One of the most majestic places in Virginia is Crabtree Falls. This waterfall is a spectacular sight to see, but it also has a dark side. Since the 1980s over 30 people have lost their lives as they’ve ventured off the path and fell because of the slippery moss and rocks. There is a wonderful lady in our church who knows the anguish of losing a loved one at Crabtree Falls. Dolly Smith lost her daughter Tammy Hess on August 9, 1988. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only painful loss Dolly has experienced.
In April 1974 her husband, Eugene, had a heart attack. He went into surgery and died during complications from the surgery. He was 43 years old when he went to be with the Lord. This left Dolly with six children to raise alone; four of them under the age of 16. If this wasn’t difficult enough, Dolly lost her father in October 1973 and then lost her mother in August 1974. So within nine months she lost both of her parents and her husband. I recently visited with Dolly and she told me not only of the pains of these losses, but of the difficulty of trying to navigate life while grieving these losses. Dolly said there were weeks where she wondered if they’d have enough to make it to the end of the week, but she said, “The Lord always came through.” The Lord came through for Dolly in the ways the Lord usually comes through for many people, through the hearts and hands of loving neighbors and friends. Dolly said she’d often have neighbors bring her food from their garden or someone would remember them and cook an extra dish and drop it off for their dinner.
As Dolly told me her story she said several times, “The Lord’s been good to me.” My conversation with Dolly reminded me of someone who wrote of God’s presence in the midst of great loss. There was a man named Horatio Spafford who was a successful Chicago lawyer. Spafford lost a son in the great Chicago fire of 1871. After his son died, he decided his wife and four daughters needed to get away so they booked passage on a ship bound for Europe. The day before they were to leave there was urgent business that kept Spafford in Chicago. He urged his wife and daughters to make the trip without him and he’d catch up with them later. Tragically, his wife’s ship collided with another ship and his wife was the only one from his family to survive. His wife’s last memory of the disaster was of a violent wave that swept her baby from her arms and into the sea. Spafford received a telegram from his wife that read, “Saved Alone.” Spafford immediately boarded a ship to meet his wife. When the ship approached the sight of the shipwreck Spafford looked into the sea and later wrote a poem that has become a famous hymn. He wrote, “It is well with my soul.” Somehow, in God’s grace, God granted Spafford peace in the middle of unimaginable loss.
As I said before, when Dolly Smith was telling me the story of her losses she told me at least three or four times, “The Lord’s been good to me,” which is another way of saying, “It is well with my soul.” When we suffer a loss the pain can be unimaginable, smothering, and even all–consuming, but even in loss there can be life and blessing and hope. The next time a loss forces you to walk down the narrow road filled with pain and grief, I wonder if we might pause to pray and ask the Lord to allow us to feel His peace, comfort and provision? Dolly felt God’s peace and provision through the kindness and care of others. God’s people were often there with an encouraging word when she was down, or a casserole when the cupboard was nearly empty. That’s a good word for us I think. May God help us to open our hearts and hands and serve others, especially those who are hurting. As Paul says in Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” May God bless you and may God bless Bethel. Amen.