Do you talk to yourself? Many people do. I just said this to myself today when I was thinking about writing this blog:
"Oh Francie, nobody wants to read about your lingering grief."
And then my self said to self,"Well, they don't have to read it."
So, if you don't feel like reading yet another article about the grieving process and how it leaves a person feeling disoriented, pass. But I can tell you this: grief is a graduate course in life studies, and everyone takes the class at some point. The education earned in this course is invaluable, and yet if we could, many of us would opt out.
Wisdom comes in the strangest gift wrapping.
"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." (Ecclesiastes 7:4)
Grief makes us wiser, but this kind of wisdom hurts, because it is only gained by loss.
I complained to my sisters of a stomach ache and digestive problems that have been plaguing me since our Mom passed to Heaven. Not surprisingly, we've all been having the same problem, and we're certainly not all eating the same foods, so it's not our diet! Grief has made digestion secondary in importance, as our bodies strive to deal with the exhausting stress of adapting to life without our treasured counselor and confidante.
I just want to pick up the phone and dial her number and hear her voice and ask her about her week.
I just want to go into her house and holler, "Hey Mom, it's meeeee," in my sing-song voice. And then I want to hear the smile in her voice as she says, "Hey Francie, it's good to see you." She would say those words every time, even though we just saw each other days ago, and her words were always followed by a motherly hug.
I just want to know that she'll be in the kitchen at the table, waiting for me to bring her lunch and stories from the conferences I've been teaching. I want to hold her hand and pray with her before she eats, and then kiss her forehead. I want to hear her laugh as I share some of the crazy things that come up, such as the time I got led off the airplane by the head of the TSA, only to find out that he was a member at the church where I would be teaching. (He scared me good, and I still owe him.)
We're in the process of packing up the contents of Mom's home. It sold fairly quickly. A friend of mine said it was all those loaded candy dishes that I spread around the house (Mom would have approved). My sister Janelle said this to me as we were leaving Mom's house to get some rest before another round of packing: "We're not saying goodbye to Mom; we're just saying goodbye to brick and mortar."
Until then, we're going through bouts of questions like this: "Who am I now that I don't have any living parents? An adult orphan? How does an adult orphan operate?"
We are operating...by the grace of God and the goodness of family and friends. But there are some days when four adult women feel like four little girls, and our eyes are "consumed with grief" as the tears spring from seemingly out of the blue. Triggers are not necessary. All we have to do is be awake and we're vulnerable. Couldn't we just have one more day with our precious and beloved Mom? Just a "warning day" so that we could say a proper farewell?
Someone said that it is not as hard to grieve the loss of a parent as it is to grieve the loss of a spouse or a child. Who comes up with these things? Grief is exhausting, regardless. If there is anything that I am gleaning through this process it's this: I'm creating a mental catalog of things not to say.
When you don't know what to say to a grieving person, try this: "There are no words." And then follow it with a big silent hug. Don't break the beauty of this with a single word.
I was doubled over in tears simply because I found a packet of seeds from Mom's garden. The seeds were in a wrinkled white envelope stuffed in the back of a kitchen cabinet, carefully labeled "Cleome flowers" in her lovely handwriting. I will plant those seeds in the spring. Most likely, those seeds will be watered with tears. The loss of a parent is not as hard? That depends...
We we raised by a widow. That made her the closest person that we had in our lives on this side of Heaven. Children raised by only one parent have a different relationship with that single parent. Often (but not always), it creates a stronger bond. Those that have been raised by both parents have their affection divided by two. How often have you met someone that is closer to one parent than the other when they have a choice? Not so for the children of a single parent. You're either bonded like plywood or not.
Our bond with our Mom was beautifully tight, and now the plywood has been pried apart.
There are days when I feel cut off from the world. I wonder to myself, "Why are people going on with life as if nothing has changed?" And then I battle my thoughts, feeling abandoned when in reality I am not. "For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee." (Psalm 31:22)
Oh I am very sure that God hears me when I cry. Grief brings a different sound to crying. It's a siren-type of wailing that is unrecognizable. There are some days when I'm not even sure I can face the to-do list, but then God provides supernatural strength and before I know it, I'm moving through another day. God gives courage mingled with strength, but we have to remember to receive these free gifts from Him. After all, we are not without hope, even though some days it feels deceptively like that. "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord." (Psalm 31:24) When my courage is almost gone, I flee to the Word. And then a soothing sigh escapes my body, and I go on.
It's been over five months now since Mom's passing, and her absence from us represents her presence with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). We are fully aware that we'll see her again someday, but we are here and Mom is "There." And "There" cannot be accessed by a phone call. Imagine if we could pick up a phone and call Heaven! But we cannot, so our faith has to rest in the knowing that we'll see her and our other loved ones again, and even more; we'll see Jesus.
I wonder if Jesus feels forgotten sometimes when we're grieving? The tendency is to focus so much on the loved one that has passed away, and the Lord is often pressed into the background. Lord, please forgive me. You are worthy of the foreground, and you are the Comforter.
Is Mom resting in Jesus' bosom right now? Has God provided a tiny window from Heaven that He opens now and then so that Mom can see us? Does she know that we're struggling but that we'll be all right because God is with us?
All these questions and ones I didn't even know to ask will be answered someday.
"Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly." (Psalm 31:7)