I didn’t wake up with gratitude this morning. I forgot. So I’ll think on it now. (I woke up thinking about getting the kids to school.)
- Thankful that I am healthy enough to work out hard and not break myself.
- Thankful for family that can watch my kids so we can go out of town.
- I’m thankful that I had a sister who loves me and that I love
- I’m so thankful for my faith in a good God
- Thankful for my beautiful, inspiring, kindhearted and loving children.
- Thankful for a man who loves me and would jump in front of a train for me if he needed to – (but he better not die and leave me here alone).
There it is… It’s true. It makes my heart warm and enlarged in my chest. I feel the heat of gratitude, and tears of thanks giving well up in me. I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful that Arden is well and learning how to manage his health. I’m so glad we won’t be spending this December in the ICU with him. Or anyone.
I look up at my calendar notification that popped up in the corner of my computer screen and it says two words. Graveside. Tomorrow. Larisa left us 4.5 years ago, and we are going to our family grave plot to lay her ashes there. When mama said she had bought the headstone, I didn’t feel anything. When we were talking about the design and what to put on it and making the final adjustments, I felt nothing. But when we had the final planning conversation and confirmed the day that we would go and… my words stick there. I’ve been a bit of a mess off and on since then.
We aren’t laying her to rest, she is already at rest, she is at peace, she is in the fullness of joy and life and wholeness. I know this in my very bones and blood. I know because for the month after she died I asked God over and over and over to let me see her, to talk to her, to be able to know that she had actually gone somewhere and wasn’t just nothingness now. I had never doubted the afterlife I had been taught was real. I always felt a twinge of joy when I heard that someone had passed because I knew with everything in me that they were in eternity with the Lord – that they had gone through the doorway of death and were now more alive than they had ever been and have eternity in front of them to discover all they are and all the mysteries and experience existence outside of the limitations of these blood and bone bodies. But when it was my sister… I simply didn’t know anymore, and I had waves of terror flood over me, thinking of her just ceasing to be, or floating in some vast black ocean of nothingness.
So I prayed and told God he owed me at least that – (haha! the audacity) – let me talk to her, let me know she’s ok. And one month to the day after she died – March 24th 2017, she came to me in the night. The thing that struck me was how warm she was. We didn’t say anything, we didn’t have to. She just wrapped her arms around me and held me, her warmth flooding through my whole being. And I cried on her chest. I cried and cried while she held me, my heart shattered without her, overwhelmed by the relief of feeling her near me again. And I knew. She is alive. It’s going to be ok.
I hear the voices in my head telling me that the brain makes whatever we need to happen, happen. But I don’t care about those voices that want to explain away mystery. We live in a mystery, we can’t know everything – no more than we can fly, even though in our dreams we remember that we have that capability.
Randall Worley was talking about sitting with grieving people in his sermon this past Sunday. (you can hear it here and read more of my thoughts on it in yesterday’s post) and he said that the main thing he thinks now about all the times he talked with someone who had experienced a profound loss, was how much he talked and talked. Trying to infuse hope. Trying to give them something they need in that moment to help them. But that the thing he needed to to was W-A-I-T. To ask himself Why Am I Talking? He understood (eventually) that grief doesn’t need to be taught, grief needs an encounter. And I can say without a doubt, that this is true.
Those who are suffering don’t need a 5 step plan out of where they are. They need an encounter with the Living God. I know I do. I know that when I suffer from a loss I can’t change, wether it’s my sister who died, or my beloved friend who I lost who still lives, what I need is an encounter with Hope Himself. Not a scripture thrown as a pat answer, but a living, breathing, warm encounter. I know that was my sister who held me that night while I slept, my spirit open and seeing, unhindered by my conscious waking. I know because I recognized her. I’ve known her all my life. And I know that I was able to meet with her that night because of a living, breathing, warm God who loves me.
I struggle still with that same voice that some of those closest to my heart have heard and believed. You’re fooling yourself, you’re just making it up to make yourself feel better. Who are you praying to? No one is there… But when I let that fear roll through me instead of clinging to it when it comes, (the same way grief does) it moves all the way through and I can see and hear clearly again – I encounter the warmth and goodness of God in the land of the living; Here, where we live and breathe and must keep going.
I would have lost hope… I would have despaired… and I know this is true, because I have despaired. I have sank down into the black waters of hopelessness. And even so, He met me there. He encountered me there. He held me and let the warmth of his Love and mercy for my unbelieving, terrified heart make me come alive in the places that fear wanted to bring death.
So I will go to the family grave tomorrow, and I will put my sister’s ashes in the ground (because we couldn’t bear to scatter them) – and I know He will meet us there. We do not sorrow alone, because Love encounters us wherever we go.
Here’s today’s song – an iphone recording in my music room in 2014. I’ve rewritten parts of this song now, but I love this original raw version – the struggle, the pain, the questions of how suffering and being broken work, and the steady, unwavering belief that He is good.
Until next time my friends.