Turning us upside down

January 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Gayleen and Frank, 25th anniversary - Copy

Two years ago today, we were preparing to attend the funeral of my childhood friend, Gayleen. Since then, I’ve endured the loss of friends— Kathy, Susan and Pat— this year, and others, and of course, Samantha, who died much too soon at the age of 16 years old. Today I dedicate this blog post to anyone who has lost a family member or friend in the past year, because I know I am not alone.

Turning me upside down

“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Life is a strange thing. Just when we think we’ve got things sorted out and life is ‘humming along,’ there comes a change. A boss says, “We don’t need you anymore” or a change in economic times makes us reconsider our spending, and even where we live. Along with that sorting and packing up of our belongings come feelings of bewilderment and sometimes anger and a lot of sadness.

Big events change things and force us to make new decisions that we might not have made otherwise, such as when a tornado turned the barn on our family farm into a shambles of wood and cement and broken beams. We were fortunate that no one was in the barn at the time and that the animals were in the field that August day when the storm passed through. It was clear that the barn had to come down afterwards for safety reasons, but my parents had to decide what to do next for their farming operations.

There was no death on account of the tornado, but there was some trauma for the house got a good shaking too. Everything my parents had worked for had changed. If there were any blessings, it was the way people in the community worked together to help out those affected by the storm.

Grief, as a part of life, is even stranger. We get settled into a lifestyle, while knowing we won’t have forever, but someone close to us dies and it sets everything we know on end. Time is marked ‘before’ and ‘after’ the event. Before the tornado, before the cancer diagnosis, before the accident… and after.

When friends offer their condolences or bring a meal for a family upended without their beloved, those are difficult times, but healing begins with those comforting hugs and help.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, named the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. What was once was believed to be an orderly pattern, people soon learned that there’s a back and forth, not necessarily in that order. Still it’s helpful to know what feelings are part of the terrain.

I don’t pretend to know how it feels to experience the death of a child or spouse, but I do know it in relation to the death of a good friend or close relative outside my single family unit. There’s an empty place where that person once was, and even when we know the person has believed in God, and whom we presume to have gone to their heavenly home, there’s the ache that’s left—an emptiness.

In a conversation with a fellow church member this past year after yet another death of a friend, I said, “We’re never ready.” She was quick to agree and cited two examples from that very week, one of them being Samantha, who at 16 had already shown much promise.

We cry ‘too soon’ or ‘it’s not fair.’ We may plead and bargain, but this is our new reality and our life is thrown out of its routine by something so large that’s beyond us.

Society, at least in North America for the most part, would have us rush back into living, to try to forget our trauma, to keep busy and move on. While there is a comfort to routine, even that has been upset, whether in job loss, tornado’s destruction or the death of someone close. The grief moves with us. Ross says:

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

Christians believe that the person, loved by God and accepted as his child, will go to that perfect home where there are no more tears and where Jesus wipes away those tears. Hard as it is to go on without the beloved, we believe that Jesus walks with us through that grief and that if we’re crying, it’s quite likely he sheds tears with us as he did for his friend Lazarus.

This may not be overly theological, but I’d like to think of Jesus as having one very large handkerchief that he uses to wipe away our tears, as well as a big warm hug to help us along the way. He`s gone to prepare a place for us, a place where there will be no more tears.

The ‘hanky,’ as my grandmother would have called it, may very well belong to a friend and the hug from those around us, in his stead. And I might ask, as I did in this part of a poem I wrote this fall for another storyteller whose grandson died in October:

 

“Is that handkerchief big enough

for our tears too?

for Mom’s, Dad’s, Grandma’s and Grandpa’s

my tears

and those of all our friends?”
May you be comforted this day by someone’s love and not be afraid to call on God for his love and peace as you grieve.

 

DSCF8937

a bouquet for you today

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Entry filed under: authors, books, faith, lifestyle, photography, writing, writing family stories. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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