January 15th, 2018 was a Monday. I woke to eight missed calls from my mom, a voicemail, and
a missed video call from my cousin. I sprung upright and woke Kris as I hit redial. My mom told
me through soft sobs that her brother, David, (Uncle Vio as we called him) had passed
sometime in the night. I froze, at a loss for words, mind sluggish and unwilling to accept what
she’d said. Finally, I forced myself to say “I’m so sorry”. My voice sounded dazed. After hanging
up, I took several deep breaths to grab ahold of the sobs I felt rising. I told Kris the news and as
he cried, he asked me get dressed. “Your family needs you.”

While getting ready, tears brimming in my eyes, I glanced down at our pets, a cat and a dog.
Usually the moment I’m up, they circle my feet, excited to greet me. Instead they sat solemnly
side by side observing me. No meows. No jumping on me. There was a look of understanding in
their eyes.

As we left the house, I was greeted with one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever witnessed.
My heart squeezed as I realized that today was the first sunrise my uncle wouldn’t be sitting in
the kitchen with his coffee, commenting on the beauty of God’s creation. Tears stung my eyes
and I blinked them away. We arrived to find several cars already parked in front of my aunt’s tiny

In the living room, lay my uncle on his little cot. He was a loving servant who gave one bedroom
to his younger sister, and the other to his bedridden nephew while he slept in the living room to
keep watch over their house. The humble room was packed with family I’d not seen since
Christmas, just before everyone, including my uncle, caught the flu. I embraced my mom and
cousins. I kneeled next to his cot, where the nephew he’d raised, sat in what appeared to be a
state of shock. The tears began once again, but I felt a tap on my shoulder. KJ was awake and
asking why we were here. I explained that the uncle who had helped babysit him while I finished
college, had left to be with Jesus. KJ curled into my lap and sobbed. As the coroner’s van drove
away, the bell of the Texas Tech campus clock tolled on the hour. It seemed fitting for a man
who valued punctuality.

At the end of that painful day, I realized I hadn’t actually sat and cried. I’d hugged, comforted,
reassured. I tiptoed halfway down the stairs, where I sat and finally broke down. Before long, I
lifted my head to find our cat sitting beside me. She tilted her head, offering it for petting. I
reached out and stroked her as she settled into a comfortable position. Sitting at the top of the
stairs , was our dog, watching over me. Through tears, I smiled a bit, touched by the quiet
empathy and consideration of my pets.

It has been a full year since my uncle passed. What I’ve learned in the interim is that God
handles our grieving hearts gently, expertly. When tragedy invades, bringing tears,
unanswerable questions, and irreparable regrets, allow our Father to sit next to you in your
grieving and share in it. As He shares in it, He will heal it, and you will smile again.

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch
your breath.
Psalm 34:18 MSG

~ Brianna Richardson