As I walked into our beach condo for the week, my mind was overtaken with thoughts of this exact moment a year ago. I was in such a different place then. I remember walking in last year and all I wanted to do was find a place to sit, just sit and rest. But, I knew rest wasn’t going to happen, rest quit happening months earlier. We had walked through the darkest days of our lives and only nine months had gone by since mom had passed from this life to the next. I was exhausted and emotionally devastated, I needed a place of retreat so I could somehow begin to find healing.
Those were the hardest days of my life.
I’ve said to many, as if grieving for yourself is not hard enough, there is another level of grief that comes when WATCHING someone you love deeply try to go on after the greatest loss of their lives. For me, it was my dad. He was a hero in taking care of my sweet momma until she took her last breath, no one could’ve possibly had better care. He loved her and served until the end.
But, then overnight, he became a party of one.
Watching him hurt deeply, agonizing over the loss of his beloved, made it even harder to get up and face each day. I want to say here, I don’t think there are enough conversations about how to WATCH someone you love grieve. We talk about, and are given books and literature, even attend support groups about how to handle our own loss of a loved one. And we need those things, just to survive. But, no one mentioned a word to me about how hard it would be to watch my dad suffer and struggle through his grief. I don’t have a degree in psychology and I have not done any studies on managing grief, I am just speaking from my heart here, first-hand experience.
It was really HARD.
He never complained. Never. I kept waiting for the day he would blame God and become angry at the world and anyone who was happily living in it. But, he never did. I have no idea what he may have dealt with in the privacy of his own heart, but he never vocalized anything but trust and thankfulness for having my mom in his life for as long as he did. I almost wonder if it would’ve been easier for me to cope if he HAD been angry, then I could’ve shouted at the world and the heavens with him, “WHY? Why does life have to be so hard sometimes?”
But, he didn’t, so neither did I.
So, as I walked in the door yesterday, all these thoughts and many more flooded my mind and my senses were drenched in deja vu. I took the same steps I had taken a year earlier and allowed myself to remember how forlorn I had been back then. I let my mind wander and my heart began to feel that same familiar pain that has plagued it for the last twenty one months. Tears filled my eyes and I told my husband, “Remember this time last year?” He knew exactly what I was referring to, this precious man who has walked by my side as I lost my very best friend and mother all in one.
He loved her too.
Now, here I was, exactly a year later reliving the same experience I’d had when I thought my heart might explode inside my chest. It had been a long year. I had held onto a thousand scriptures, prayed too many prayers to count, lost the joy of life and wondered if I would escape this pain alive. I don’t know how many times I got down on my knees, on my face even, and begged God to make it easier, but He didn’t choose that road for me, and I’m sure some of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about.
Grief is no respecter of persons.
There is no shortcut through it, but, God helps us to process it and we learn to cope. He is able and willing to turn one day into the next and support us as we face them one by one. The only remedy for healing is time, time and the love of our Savior. He sends people that wipe our tears, He sends hope in the form of a phone call, encouragement in a random text or a listening ear over a cup of coffee. I’ve learned there is no magic moment when the pain suddenly dissipates, no immediate rescue, just His abiding love.
I facilitated a Bible study recently and on the very last discussion session we were asked to read John 15:5-8. I’ve copied it below, the emphasis on remain is mine.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you REMAIN in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not REMAIN in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you REMAIN in me and my words REMAIN in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
We learned the word abide (or REMAIN in the version above) is the Greek word Meno. It means…
|to remain, abide, to sojourn, tarry, not to depart, to continue to be present, to be held, kept, continually, in reference to time, to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure, of persons, to survive, live, in reference to state or condition, to remain as one, not to become another or different **The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon
I am so blown away by this definition, and did you see how many times the word remain is repeated in the passage? It’s as though God is saying, “Hang in there with me, stay connected, we will do this thing called life together. You are not alone, stay close and you’ll be held.” I read over and over this definition drinking in each word and testifying in my spirit that it is true. He does NOT depart from us, He is continually present, even when I could not feel His arms around me I can look back now and see that I was being held. He sojourns beside me, He does not ask me to bear the hurts, pains and LOSSES of life alone.
I especially love one of the last phrases in the definition, “to remain as one.” I am no Bible scholar, but I took this to mean that the Lord and I have become so intertwined that it is hard to see where He ends and I begin. He was so close in those days that we may as well have been one. We WERE one. That sounds so beautiful to me, so loyal and true, one might not even be able to tell us apart. No matter how mad or distant I might’ve seemed to Him, he stayed close, he was in it for the long haul; He had my survival in mind.
I love that thought.
As I lay in bed last night, again allowing myself to remember the events, people and feelings from a very painful last year, the tears began to flow. There is a physical pain that accompanies loss, it sits in the middle of your heart. But, even as my heart ached and the tears flowed, I realized that I really was stronger and I really was less fragile. Some healing had taken place and my heart didn’t feel like it was about to crack wide open.
Time and love had done and is still doing its work in me.
This morning, my husband and I made the short trek down to the water to sit and enjoy its serenity for a while. We were laden down with chairs, beach bag and I was holding onto my hat as the wind was blowing stronger than usual. It wasn’t long until we were settled and I leaned my head back to enjoy the view. I’m not sure why but as I was sitting out under the canopy of a pale blue sky watching the seagulls fight the wind, I thought about the freedom my mom must feel these days. Watching those birds glide and lean into the wind I spoke in a whisper that only my heavenly Father and I could hear, “Fly, Momma, fly. I’m so thankful you are free.”
One day we’ll fly together.
I’m going to be okay, it was sketchy for a while, I wasn’t sure, but I am. Momma raised me and my sisters with strength and I am forever grateful to her for insisting we not give up; not on life, not on each other and not on always trying to be better.
And never on Jesus.
He is faithful and He will REMAIN.