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Letters to Taylor: On Grief
It’s been a long day and we haven’t even reached the evening hours yet. I’ve only been home an hour and a half, but it took almost that entire time to do enough guesswork to make you comfortable again. And so now I sit here watching you sleep, hoping that the meds and liquids and repositioning and diaper change… that all those things are enough to keep you resting for at least an hour.
I haven’t wanted to write this letter to you, because I don’t want to read it aloud to you. I don’t want to read it aloud to you because I’m not sure if I can. I know; your mother has issues. I wish you could give me that perfect side glance you used to give many years ago, the one that said, “Isn’t my mom a trip?”
You know how our family has hosted a family gathering every year for children affected by your disease? Well, your buddy, Kent, is no longer in pain but walking with Jesus. Knowing him, I’m guessing he’s jumping with Jesus. When I read the news of his passing and then later that day, read the arrangements for his funeral, I knew I wanted to go see his wonderful family and make a feeble attempt to tell him a temporary goodbye.
After everyone in our family headed out to work and school this morning and your caregiver arrived, I drove north. Sparkling cornfields danced along the road and the farther north I drove, the more fallen snow shimmered across the plains. A lone hearse sat at the front of the church parking lot where I pulled in and as soon as I stepped out of the van, cold vapors blew into the air declaring the rigidity of the season.
The moments from the time I entered the church until I left the graveside felt so sacred and holy. A respect and awe for all God has done through one life filled the hallway and auditorium of the church. One can’t ask for much more on this earth than to be a life who is well-loved. The truth is, we are all well-loved by our Creator. We just don’t always realize it. Kent was blessed to have a family who yearned for nothing more than to show him love and care for his entire life.
But grief sat amid grace.
Upon seeing Kent’s mama and sisters whom I’ve known for years and years, tears slipped out and rolled down my cheeks. I hadn’t planned on crying. But I hadn’t planned on not crying either. There was no agenda on what to say or how to respond, just a longing to let this family know my heart hurts for them. Essentially, I just showed up.
I stood by his casket and jumbled thoughts flooded my mind. A wonderful slideshow played on the overhead screen while Kent’s family members said some words to me here and there. I began to understand his last weeks of life and final battle with disease. O my sweet girl, I don’t want that road for you. I grieved for Kent’s physical pain and suffering, I grieved for his parents in their watches by night, I grieved for his sisters in their loss and I grieved because I want you to be spared. There was so much I was feeling for you while I’m weeping for them that the grief left me confused and disoriented.
But then I noticed one of Kent’s sisters walk around and sit in the row behind me. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart to move beside her, so I did. I placed my arm around her. Her body shook with sobs. She placed her hand in my lap and her head on my shoulder. And we mourned. Really mourned.
I didn’t trust myself to try to speak and so I prayed in my spirit, “Jesus, comfort your daughter.” I’d like to tell you that I was brave and bold and just sat there and hugged her while she received strength from me. But I’m not humanly capable of that. It’s all too overwhelming. We literally sobbed together. Physically holding her in her bereavement ushered in a peace from the Lord. I could think of nothing but “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”
It was a hallowed opportunity to weep with my friend. Not from a distance, not standing beside her, but letting waves of grief wash over both of us without restraint, anguishing together that we might comfort one another with the comfort by which we are comforted. In the beauty of giving one another permission to ache freely, we also experienced the comfort of God. It was a moment I will never forget.
People process grief in all different ways and at different seasons and levels. One of the most difficult issues in relationships is understanding that no one grieves the same way. Since the time of your diagnosis, I’ve mourned the skills you’ve been unable to retain and the experiences you’ve never been given. I’ve wished that you could still feed yourself with a spoon and in the next moment, wondered what it would be like if you had graduated from high school.
Last week, one of my friends had her first grandbaby. I wondered what it would be like if you were married and having children. I can’t even imagine. I think you’ve given me enough gray hair to be a grandma without that!
I know you won’t shed a tear over any of this letter because you don’t understand it, but I also know that you are a human spirit and grief must overwhelm you. Perhaps the hardest grief is that you are unable to express it. After today, I know that one of my roles in your life is simply to grieve for you and with you. Grief by itself is sheer agony. But grief coupled with grace is a gift.
Thank you for giving me that precious gift. One day, God will wipe away all tears from our eyes and there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying. Because all those things will be passed away. I can’t even begin to imagine how wonderful it will be.
Our buddy, Kent, got a head start on us.
I’m so glad you rested while I wrote and read this letter.
I’ll go mop up my face.
I love you.