Death, Grief, Rejoicing, and Peace
Oh, how I wish I could get my blog site set up the way I want it. Because it’s not what I envision, I tend not to write, but I have so much to share! It’s not that I think everyone is eager to hear what I have to say. But I do love to express, document, and share what I’ve learned. I have learned a lot. I look forward to a time when I will write regularly.
Much has occurred since my last post in late May. I worked at my Principal Secretary job through the summer. It was good, and it was also hard. The job wasn’t hard (it’s much better than the first many months when everything was new), just working was hard! I know. Many people do it. I’m both grateful and frustrated. I’m grateful for a job. And I’m frustrated that I don’t have more time to accomplish more in my life. But those topics are for another day.
We lost our beloved Rocky two weeks ago. He was sick for three weeks with a bulging disc or slipped disc or both. We don’t know for certain because with my finances, I couldn’t justify surgery, and if we weren’t going to do surgery, I didn’t think the cost of x-rays made sense. We chose the route of recovery without surgery, which can be successful, but instead we and he endured 3 weeks of pain. The pain got intolerable, so we decided to put him to rest. It was heart wrenching. We loved him immensely, and Bridgette misses him terribly. I can cry at the thought of him, but here’s the truth: Two dogs were hard for me. That also may be a topic for another day.
Today I’m writing about death, grief, rejoicing, and peace, all at once. This is unique to the one who looks to God as her savior. It’s unlikely the person who doesn’t know God can relate to the ability to face all emotions at once. The ability to experience all these emotions simultaneously has been a mystery to me. This morning Bridgette and I laid in bed and we thought about exactly this.
We woke up early to the news that a community member for whom we’ve fought beside in prayer and otherwise, for 6 years, had died. He was 13 (I think). We’ve known him since he was in early grade school. His sister is in my son, Bradley’s class. Sam Day died of Ewing’s sarcoma. Bridgette is home from OSU for the weekend. It’s nice that she can do that for many reasons. It’s really nice when she needs to grieve, as well as cram for an anatomy final. There’s been a lot of grieving lately, and a lot of reconciling emotions.
As we laid in bed, both acknowledging that our stomachs twisted as we hurt for Sam and his family, we also discussed Nathalie Traller. Nathalie died last year of Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma, otherwise known as ASPS. She was another community member who we got to know indirectly because we chose to fight her fight with her.
This last week Nathalie’s dad had written an article about his grief and I hadn’t yet read it, but Bridgette had. This morning, I read it and wept. I had just cried because of Sam. Not just wet eyes, but tears that accompanied unfamiliar sounds, as if I was personally losing someone. As much as I know Sam, I did not know Sam. I did not live life with Sam, or his parents. The same was true for Nathalie. Both Bridgette and I (and Bradley has loved on them as well) weren’t what I call a personal friend, but we were committed to these families in prayer. We had personal contact with them, and volunteered on their behalf, in an effort to raise funds that would further medicines that would bring them and others to healing. We had invested in them, and it felt our investment had been taken from us. It hurt.
As we laid in bed, thinking out loud about death, we expressed sincere conviction that we knew Sam and Nathalie were in heaven. We wondered however, how we could be both so grieved and relieved for them, yet not feel happiness. If heaven is the ultimate goal, shouldn’t we be ecstatic? And if heaven is that wonderful, what’s the point of life here? We’re not the first to have asked these questions. But it was the first time the two of us asked these questions of each other, and in the context of a mother and daughter. As much as I know we were exploring these questions with each other, I am the mom, and I wanted to give my grieving daughter words she could hang on to.
Our grief comes from our investment, and the loss we experience when we don’t get to cash in. Regardless of what the loss is, we have typically invested in the thing we have lost, in some form. Otherwise, it’s not much of a loss. The more we invest, the more pay off we expect. As good stewards and servants, we contribute in this world. On one hand, we read in Psalm 128:2 “You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” We have instructions to “…‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” in Mathew 22:39. In fact, it’s not instructions; it’s God’s command: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. … in Matthew 22:36-40.
Yet, King Solomon in Ecclesiastes says ““Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
We invest, yet it’s meaningless? If it’s all meaningless and our ultimate destination is to be with Jesus, why can’t we skip this part? The part where we toil and invest and love, here on earth? Can’t we just do that in heaven?
I don’t have all the answers to that, necessarily. As a mom and a Christian who depends on my relationship with Jesus each day, I had some answers for Bridgette. I knew to tell her that we are here to glorify God and to bring others to know him. And that God’s plan is so intricate, complex, and unique to each of us, that we can’t necessarily understand it, but that we can see its beauty as it’s played out. Beauty, not like rainbows and unicorns and Pinterest quotes, but beauty that is uniquely experienced by us when we are intimate and relational with God and with others.
I assured her that each of us brings something unique to each other, so unique, that without each other, none of us can be the person God intends us to be. That in each moment, we are offering to the other something, and that something is either building the other, or tearing the other. Building the other is living within God’s will. Other than God’s word (the bible), there are few people who can communicate clearly what God’s plan looks like (although, for me, CS Lewis comes very close). I prayed that my words in this moment would resonate with Bridgette, and I’ll leave the rest up to God’s word, and CS Lewis sometime if she chooses.
As Christians, we are able to rejoice in our grief, because we believe that our ultimate destination is to be with our heavenly father, where all things will be good. Yet we cry when we know someone has gone there! Shouldn’t we be shouting for joy, absent the grief? But we cannot, because of the investment that we have made in this life and given to those we love.
We are placed in this world by our heavenly father. While living within his will, we are to embrace it. We are to glorify him in everything we do. We are to work hard, to love well, to love our neighbor, to parent with wisdom, to teach, to feed the hungry and to give to others. Everything about Jesus is relational. Everything we are asked to do requires heart and grit. But. It can be taken away.
For those who don’t know our heavenly father, they have no insurance. They only have grief. For the person whose car has been stolen and has no insurance, he has only anger. For the person whose beautiful home has burned to the ground, but has not enough insurance to recover his losses, he has only loss and probably torment. But for the person who has vested into this life, according to God’s will, with heart, and faced hard times with grit, our loss means grief, with the insurance of our heavenly father backing us. So, we both grieve and rejoice. And part of that beauty that we can’t explain is promised to us in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
Thank you, Bridgey and thank you heavenly father for a moment with my daughter to explore sadness and you.
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