My mother once told me that she was grateful for the church, because I would have someone to turn to if anything ever happened to her. She wanted me to be safe, secure, and loved. She believed the church is to be a place that offers love and support for all those who enter.
Little did I know that would be the last conversation I would have with her outside of a hospital room.
I was raised in a single-parent home. My father passed away when I was 3, so for most of my childhood and all of my teenage years I lived with just my mother. I never saw my life as anything outside of ordinary, until my senior year of high school, when the unthinkable happened.
My mother was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. My world was turned upside down. I denied that it was ever possible for my mother to leave me. God would never leave me alone. A miracle would happen. Without my mother I could never make it in this world.
Seven months later I heard the words no child wants to hear: “Your mother is not going to make it.” I buried my head in my pillow, wishing and hoping this was all a nightmare. Unfortunately it was not. Half an hour later I found myself standing in her hospital room to say goodbye. They disconnected her from life support a short while later.
Emotions flooded my mind. “What is going to happen to me?” I asked over and over. Words could not describe my fear and doubt about the future. I questioned why God left me alone. Why did this happen? Where would I go? What would I do?
I soon found out I was never alone. In the days to come, I experienced the amazing grace of God through the love of my church family.
From the moment my mother passed away I was surrounded by God’s grace and love. I was promised and encouraged by numerous people that I would never be alone. To this day I can replay the words, “You will never be alone” vividly over and over again. I could not ask for more.
On the day my mother passed away, I just wanted to know that I would not have to do this journey alone. The words, “You will never be alone” were a constant reminder of God’s presence in my life.
These are the words that got me through it all, but it was not just the words that encouraged me to keep going. It was the actions that followed. People’s actions were a constant reminder that I would never be alone.
It was the most beautiful scene to watch as different people took me into their homes, called me family, listened to my joys and sorrows, encouraged me in my studies, supported me in ministry, and loved me on my journey through college and seminary. It is a powerful image of the Body of Christ that will forever be embedded in my mind and heart. It is an image I hope to never forget.
I was reminded of the power of the Body of Christ only a few months ago when I married the love of my life. On our wedding day I looked around the sanctuary and was reminded of those powerful moments that encouraged me to never give up.
I was reminded of the time a loving mother in the youth group drove me to my college orientation, because I had no parent to take me.
I was reminded of a woman who sent care packages and sweet messages during my first year of college.
I was reminded of my youth minister and how he was the first person I saw after my mother died, and he and his wife have continued to be a loving presence in my life.
And finally I was reminded of a family who has done everything possible to make me feel loved and cherished in their family.
On this day I was struck by the actions of these and many more people in my life. I could not have made it to where I am without the Body of Christ, and I was once again reminded of how I cannot survive the future without them.
I am just one story. Christ called us to be the Body of Christ. He called us to serve others, and to love as we love ourselves.
If we follow this commandment, how can we change the course of someone’s life forever? My life was changed, and it was all because someone decided to love me without any expectation of anything in return. I suspect there are others around us in our life that also could be changed by simple acts of service.
Perhaps it would involve inviting them over for the holidays or going to lunch with them on a lunch break. Or perhaps it is something as simple as encouraging someone to have faith no matter what.
Perhaps all that is needed is a simple action that reminds others that “you will never be alone.”
Courtney is a graduate of McAfee School of Theology and is training to be a hospital chaplain. She will be in the CPE program at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, GA, this fall.