It ended as most women’s retreats do.
Hugs. Clasped arms and hands. Tears of joy, of hope, of surrender. Renewed faith. Proclamations. Newly made promises to self, family, and God. Resolutions. Determination to keep them. A deeper sense of the Lord’s love and mercy. The altar was deep and wide with women bowing, kneeling, sitting—praying, singing, weeping.
As always, I come away from women’s gatherings in awe of God. Being the guest speaker is both exhilarating and exhausting. It is a privilege that I pray I’ll never take for granted. I am always humbled by the idea that women are coming to “fill up” for a weekend and that I’ve been asked to hold the nozzle. There is a holy fear about filling their tanks sloppily; pouring too much or too little. I am sober about the judgment I bring on myself should I serve something watered-down or contaminated.
Most women had exited the sanctuary to go to the wonderful luncheon that awaited. A few lingered to finish their conversations with God and one another. A sweet, diminutive woman who I had never met approached me slowly. There was a certain pain in her eyes and they were moist as she spoke. Her head tilted a bit to one side as she shyly inched closer.
“Someone told me you know Kathy Troccoli.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.”
“Do you know her well?”
“Yes, very well.”
The woman looked encouraged.
“Would you give her a message for me?”
“Of course, I’d be happy to.”
Her warm blue eyes filled and a tear ran down the center of each cheek.
“I lost my daughter six months ago and Kathy’s song ‘Goodbye For Now’ has given me strength and courage.”
There were some nights when I didn’t think I would ever handle the grief or make it to the morning. That song has blessed my family and me more than anyone will ever know. Will you tell her for me?”
“I promise I will. It really is an anointed song, isn’t it? I’ve heard many people say it helped them through the loss of a loved one. I know that was Kathy’s hope when she wrote it. She is certainly familiar with grief. She has buried her parents, her grandparents, and recently her aunt. Although cancer is prevalent in the family history, Kathy has chosen faith over fear. She is one of those people who looks forward to a big reunion!”
I smiled, hoping I hadn’t sounded like Pollyanna. I didn’t know where to take the conversation from there. Six months is so recent—so raw. What condition would I be in after the death of a child? Would I attend a women’s retreat? Would I put myself around so many women who had endless stories (and photos) or their children? I was hesitant to ask about her daughter. Yet, I have often been told that grieving people need to talk about the person who they are missing so badly.
“What was your daughter’s name? Did she have your pretty eyes?”
The woman wiped her nose with a crushed, damp tissue and offered a half-smile.
“Cindy was only twenty-one. It’s been so hard.”
My thoughts raced and I wondered if her daughter had died in a car accident or if she had lost a battle with cancer. I returned the half-smile and squeezed the weary mother’s arm.
“I am so sorry. How wonderful that you’ve come here this weekend to be encouraged. How is the rest of the family doing?”
“You see, Cindy was bi-polar and we all suffered with it the last ten years.”
“Her younger brother is taking it the worst. You see, Cindy was bi-polar and we all suffered with it the last ten years. She had good times and bad ones. She loved the Lord but she got tired of her struggle. Every day had become a painful battle. She lost the will to go on. We know she is with the Lord. That is why Kathy’s song has been so meaningful to all of us.”
The sweet face suddenly seemed pained, as if something had jabbed her.
“Cindy took her own life.”
The woman’s shoulders started to shudder and I stepped closer so my hands were now cupping each of her forearms. Her eyes searched mine for permission to go on with her heartbreaking account. I nodded reassuringly.
“Who found her?” I asked.
“It was a nightmare I thought would never end. Her body was recovered four days after she jumped to her death from the Brooklyn Bridge. We found a letter and a journal. She was just tired. She gave up. I would give anything to hug her one more time. How I wish we could have her back. We can’t . . . for now. But . . . someday.”
“Yes,” I whispered . . . “someday.”
I held the stranger-turned-sister for a long minute and our warm tears ran together. She cried for her daughter and I cried for her. And I think I cried for me.
I thought of my children and my husband and my parents and thanked the Lord for their health and their lives. I thought of my four grandparents and especially of my sweet “Nona”, whom I sorely miss. I thought of Kathy and the many deaths of loved ones that she has so valiantly faced with unwavering faith. I thought of Judy Raftery and Lorraine Hansen and Martha Loredo and Eleanor Nash and Linda Roiland and Phyllis Caroleo and Kathy Fardig. No camera crews arrived when these special women passed away. No monuments were built, no lengthy obituaries were written. They weren’t celebrities by the world’s standards but they were shining stars to their families and friends . . . and to me.
Easter Sunday is soon upon us and when I bow my head in worship, I will once again celebrate the incredibly, overwhelmingly, amazingly fabulous news that my Savior has conquered sin and death and granted everlasting life to all who believe in His name. What a great reunion that will be.
I can’t believe that you’re really gone now
Seems like it’s all just a dream.
How can it be that the world will go on
When something has died within me?
But there will be a time when I’ll see your face
And I’ll hear your voice and there we will laugh again.
And there will come a day when I’ll hold you close
No more tears to cry cause we’ll have forever.
But I’ll say goodbye for now.
‘Good Bye for Now’ (abridged) lyrics by Kathy Troccoli