Abiding Light: A Book Review

This is the type of book that I hope you’ll never have a need to read. If you do, however, I hope a copy makes its way into your hands.

Written by my mother’s cousin’s daughter, Heidi L. Paulec shares the personal account of losing her cousin Jamie to death by suicide, including fond memories of him when he was alive, what it was like to receive the news of his death, and how this event has affected her life since then.

The book is very much a family keepsake in that it not only shares Heidi’s thoughts and feelings regarding this loss, but she also shares her family’s memories of Jamie (up to four generations), their thoughts and feelings upon receiving the news of his death, and how they have found hope in God since this tragedy through their firm foundation of faith.

The book is compelling, easy to read, and deeply vulnerable as each family member shares about their own struggles in the face of loss. Nonetheless, hope is the underlying theme of this book. Even in the darkest moments after Jamie’s passing, Heidi and her family have been able to see how God was and has always been their abiding light, sustaining them in their profound grief.

One of the greatest gifts this book has to offer (in my personal opinion) is the knowledge of knowing that no one is alone in such a journey of loss. Others have walked down this road and are ready and willing to lend a listening ear and a lot of empathy and compassion to those who suddenly find themselves in a similar story. Heidi offers resources at the end of her book so that individuals can connect with others in their journey of grief. She can also be contacted at her own website, found here: https://heidipaulec.com/abiding-light/.

Heidi furthermore offers the gift of hope to her readers, as already mentioned. Although she felt steeped in the murky waters of confusion in the early days of her loss, she has been able to see how God was right beside her, sustaining her and providing healing every step of the way.

Not only is this a good resource for those who have experienced loss of a loved one to death by suicide, but it is also an excellent resource for friends or family who are walking alongside a loved one who has lost someone by this means. Heidi provides her own thoughts about how she was best comforted throughout this time, providing the reader ideas on how to show compassion to others.

If you or someone you know is experiencing such a loss, please consider purchasing this book. It may very well be instrumental in your own healing journey (or the journey of someone you may know). It can be found in Barnes and Noble and online at Amazon.

I pray that none of us will ever have to experience this sort of loss, but may we be ready to be part of the healing journey of anyone who may journey this painful path. May we point others in their darkest moments of life to the Light of the World, the one and only Abiding Light.

God prepares us for grief with gifts from his hand, his mind, his heart. He strengthens. He comforts. And he connects us with a resilience and love like no other.”

Heidi L. Paulec, Abiding Light

The Inner Struggles of a Mom

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

My son gashed his chin at the park a few weeks ago. It’s not something I intended to write about, but it really left an impression on me. Considering all the blood and how deep the cut was, I think I responded fairly well. My son was a real trooper, too. He cried on the way to the hospital, as is to be expected from a three-year-old, but he quickly calmed down as I continued to reassure him that I was taking him to the emergency room so that he could get better. He even managed to take a nap in my arms as we sat in the waiting room.

Three hours later, after a lot of waiting and a bit of medical care, my son’s chin was finally stitched up, and we headed to the nearest drive thru to pick up a late lunch before heading home. Liam was soon back to his happy, rambunctious self as we ravenously scarfed down our food. It was as if he had already forgotten about the incident. Life was far from normal for me, however. Apart from the stress of trying to keep Liam’s stitches dry and clean that week and keeping him from picking at them or injuring himself any further, my mind was brewing with unwanted thoughts.

That day, I was freshly reminded that I cannot always protect my son. I wasn’t able to protect him at eleven months when he had to be admitted to the hospital for two nights for a disease my husband and I had never even heard about. I couldn’t protect him subsequently at his follow up appointment two weeks later, where the doctor determined that his health had been affected by the illness and he would have to be put on medication indefinitely. I couldn’t protect him eight months later when he slipped on a step at the zoo and had to get stitches for the first time, and I couldn’t protect him this last time when he tripped over his own feet just a few feet from my side.

As much as I try, I am unable to shield my son from much of the harm that comes from living in a fallen world, and this most recent incident was a vivid and painful reminder to me of just that. I am incapable of completely keeping him safe, and I always will be. But the thought that I wrestle with more as I think about all of this is knowing that God can keep him from harm, but He doesn’t always choose to do so. Liam will continue to experience sickness, pain, and sorrow in different seasons of his life, just like everyone else, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

My faith does not falter as I consider these things, however, nor do I doubt God’s character. I have learned long ago to view my circumstances through the lens of God’s goodness rather than the other way around, and He has helped me to see Him at work in the different hardships I have faced thus far. I simply write this to confess that I’m struggling to reconcile myself to the fact that my family’s story may not turn out the way I want it to. We may experience greater suffering, sorrow, and loss than we have ever known, and there’s no way for us to undo whatever hardships we may face.

The most meaningful truth that I keep coming back to, however, is knowing that God did not spare His own Son for me. He gave Him over to a painful and gruesome death on a cross so that I might choose Jesus and have an eternity awaiting me with Him. And if God loved me so much to give His Son for me, then I can trust that He will not abandon me in my darkest moments and worst sufferings. He intimately knows my heart and all its emotions, and whatever may come, He will strengthen, comfort, and sustain me. He will completely see me through this life on earth until He sees me Home, where pain and sorrow will be no more.

I’m also comforted in knowing that God did not spare His own Son for Liam to give him a chance to believe in Him and be saved if he so chooses (and I fervently pray that he does).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

God loves Liam more than JJ and I ever could, and it would do me good to really meditate upon that fact and to find freedom in God’s great love for him. I can’t keep my son from harm, and God may not always shield him from all harm either, but I know that God can minister to Liam in his pain, just as He has done for JJ and me over and over again. He can comfort him, give him peace, and outpour His love upon Him in ways unlike anyone else. And those moments, in turn, can become the stepping stones that God uses to build faith in Liam and a deeper understanding of who He is.

Ultimately, I know that I must choose not to dwell on the possible hardships that this life may bring. The Bible admonishes us to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8), so I will seek to turn my thoughts to those things. But for every new stitch, sickness, or sorrow that may come our way, I want to keep remembering that God did not spare His own Son because of His immense love for us, and He is ready to outpour His love, kindness, compassion, and comfort upon my family and me. We just have to keep seeing our circumstances through the lens of His goodness. We just have to keep believing that He will carry us through this life until He carries us home.