I walked out the front door to see some yellow daffodils springing up from the ground. They were covered by a wet blanket of snow. I didn’t pay it much thought, but it did catch my eye. Perhaps it was something that just didn’t seem to fit in mid-April. Now it’s the pinnacle of spring and summer is inching her way closer.
It was around this time last year, my uncle passed away. On the day he was supposed to return home from the hospital, he had a bleed in his brain. He didn’t make it through the night. Three more family deaths followed his that year. For a while, it felt like each month held a new grief. Maybe you feel similarly. Odds are you’ve lost someone close within the last two years, or you know someone who has.
I remember stroking his hand in the hospital room as he breathed heavily. He didn’t respond, but people said he could still hear us. I wasn’t so convinced, but I spoke kind words next to his bedside and prayed quietly anyway. We went home that night, and I went to work the next morning. Nothing was different except for the growing awareness that things would not be the same without him.
Greif is a strange thing really. It’s hard for our mind to process, especially when the loss is sudden. It plays tricks on us. Sometimes it seems as if we hear them or see them in the people or places we pass, yet our heart knows it isn’t true. We’re out of sorts and disorganized. We wonder how we’re still functioning, and why the stages of grief never seem to move sequentially. Denial, anger, and depression swirl in a dance, moving us one step forward and three steps back. Or so it seems. I’ve heard it said that there is no right way to grieve. And though I believe this to be true, I know there is often this sense of guilt that lingers, as if we should be handling things differently.
I think we hold our losses in a million different ways. I’ve seen people busy themselves to distract from the hurt. Just a few weeks ago, I had dinner with a 95-year-old who recently lost her husband. She’s spunky with a Brooklyn style sass, and she goes out every night because evenings for her is often when she misses him the most.
I had a friend who lost her brother, and she wrote poetry to express her pain, confusion and anguish surrounding his death.
I think it’s okay to laugh and wake up happy, even though something about it seems contrary to the situation. I think it’s okay to cry, and to cry hard. I read a poem at my uncle’s funeral, Epitaph by Merrit Malloy, and I remember the night that poem came to me. I was sobbing hot tears, my back sliding down my bedroom wall until I was sitting on the carpet with my head to my chest.
The premise of the poem was to remind its reader that we honor the loved ones we’ve lost best by sharing their stories and allowing their legacies to live on in the way we love. In the words of Merrit Malloy, we “give their love away” by touching hands and embracing bodies.
As I sat on my bedroom floor like a child, an aching emptiness in my body, I was reminded that my uncle’s hand is not the only one I hope to hold in a hospital room someday. That while my heart longed for his human presence, I was also deeply grateful to have been there to usher him into the presence of Jesus. Healing didn’t occur in the way I had expected, but here it was, nonetheless. I wasn’t ready for a
celebration of life, but I was thankful for the reminder that because of Jesus, there is new life in death and freedom from suffering.
I think back to the yellow daffodils, bending beneath its wet blanket. Loss, like a misfitting spring snowfall, often catches us off guard. It may leave us disillusioned and confused. May we bring it all into the presence of Jesus, and allow him to comfort us in our pain, questioning and disappointment.
May we allow ourselves to be surprised by the gift of joy. May we hold space for ourselves as we navigate change and be patient with those around us, reminded that they’re supporting us the best they know how. May we give ourselves permission to stay in or go out as we are able. May we not shame ourselves for being forgetful, feeling too much, or not feeling at all. May we journal our thoughts and remember our blessings. May we love generously, like the ones we’ve lost, and not allow their absence to rule our minds. May we find ourselves surrounded by encouraging people, and at the feet of Jesus daily. May a song greet you in the morning and comfort you in the evening and may God’s grace surprise you kindly through each day.
Those daffodils are still here, faring the cold days of a Midwest spring. I’m thankful you’re here too.