Grieve.

How do we walk with the Lord on His journey? Especially in this year of so much change and uncertainty. Surrender. Endure. Grieve. Resurrect.

Day #3: Grieve  

Listen. This step is the hardest one of all.

Grieving is worse than enduring. When we endure, it is happening, and we put one foot in front of the other and try to stay in our skin. When we grieve, it has already happened and we are left to count the things we have lost. This is the reckoning.

Past the initial stages, grief becomes more intangible, and we think we can push it away. And we can push it, but not away. Twenty years later, that grief will knock on the door and demand to be heard.

Men especially struggle with this because since forever, it has not been ok for men to cry or admit they are sad. Both of these looked like weakness, and God forbid a man appear weak.

Today, there’s more awareness in the world that when we are weak—when we sit inside our grief and heal from it—we are strong. But not enough. We are still learning that lesson in reaction, instead of proactively teaching it to our kids.

Which brings me to the Apostles.

We’re not wholly sure where they spent the second day. John tells us that once Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb on Sunday morning, she ran to tell Peter, and that he and “the other disciples” went to the tomb (20:3). It’s safe to assume they were together, as they had been for three years, but we don’t know for sure.

What we do know is what they were doing: nothing, because it was the Sabbath.

In the Church we say they were “waiting”, and we liken it to our waiting here on earth for what comes next.

But I think it’s no mistake that God made them sit in their grief. No escape. No excuses. Just sit in the grief and feel it.

We have to do this too. We have to. And not just for death. For the lost graduations, weddings, trips of a lifetime, jobs, homes, sports seasons, church community—everything we lost in the last year. All the traumas in our lives. We have to surrender, we have to endure and then we have to grieve what was lost. We have to reckon the cost.

I hear a lot of talk about resilience, most of it in a “suck it up”” kind of way. But true resilience is the result of walking ALL the steps. True resilience is the provenance of the fully healed.

And there is no healing without grief.

My Darkness Into Light

It’s true that when it rains, it pours.

Or maybe in the midst of great loss, when we are at our most raw and vulnerable, we feel things with greater clarity but less coping skills.

I don’t know.

But I can tell you that in this month of sorrow, life has gone on. Annie graduated Pre-K, which means come the Fall, I’ll have three kids in all day school, three kids doing homework, three kids playing sports.

I made a major job decision that requires 150 hours of licensing.

And two weeks from now, I am in charge of Vacation Bible School, a function of my asking the director of ministries at our church “Hey, why don’t we have VBS?”

“No one to run it, ” she said. Then she crossed her arms, raised an eyebrow, and waited.

That’s worth a reflection. Months and months ago, God told me to say yes to VBS, even though he knew that at this very moment, my heart would be broken. I am on the lookout for why. Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and God will do the rest.

Which leads me to this post.

This is our third Spring in Oregon, the place we believe we were called to move. The previous two Springs have been pretty and worthy of note.

But this Spring? This particular Spring that has been so, so hard?

This Spring has been MAGNIFICENT.

The sound of the wind in the leaves outside the kitchen window.  The tulips and hyacinth that surprised us in April. The tree that leaved into a giant sentinel in the backyard.

The lemon balm that sprouted in the garden area, good for stress and anxiety.

The green hills and full creeks. Fields full of calves and lambs. Poppies. Dogwood. And sweet Mother, the roses.

Can I tell you how Sue loved her roses?

I didn’t even realize how much I was relying on the nature around me to soothe my heart until Saturday, when I was sitting at the winery five minutes from my house and this view brought me to tears.

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And then I thought about how many times in the last few weeks, Gabe has said “Mom, it is so pretty here.” Or Annie has picked some lemon balm and walked around the house, breathing it in. How the girls headed out to the backyard with their friend Sarah to cut fresh bouquets of roses for our families.

All of those things bringing simple and pure joy.

This Spring has sheltered and fed and lightened us, a bountiful grace for which I am thankful.

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This was filtered using Prisma, which is why it looks like a painting instead of a picture

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You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. 

Psalm 18:28

 

Sorrowing

 

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My second mom died. Her name was Sue. I introduced her to you once.

She died on Mother’s Day, with her son by her side. It was sudden and shocking and we are bereft.

I feel like a rat trapped in a maze. Life needs to be lived, so I get up in the mornings and I live it on that very specific plane of existence where laundry gets done and kids get picked up and dinner gets cooked. But then I’ll turn a corner and bam. I hit the wall of her absence. And it hurts.

Two days ago, it was when Annie got her haircut and I started to send the picture to Sue, who is her godmother.

Today, it was five seconds ago when I typed that sentence and used the word “is”.

I remember this from when my grandparents died in the car accident. Hitting the wall of grief. I know that as time passes, the walls get padded, and hurt less. And that one day, they won’t hurt when I hit them. They’ll send a cascade of love and gratitude over my heart, that I knew her and loved her and was loved by her.

But not yet.

The walk through grief is just like any other journey. No way out but through. And something else: the amount of pain in the hole she left in my heart is directly proportional to the amount of light she was in our lives, and will be again, once we get past this part.

In the meantime, we do the sacred work of sorrowing.

The Bustle in A House

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted opon Earth –
The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –
                                                                                                      Emily Dickinson

 

 

Grace

Last week sucked.

Wednesday,  we had to put our beloved Sugar girl down. She was 13 and it was time, but I’ve never had to make a decision like that before and it was awful.

Friday was my Reggie Jackson birthday. It’s a big number. Look it up.

We went to the coast for the day, where a giant seagull got into our car through the open sunroof and ate our picnic.

Shea and Gabe got hit by a scary rogue wave at the beach.

