How to help from an ocean away (or even just down the street)

As we approach our three-year anniversary of living back in the U.S., I have been reflecting on some of the lessons I learned from living overseas for 8 years. One of these came home recently as I was rereading a family blog that recorded some of my thoughts and our experiences during that season.

Entry as written on April 10th, 2008:

Today represents the first anniversary of my grandma’s death.04 Grandma Abbott with Jack In many ways it is hard to believe that it has only been a year, and in many ways it is hard to believe that it has been over a year. A lot has happened in twelve months—both some that I wish I could share with Grandma and some I am glad she doesn’t have to live through.

I remember before I moved to England I prayed that God would spare my loved ones while I was away. I knew Grandma was getting older and was hopeful that she would live until we returned back to the U.S. Cancer took her in what we thought were our last couple of months in England. There was definitely some bitterness in this and even some frustration and questioning of why it had to be this way.

As I reflect back on her life and her death, I am struck by two things. First, I am very thankful for the relationship I was able to have with her. I really don’t have any regrets. I got to say goodbye when I flew home to see her in January. It was a hard good-bye, but I remember telling her that I had no regrets that she had meant so much to me and that I believed we had really made the most of our time together. She squeezed my hand and nodded her head in what I believe to be agreement.

Second, being far away when a loved one is dying is really hard. I was fortunate, however, to learn a very valuable lesson and one that I hope I will recall if/when I need it in the future. My natural tendency is to want to help in tangible ways – help cook, go visit someone, take them to the hospital etc. Unfortunately, I was not able to help in these ways. These tasks fell primarily to my aunt, dad and mom as well as my siblings there in Missouri. What I was able to do was pray. I learned that prayer is powerful. It was the only thing I could do, which I think was good for me given my natural tendencies of being a ‘take-charge – go, go, go’ type of person. I am afraid that if I was nearer my grandma during this time I wouldn’t have prayed as much and I wouldn’t have learned this lesson. Even though it was very difficult to be far, I am thankful for what I learned about prayer and continue to pray that it was serve me well in the future.

I found this post particularly relevant today, over seven years later. I don’t want prayer to be something in my life that I resort to once I am done ‘doing’ or when ‘doing’ isn’t possible. I need to be reminded to go to prayer in the first instance – with big and small things. Just because I am back in the U.S. near lots of loved ones, I don’t want to resort to being a do-er who prays occasionally. I want to pray, reflect on what God desires, and then do it. I hope this post might be useful to many who find themselves far from those they want to help but also those who are near. Whether it be mothers sending their child across the country to college, or mothers sending their babies down the block to kindergarten, may prayer be something we are proactive with rather than reactive.

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