Waves of grief wash over me after a simple thought enters my mind. I’m sitting in church, the safest of places, the warmest of warm, the haven for hope when suddenly a single thought snares my mind and slips through my facade. Now I’m crying. To the people close by, I am crying because the hymn we are singing strikes a chord with me. Not the case today though. I’m crying because a memory of my friend and co-worker Milyse entered my mind and I unravelled. I smiled carefully to myself as I felt the thought blossom and I thought I may be able to just think the thought and let it go. But that song, that song was my undoing. And then the pastor’s message. The pastor’s message was about death and the coming of the Lord. The message started last weekend when we started reading John, chapter 11 and we finished it today. I let the tears flow. I didn’t stop them. I bowed my head and stopping singing to let the words and love of God’s hymn wash over and through me. I stayed in that moment for the remainder of the song just to be in the present. I just needed to accept my grief and be right where I was in order to feel like I could move on. I stopped crying for brief moments until I felt Milyse’ spirit with me. Then the waves came crashing through me again. It was a good cry; the therapeutic kind that just comes from the center of your soul. I’m glad I can cry. I’m glad I listen to my heart. I’m grateful I have a church home where people will hug me and console me without trying to stymie the tears. I’m thankful for the connections I make with them as I cry and they hug me because they have a great way of following up with me in future weeks to see that I am well. I am so grateful.
We use so many sayings in society that are meant to ease the pain of one’s grief; “This too shall pass”, “I’m so sorry for your loss”, “Don’t dwell on it, just be grateful it was a peaceful death”, “They lived a good long, happy life”, “They aren’t in pain anymore”, “They’ve ascended to glory”, etc. In reality, those sayings are just said because we don’t know what else to say. We don’t talk about death at all, we just try to pacify the pain. But damn it, I want to talk about it! I want to talk about all the aspects of death that transcend my consciousness. I want to talk about how pissed off I am that the strong woman Milyse was is now relegated to a pile of sad, lonely ashes in a box tucked away inside a stone monument at a cemetery. I want to talk about the fact that Milyse was only 52 and died far too soon for my liking and that I am angry she won’t see another sunrise or coach another basketball game. I want to holler, scream, and yell about how angry I am at myself for not telling her how I felt about her while she was alive and that all I have is hope that she hears my cries in heaven. I want to talk about these aspects with people who can handle listening to the tough stuff. I am not a sissy about these things. I face them head on and get messy with it! I want to talk about the human side of death and not so much about the spiritual. Some may argue that this is where I go wrong and why I can’t heal faster from the number of people who have died in the last two years, but I feel like I need to just grab hold of this death concept and shake it until all the plinko chips fall into place for me. I absolutely despise death. I hate it. I fear it. I tremble at it. I know it’s a fact of life, but not one I am quick to accept. My spiritual self knows where I will go once I’m called home, but I am so far from ready for that. I have so much left that I want to do. So much life I want to live. So many dreams I want to see come to fruition. A son who I want to see graduate high school, go to college, fulfill his dreams, and become the man God intends him to be. I want to get married again one day and feel the warmth of love in my heart. I want so much. Yet I feel so fragile. All these great people who lived so wonderfully and loved the Lord have left the earth and left their dreams behind. They left their hopes, dreams, and loved ones behind. Not like it was their choice or anything…surely they wouldn’t have chosen to leave so soon if they’d had their way, but nonetheless, one moment here, the next moment ascended to glory. What saves me from this same fate? Absolutely nothing. I am not in control of this part of life and maybe that is what scares the shit out of me. As our pastor said today, “each breath you take, every heartbeat is only by permission of the Lord your God.” Life is so fragile. Too fragile. Yet, we are asked to live life fully. We can find inspirational quotes and wall hangings in any department store that speak to this, “Live the life you have imagined”, “Live, Love, Laugh”, and more. I want to live fully and I intend to do just that but in the meantime (ironically enough) I need to get over this being sad part of my life. Those who know me would likely say that I am the eternal optimist. I see the silver lining in all situations and I am a beacon of hope in the darkest of storms. But in my storms, in my dark times, who is my beacon? Who is my rock, upon whom shall I rest? Where shall I find hope when my hope is tattered and torn to itty bits? I don’t know. I don’t have this answer. If I did I would likely feel a lot better. But, in my current state, I have my God. And only my God. Now, in theory, this is fantastic. I have a strong, wise, omnipotent God who loves me and has died for me and my sins so that I can find my place in heaven alongside God. My spiritual self is comforted in this knowledge. My human side, the side which could use a strong hug and warm laugh shared with people who love and adore me, doesn’t feel so much comfort quite yet. I need. And I’m not a needer. I am a giver. The people in my life probably don’t understand how much I need right now. They don’t understand because this isn’t my usual modus operandi. I am the giver. I am the healer. I am the therapist. I am not the needer. Please know something, my lovelies, please know I need too. I am just as human as you when pain gets the best of me. I need phone calls and hugs and love even though I seem strong. Don’t placate me and don’t dismiss me. My sadness, when I feel it, is heavy and burdensome. I am not an easy person to have a conversation with because I go places people don’t like to go. But be brave for me. Let’s go deep and get to the root of all things so I can heal. Let’s dig right down to the heart of the matter and suss out all the messy details together. And I promise, if you go there with me, I will bring you back safe and sound. I just need to travel with a person to the edges of my understanding. I need to contemplate all the many wonders of a subject and explore the unturned stones usually more than once. Sometimes I don’t trust my travels alone. I need company and another brain to go with me as a compass for the navigation. Traveling at night is scary if you don’t know where you’re going or where you’ll end up. It’s called the buddy system for a reason.
I’m just not good at this part of life — accepting death. It’s so contrary to all that I am and all that I believe in. Hysterical in some ways, right? Sounds foolish to me as I sit here and type it while I shake my head and grin sheepishly. I know better, yet here I am, in an existential dilemma because people I care about have died and I didn’t give them permission to do so. God, I’m shaking my head at you, but I’m praying for your patience with me while I get right about this. Loved ones, be present for me. Be with me as I travel this road of uncertainty and too many questions. Let me be the needer during this time and you take your turn in giving. I don’t ever ask for it, but just this once, will you try to give back to me? I need strength to be restored to me. If all you have to give is prayer, I will be grateful. If you have more, I will be indebted.
This, too, shall pass.
The Repressed Peach