Gabe was carrying a glass bottle off the beach and up the trail when he slipped and smashed the bottle into the rocks with his hand. He cut himself good.

Saturday, I went looking for some Kleenex. There was none. Not one square of facial tissue left in the whole house. And no wonder.

Yep, last week sucked.  And then, in the middle of the crap, this happened:

After the girls shower every night, they get dressed in a tumble of pajamas and towels and dogs. When they got out the shower on Wednesday night, it was the first time there was just a dog.

Kate fell into a sobbing heap on the floor.

I left her with Shea while I dressed Annie and coaxed Lizzie into the kitchen for her medicine. When I came back to the room, Kate had calmed down enough to say “Mama, can we pray?”

I don’t remember her exact words, but she asked for God to take good care of Sugar and make sure she was with her family. She asked Him to tell Sugar that we love her and miss her. She asked Him to help us all feel better.

And then I asked God to send Sugar to Kate in her dreams so that she would know Sugar was ok.

The next morning, Kate came bursting into our room.

“Guess what?! I had a dream about Sugar! I was walking her with Lizzie and they were running and jumping and she was happy and her legs were fixed! I am SO GLAD that God answered our prayer!”

Then she went dancing back out the door. And she’s been ok ever since.

What do you do with a week like this? I don’t know. I’m living in a house with two dog beds, two dog food bowls, one dog and a puppy finder app on my phone. I got nothing, except the only way out is through.

And watch for the grace.

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It will be impossible to replace a dog like Sugar. She was such a good girl. I’ll tell you more about her one day when it doesn’t break my heart to do it.

 

The Wasteland

My dear and beloved T.S. Eliot begins his epic poem, “The Wasteland” with the line, “April is the cruelest month,” and for me, the end of April through the beginning of May feels like a wasteland.

On April 23, 2013, my dad received a radiation treatment that was a last resort for us, for him. Beginning in October of 2012, as his lymphoma spread, his chemo treatments failed. In the month of April, we received two big blows. We were hoping that he would go to San Diego for stem cell therapy, a treatment that held the hopes of really good results. The day before he and my mom were supposed to leave, they got the news that his cancer was growing, rendering him ineligible for the treatment. I was with my parents when they got the call and it was the first time, during his whole bout with cancer that I had seen my dad truly break down and cry.

The second blow came the day before the radiation shot. The hospital called to inform him that this particular treatment isn’t covered by Medicare, and would cost $40,000. They then asked if he would like to go ahead with the treatment. For the second time, my father cried. He told us that he didn’t want to use that much money.  He cried in the kitchen where I had eaten every breakfast of my childhood. Where he fixed chocolate malts in the summertime. At the table where we laughed. Where we fought. Where we three now cried together.

The dates are hard for me. On the 23rd he got that shot, which had the most negative of side effects. On the 28th, we went to see him in the hospital where he was in treatment for extreme pain. Mazie and Violet picked him a white rose and brought it. His face lit up with joy to see those girls. May 3rd, he collapsed at home and my mom realized she couldn’t care for him alone and he went back to the hospital. May 5th, a CT Scan showed lung caner and we stopped all treatment. May 7th, we decided to bring him home. May 9th, he left the hospital. May 11th, he left us.

m and dad

v and dad

The days leading up to April 23rd, then to May 11th, wear at my soul. I feel physically different. My anxiety picks up. It’s hard to breathe sometimes. My body aches. I told my friend and dance instructor that my muscles are so tight lately and that even though I’m faithfully in yoga classes, my flexibility seems to be getting worse. “It’s because you’re not releasing.” He said matter-of-factly. “What do you mean?” I asked. “You know.” he said, “Emotionally and physically. You can’t do it right now.” And he’s right. Don’t you love friends who know? I feel like if I release these emotions, I’ll drown.

But what is the lesson? What I am learning is to be gentle with myself. I don’t fake being ok. I don’t overcompensate with loud laughter or a huge smile. And that’s all right. My friends who know are loving me right through this.  Many of us feel like we always have to be strong, like we can’t be the ones who break down.  But right now, I am broken, and that is ok.

I spend my days not stressing about what didn’t get done. Right now, that stress is too much for me. My girls and I take longer at dinner, listen to French music, dine by candlelight. In my sadness, I delight in them.

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Many people tack on to their grief advice the phrase, “your dad wouldn’t want you to be sad,” and I hate that. Because deep down in my heart, I think he would want us to be a little sad. Who wants to be forgotten? Who wants to be not missed when they’re gone? What I don’t do is allow my grief to stop me from living. There can still be smiles among the tears. There can still be bursts of light in the darkness. We do a poor job of thinking that things must be black or white. There are not only two choices.

So during these 18 days from April 23rd to May 11th, I’m remembering that. I take my girls on outings and we have fun, but I also allow a space for my sadness. We talk about things that Zsa-Zsa would have loved and I let them see the tears flow from my eyes. We go to Disneyland. We opt for a little longer of a walk and push bedtime back 15 minutes. We live gently. But at night, when the house is quiet, the hole that he left in my heart opens up and I feel utterly lost in a world that just doesn’t make sense without my daddy.

If you are grieving, if you are struggling emotionally, please be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself a space to grieve. Forgive yourself for your moments of sadness or anger. Embrace your struggle. Avoid people with whom you have to “fake it.” If you take a hard look at it, they probably aren’t your true friends, anyway. Surround yourself with your definition of beauty, with things that make you happy. Get a latte. Or a beer. Or a vodka gimlet (the drink Dad and I had together in New Orleans) and raise your glass to us. Smile and cry. And know that the sun will rise again tomorrow.

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