WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS

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What it Means to Survive the Loss of All

I remember when I was a child, I heard the most violent nursery rhyme that one could ever imagine.

Rock a Bye Baby,

On the tree Top;

When the wind blows,

The cradle will rock.

When the bough breaks,

The cradle will fall;

Down will come baby,

Cradle and all!

Thank God no one knows what happened to the baby after the fall. However, this rhyme reminds me of what happens when a loved one dies unexpectedly, the bough breaks, and everything falls.

The bough broke first for us in 1980. I had just married the most beautiful woman in the world, January 26th of that year. My wife, Crystal, was pregnant with our first child. We had just accepted the Lord together as Seventh-day Adventists, bought a house down the street from her brother, Robert, and contemplated enrollment at Oakwood University.

Everything was lovely. It was Mother’s Day, and Robert was supposed to come down to the house to watch a NBA Playoff Game with us. I decided to go to the court to play basketball. As I headed out to play ball, I remember looking up the street and seeing Robert’s car. I knew then that he was home—Robert did not go anywhere without his car. When I returned, I expected to hook up with Robert, but much to my surprise, no one was home! I went outside to see if his car was at his house, and again, it was parked out front. I walked up the street to see if he was home, and no one answered. 

I walked back down to my house, got into my car, and headed up to the in-laws, supposing everyone was there. As I drove up the road, my father -in-law passed me with a car full of family, going in the opposite direction with incredible speed! Despite this, I continued to the in-laws house, with hopes of finding someone there. No one answered the door. I thought to myself, that’s odd. So I headed back home, thinking that my father-in-law was perhaps taking Crystal home when he passed me.

 I was not prepared for what I was about to see. I turned the corner to my street and saw emergency vehicles at Robert’s house. What’s worse, the pastor of the church was there, dressed in a suit. It was then that I knew something had gone horribly wrong. 

I got out of my car. Made my way past the paramedics. I found Robert in his bedroom, dead from a gunshot wound to the head! He had been deceased for hours. 

The terror of that day was indescribable! Absolutely devastated from shock of the moment, it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to check on my wife. She was in the third trimester of her pregnancy. If anything could move her to early labor and delivery, or worse, it would certainly be this. So, I rushed out of the room where Robert lay, and found my wife, incredibly strong and composed, comforting her mother.  

I felt so terribly bad for her mom! What a Mother’s Day present, to find her only son dead from a gunshot wound! Crystal was strong and composed, even at the funeral. However, two-weeks later, she had the worst break down I had ever witnessed. Since then, over a twenty-year period, the bough just kept breaking on us.

  • 1981 – Crystal’s Grandfather, Thomas died
  • 1988 – Crystal’s biological dad, Carl Sr. died
  • 1992 – My mother, Mattie, died
  • 1996 – My father, James, died
  • 2000 – Both Crystal’s adoptive dad, William, and her uncle, Thomas, died the same day
  • 2010 – Crystal’s nephew, Sterling, was shot to death at his home
  • 2015 – Crystal’s grandmother, Florine died at 100 years old
  • 2017 – My brother, George died
  • 2019 – My oldest sister, Rita died

Since the death of Rita, we thought that we were quite familiar with death and dying. Maybe we were somewhat immune to the pain of loss. We had 10 losses over a 20 year period. However, nothing could prepare us for what came into our lives between the Christmases of 2020 and 2021!

  • 2020 – Crystal’ brother, Charles died from COVID-19 complications on Christmas Day
  • 2021 – Crystal’s cousin Sheba died of COVID-19 complications in February
  • 2021 – My aunt, Mary, died of Respiratory Distress in June
  • 2021 – Crystal’s mother, Otha and her sister, Lesa, died of COVID-19 complications the same  Sabbath in July
  • 2021 – My sister, Ruth, died of COVID-19 complications in September
  • 2021 – Our daughter, Raquel, died of COVID-19 complications, December 23rd!

The bough not only broke on us, but it nearly broke us! At one point, we were practically immobilized. 

However, I’m so glad to report, that somehow, in the midst of all that we were experiencing and feeling, God came and met us while we were in our despair. In the two years since the most recent events, God has even revealed to us the very things that kept us moving forward.

In the interest of helping others who have experienced what we have, as well as those who shall have the daunting task of navigating through such troubling waters; it is our privilege to share the six things that kept us moving in the right direction.

First, our family had to pull together, with a closeness, that was second to nothing we had ever experienced before.    

Secondly, we had a loving church family at Mt. Sinai SDA Church in Orlando, Florida. God knew this experience was coming. We would need the comfort that this particular church could provide. They extended love to us in absolutely remarkable ways. The pastoral staff was incredible in its support too.

Next, the promise of the presence of God was a present help to us.

“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.  He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken,”  Psalm 34:18-20.

In addition to these, I am a self-taught woodwind player of both the Flute and Saxophone. I cannot tell you enough how valuable these instruments were during this tumultuous time.

Further, the promise from God Himself. Hebrews 13:5 is more than a scripture; it is the real deal! 

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” 

Furthermore, there were certain songs that spoke to our situation. “Yet Still I Rise” by Yolanda Adams, and “Even In the Rain” by Maurette Brown Clarke, were a present help at that trying time.

Lastly, the consistent Bible study of my wife, before all of these losses transpired laid a foundation for faith. My wife inspired me with her devotional Bible study and prayer life. Her morning worship of God is unrelenting. When the losses happened, she took a momentary hiatus from it, but not long after the funerals, she picked it up again. I believe it has been her source of strength for many years.

We still have our moments and much of our focus is on our self-care, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ! It is our prayer that this missive will be a blessing to all, if, and when your bough breaks. Keep us continually in your prayers.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

DERRICK MOFFETT, TH.D in religion and counseling, and CRYSTAL MOFFETT, R.N., write from Orlando, Florida,  where he pastors the Mt. Sinai Seventh-day Adventist Church and she is a traveling nurse.

 

This article is part of our 2023 September/October Issue
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