love to you & your family.
Thanks for reading, Tamara. It means so much that you took the time.
Stunning piece of vulnerability and faith. I love that community is walking alongside you. I’m SO sorry for your loss, friend.
Thank you, Mary. I am grateful we get to do this community thing together.
Thanks for sharing this, Tina. Hard stuff, but what great confirmation you’ve received about community.
Thank you, Sam. Yes, I am so grateful for such blessings even in difficult times.
Tina, my daughter lost her baby 19 weeks into a difficult pregnancy and we just walked through the process of planning a service and letting him go last week. The outpouring from her friends and family across the country via texts, emails and cards (in the mail 🙂 has carried us all. You captured this journey so well; may God continue to sustain you as you heal.
Oh, Jody, my heart just grieves for you and your family. I am so sorry. I am thankful that you, too, have had community come alongside you. I will be praying for you all in my evening prayers tonight.
OH, I just adore this. You put into words the truth of what real live Christian community is. Love you!
Thank you Dena, for being a part of it! Community as the Father intended it is such a wondrous thing. I’m still in awe of the way it works.
Tina, this is beautiful and painful – just like living in community. Thanks for sharing your story.
Charity, thanks to you for being here in the space with me. It wouldn’t have been as easy to share if this safe wasn’t so sacred and safe.
“In every meal, kind word, prayer, and offer to help, the Father whispers to me that community is far deeper than a collection of friendships. ”
tears and nods here
K, oh you hit exactly on the heart of what He was showing me…it’s so much deeper than just friendship. Some of our community who reached out weren’t even who I would have considered as close friends, and yet they were there for us all the same. It was such an overwhelming display of love…it still floors me.
This is so well said, Tina. We do need those spaces and those safe people where we can weep for all the sadnesses we carry. We’ve been writing/talking about that very thing at my blog this week, wondering if there is room for our tears. You’ve written powerfully about a community that makes room for them. That is a great gift, one that I’d love to see replicated around the world. Thank you.
Diana, thank you. Community can be such a sacred and beautiful space where we can share our tears. I, too, hope that we can work toward having more of those spaces than not. How much better would the world be if we could heal together?
This is terrific, hard, and beautiful. Thank you.
Thank you, Ann.
Friend, your stark witness is piercing. It cuts deep. The reality of death feels plainly wrong and my mind revolts. But to realize it comes down for me like this too, that until the end, my friends are my fellow witnesses of encouragement and inspiration and love….you remind me that to live is Christ and to die is gain. He is the quiet hope turning death to life. Oh what manner of love the Father has given to us…
Thanks Mick. I am so grateful for your friendship and your encouragement to me as a writer.
I love your encouragement and your example for us to live and flourish in community.
Thanks so much David. I learn a lot from being in community with people like you and our other High Calling friends. 🙂
Tina, I am so sorry for your loss, but so encouraged to see how you and your family have been surrounded by a loving community….praying comfort for you and your family today.
Dolly, thank you so much. I appreciate you!