Well, it’s been over 3 months since I last blogged, and it was a much-needed, unexpected break. Two weeks before Christmas, my father-in-law, Gene, passed away. Not only was it the first time someone close to me was gone, but it was the first time I had to handle it as a wife and a mother of two girls who adored their Poppy.
Grief is a ridiculous feeling. It takes you for a ride through the deepest pain you never thought possible, yet gives you glimpses of hope through some of the most wonderful, laughter-filled memories.
My husband’s dad had been in and out of the hospital for the last several years with the duration increasing with each stay. As I stood over Gene’s bed in the cold ICU, observed him hooked up to machines and tubes I’d seen countless times on my own patients, I would leave telling him “We’ll see you at home in a few days.” I really thought that. I had to believe that, even though part of me knew to prepare for the worst.
We were at his bedside as he passed. It was peaceful; it was beautiful; it was shocking; it left me numb. I knew he was so much happier entering heaven with his parents there waiting for him. I imagined the reunion was joyous, but back here on earth, I wrestled. I wrestled with this emotion I really thought I was prepared for…grief.
In the coming days, we kept ourselves busy with funeral planning and all the preparations for family and friends that you do when something like this happens. People offered their sweet condolences; meals and gifts were delivered to us by the amazing support system we have around us. These people were literally Jesus to us during those hard days, and I was (and am) so grateful.
We are a close family. My parents and my husband’s parents are close. Our kids see both sets of their grandparents at least once a week, if not more. This hit our entire family hard. It hit me hard in the most surprising ways.
An unsuspecting well-wisher said to me, “I am so sorry to hear about Gene; but isn’t it great that you will see him again one day?” And then it happened. For some crazy reason, I just wanted to punch this sweet, caring soul. I was SO tired of hearing it. I just wanted it to be okay to grieve. To be mad. To miss him. To question my loving, heavenly Father about why he chose THIS time to call my father-in-law home. Why right before Christmas? I wanted it to be okay to cry, the type of cry that literally leaves you exhausted…and I did.
Now, a few months later, tears still come in waves. There is still pain in his absence, but joy in our sweet memories of him. Grief.
At 6’5”, Gene was an undeniable presence in any room, and was nicknamed “the gentle giant.” Despite the pain of his absence, I see the beauty of his legacy. I see him every day in my husband and in my kids. They possess his kind and generous heart; his competitive drive in sports; his loving, supportive, strong, and formidable spirit. I must be intentional in finding glimpses of hope for the future through the pain of the present.
How do you wrap your mind around death or loss? How do you wrap your mind around something so definite? How do you reconcile in your human mind that it’s okay to grieve, yet retain hope?
I’m not completely sure, but I’m working on it. One thing I do know: I can’t get through it without the Lord. He has sustained our family. He is still good. He is still faithful. He is still Love. He is still there. At that place of complete brokenness and desperation, at a time when nothing makes sense, our loving Father is still so evidently present right in the middle of it. Our grief just has to let him in. Allow the Holy Spirit to comfort. Allow Jesus to be a true friend. Allow Father God to protect and keep you. I think that’s the beauty of grief.
If you are in a season of grieving…whether it’s the death of a loved one, a dream, a marriage, a pregnancy, a ministry, a relationship, a job, or a certain season of life, know that God is near. Know that it is okay to grieve; it’s okay to be angry; it’s okay to question; it’s okay to cry. However, it’s not okay to stay in those dark places. He has a plan for us…to prosper us, not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future. I really believe that it’s not the things that have happened to us that derail us in life, but it’s the things that we let stay in us, that get us off course. Let the Lord in, and allow Him to show you ways to turn your grief into purpose and your tears into action. Reach out, and ask for help. Share your journey with trusted friends and family. Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. The Lord’s promises are true and unwavering; it’s up to us to walk in them.