Stunned by grief -
I remember the conversation as clearly as if it had just happened. I was in the kitchen, unloading groceries in my dear friend's house, and I was talking with her mom. We are very close, and our families have been for years. My friend is a few years older than I am, and we were talking about her grandfather dying earlier that Autumn.
My friend's Mom said that it had been hard on my friend, because it was the first funeral she had ever been to.
My jaw dropped. "did you say the FIRST?! the ... FIRST? EVER?"
She confirmed the statement and went on to explain it to my Mama who had just walked in the door. It was such a stunning statement, I remember blinking in the shock of it. Staring at the bag of groceries in incomprehension.
I was so shocked, and what shocked me most of all, was that I considered the thought that maybe that wasn't unusual for most people. Normal people. People that don't lose people.
I tried to shake it off, and literally shook my head to dispel the thought and get back to whatever job I was trying to do moments earlier. :) I told myself to forget it until I could try to figure out what on earth had so shocked me about that sentence.
I went for a very long walk by myself that evening. In the freezing cold, through the pines and rocks and whipping wind. My hoodie pulled over my head, and my shoes scattering the gravel, I broke into runs until I couldn't breathe. I would stop and heave for air, and when I had just had enough I stopped and bent over and with a moan, turned the air into chest-aching sobs. I gasped for air, and felt the wrongness of it settle on my head, pushing into my heart. The hurt and sorrow pressed in on me so deeply, I wanted to lie down on that gravel and sob for hours.
I couldn't even remember how many funerals I had been to. I couldn't count them on two hands. Or three hands even. Or how many people I have loved that are now with the Lord I love, and missed their funerals. How many people I kissed on the forehead that one last time, squeezed their hands and whispered one last "I love you.". Said goodbyes in joy and laughing, never knowing it was the last time I'd see them until Eternity. Said them in all fullness of sorrow and tears where they are not, their shells there until Christ raises all from the dead, from the land and sea. Or sent them an e-mail too late. Sent their families a card because I wasn't there.
I think I so much as couldn't breathe from the enormity of what I was trying to process as much as the heaving sobs. The enormity of the loss that I knew vs. my dear friend who had been to her first funeral. Of course, she has had loss and has known deep sorrow, but the statement had stabbed into that tender part of the heart that screams -
"It's not supposed to be like this. This is NOT how it should be."
I was stunned in grief then, and I am stunned in grief now.
It shocks me to the very inner parts of my heart that God has taken those I love. Taken them to be with Him. Taken them from here, given us time to wait to SEE Him and them as well.
It shocks me that it will be almost 8 and 9 years since I've hugged my grandparents. Kissed their foreheads and sung through their funerals. It shocks me that it will be 2 years soon. It shocks me that it has been a year. It shocks me that it has been a week. A week. I shake my head in incomprehension and inability to even process it all.
Something else occurred to me last night as I was talking with a sweet friend from church, not so much the idea of it, but the words that clicked in. I told her that I am more quick to jump into a conversation, any conversation, if it is about sorrow and suffering. I feel like I relate so much more to people who are grieving. When I am in a conversation and someone tells me to "know the JOY OF THE LORD is your strength" when all I want to hear is "tell me, I will listen and care", I about. lose. it. I actually feel claustrophobic sometimes. (if you see me smiling and looking like I'm panicking, someone rescue me, please. ;) )
Don't worry, I lose it later, when the people aren't around. ;) No people were harmed in the writing of this post. :) Hahaha. And I understand that they want to help, and try to comfort.
And it is so true that JOY sustains those who are grieving. Joy is our strength through Christ in the night when weeping fills it, joy comes in the morning and fills us knowing our precious family and friends are in His presence. 'Tis true!
But it doesn't ever take the hurt and grief away. Or my loss. Or that person's place in my world.
It has been a hard week. I have been stumbling through all the normal places of grief that are ... well ... normal for me. Normal to be angry, to submit, to lose it and weep. It IS grief, after all. So forgive me if this seems haphazard. I wrote it from a grieving heart, and that usually means it makes the most sense to me more than anyone else.
I almost didn't write. So many times. Because what more could be written about one so dear? How many more times could I say that I loved her? That I wished God had different plans for their precious family, even though His ways are always the best and beautifully perfect. I didn't want to write again .... I didn't want to remember that she wouldn't be writing me back.
Stunned that this was God's plan.
Stunned that so many details linger with me, the feel of her son's hair and the way my heart melted in joy when he smiled at me. The way her hugs made me the most important person in that moment. The way her eyes knew. The way her words spilled warmth into my frozen, broken heart.
Less than 2 years later, and she's gone. A week and a half after I knew she might be going, and suddenly - gone. Gone in the early morning hours, like her son.
"For His ways are not our ways ..."
God has blessed me so very richly these past few years, indeed, my whole life! But He has given some very precious joys and beautiful plans unfolding in the midst of some devastating sorrows. I am so so grateful.
I never want my writing to turn into whining. This is meant to pour out of myself to bless others and to bring us all closer to His throne. The day this blog stops being my Ebenezer pitcher poured out of sorrow, my pitcher full of heartfelt words of comfort and rejoicing in the Truth of the joyful blessings and grace God has planned for us and given us, for His glory ... is the day I will stop blogging.
I'm stunned by grief and more than ever amazed by grace.
More and more and more cracks appear as more and more my heart breaks with each loss. But as I see the Ebenezer of sorrow in the Lord's hands, I see my pitcher, all smashed and mended with the love of His goodness, and I cry -
"More and more cracks, Lord! More and more and more until I cannot stand it here and long so fully for your presence and for my Eternal Home with You!"
and then as my heart thinks "but no more loss. please Jesus - no more loss."
what I know of Christ trumps over that plea, it tramples it into the ground and says with all the abandonment of surrendering everyone you love the dearest to the Lord Who loves them best; I shake my head with fervor and say "No. More and more cracks until you can barely see the Earthly Jean Marie and instead the Christ-filled Jean Marie, how I was meant to be. More and more cracks until Christ so streams out like water through those cracks! I must increase, and He must decrease. No - in life and death, we belong to You, and we cry "MORE! MORE OF YOU! More cracks - no matter what. And give us the grace to live it."
We cry More.
And they sing Hallelujahs in the Fullness of the Presence of the Giver and Healer.
Amen and Amen.
And we say "It is Not Death to Die", when your forever Home is with the King of Kings.
To all the people I miss so very very much ... I will see you again SOON. Soon and very soon.
To the Lord I need more than air, and desire to SEE .... keep me crying "More".
Thank you for the grace to cry it at all, and to see it at all.
~ Jean Marie ~
"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,and saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all."
~ Psalm 34: 17-19 ~
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.
Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite."
~ Psalm 147: 3-5 ~
A big thank you from my heart to Lauren, I wouldn't have written this if you hadn't encouraged me. I love you so much. I hope it is a long time until you hurt from grief, and when you finally do, I hope I can drive there and hold you while you cry, like you have for me.
I'm so grateful for you.