When you are going through a deep and painful grieving process, it’s a very mixed bag when it comes to what emotion will rise to the surface next. I am sure that you are familiar with the five stages of grieving, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I like these stages in theory but if you try to tell me which one I am currently experiencing, you will likely just irritate me. I am aware of the stages and if I feel the need to label where I am, I will.
Through all these stages both Kel and I have felt this overwhelming sense of confusion and surprise. Just days before mom took her life I was straightening my hair in the bathroom while listening to the song beautiful things by Gungor. Our family likes music while getting ready in the morning, and we have iPod docking options in both the kitchen and the bathroom to accommodate this. On this particular morning I was listening to a song, which I love, called Beautiful Things by Gungor. The first few lines of this song deal with pain and a longing for something good to grow in the soil of your life. I remember thinking to myself, for this first time in a very long time I am not feeling an overarching sense of pain in my life. I do have an intense longing to be a fertile ground for God’s work in my life, but I am content with my life, happy with where we are. Dads’ death took me a long time to get over, but on that morning I felt contentment.
Flip ahead two days, when I got another, completely different, earth shattering phone call. It just flat out doesn’t seem fair that just when I was content, not proud, not boastful, but content that I should draw the “Go back to square one” card in the game of grieving a parent.
The best way I know how to describe how it feels right now is that I am sitting at a huge long table. The kind you would see in a castle where the two diners sit at opposite ends so ridiculously far apart that it makes conversation impossible. As I take my seat the waiter brings the traditional silver platter covered with a silver domed lid and sets it in front of me. The lid comes off to reveal something so incredibly terrible and awful that my entire body is repulsed by it. This isn’t what I ordered. I don’t want this. You have to take it away. But as much as my entire being is opposed to the contents of the tray I am steeped in the knowledge that this tray is my only option. And I have to sit in this chair for a long time and deal with what has been placed in front of me, and not only me my entire family.
This was supposed to be a season of joyful anticipation for the birth of our son, Noelle’s brother. This is fall, and soon thanksgiving and then Christmas. This is my favorite part of the calendar year, the part I look forward to and savor. How could it be so suddenly defined by the arrival of this terrible thing?
I can say with honest sincerity that I don’t point a blaming finger at anyone because this tragedy is now part of my story. In the future someday, I might, but today as I sit on our couch wrapped up in my favorite sage green blanket I am not angry at anyone, not my Mother and not God. I am just in shock that this is the now. I am in total despair at the length of time this will take to heal from, to process. I am keenly aware that there is good in the now, and that there is life still continuously moving inside and around me. I feel hope even though I know it will only truly come to bloom in the days ahead of me. And if I check the guidebook for my personal life I find myself without instructions on how to cope with this exactly. But I know that my God is pouring love into my life in the form of friends, family, and everything I eat that is made from apples.I love and live for apples in the fall, and that is one part of me that seems to remain unchanged. I feel that our family is being lifted up by prayer in an almost tangible way. All of that makes each painful day more possible.
And so I can be here, and feel the exhaustion, the hurt, the shock, the numbness and the pain. I can do this because he does make beautiful things out of the painful parts of our life even when he doesn’t cause them. I can live through this because while this death seems to define today it won’t define who I am. I can get up tomorrow and keep eating and breathing because I believe that even when something incredibly painful arrives and demands to become a large chapter in our story, I know it isn’t the entire story. That a beautiful theme will sing louder than the pain when the book of my own life draws to a close.