I joined the Mennonite church as a teenager. Mennonite Church USA as a denomination was still new, and I found it fitting that I was […]
Michele Miller Sharp wrote this piece Dec. 22, 2017. Her son, Michael (MJ) Sharp, was killed in March 2017 while working as part of a U.N. panel of experts investigating conflicts that have been ongoing in Congo since the mid-1990s.
I vividly remember the moment you were born, my dear son. You weren’t breathing because the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around your neck. You were blue. However, it didn’t take long for your lungs to fill with precious, life-giving air, and you cried out as if to say, “I’m here folks. Watch out, world!” I remember looking over at your worried father and saying, “John, you have a son.”
From that first day, when I placed you to my breast, I knew you had a vigorous personality. Each day was one to find adventure, with something new to discover and learn. But you also had a kind and sensitive heart. Those characteristics continued to describe you for the 34 years of your life.
You were always such a joy. Yes, I truly mean always. You had a brilliant mind. But it never was something you flaunted. Your kindness and sense of humor and adventurous spirit are what drew people to you. It was, however, what kept us as your parents on our toes, trying to keep one step ahead of you to make sure you were adequately challenged.
Because you learned and mastered things so quickly and then became bored, I often prayed God would instill in you a call that would challenge and fulfill you. And when you finally did find that passion for working at peacemaking in places of violence and suffering, we could only support you. We celebrated you and your call. And most days I’m able to be grateful for all you were able to accomplish and all the lives you touched for what truly matters.
However, I admit there are days my mother heart just wishes you had been more ordinary. That you wouldn’t have had that keen mind, caring heart and passion for reconciliation and justice. Because then you, my dear son, would still be with us. You were killed because of the purposeful work you did.
My heart aches with the pain of your absence. Your presence in our lives was such an integral part of each of us, and what a gift you were. As parents we invest so much in our children, believing that investment will continue to contribute to the world long after we’re gone. That is the natural order of life.
So, at the end of 2017, I don’t know what to say of our experience of loss that has brought any revelation or insight. I only know that the pain of your loss is overwhelming. My mother heart continues to lie in pieces. I know those pieces will someday be patched together, but it will never look or be the same. I will always love you. Know, without a doubt, I was blessed to be your mother.
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