Posts Tagged ‘Grief’

Goodbyes Make My Throat HurtNote: I wrote the following on March 15 after a visit with a friend in the hospital, thinking that it would be the last time I saw him this side of heaven.  He defied the odds and remained with us for nearly two more months, allowing me the opportunity to visit him again.  Still, I share the following as originally written in memory of and with thankfulness for the friend whose funeral I just attended today.  He will be missed.

There have been very few times in my 56 years when I’ve had the chance to say a proper farewell to someone who was about to pass from this life to the next.  The first occasion was in the final days of my sweet sister’s life in 1995 before cancer took its toll.  I will always remember the private moment of being alone with her in her bedroom, holding her hand, telling her I loved her and how proud of her I was, and giving her a final kiss.  She couldn’t speak words back to me, but I know I saw a slight smile on her lips.  In the presence of others that weekend, she said, “Well, hello, Mamaw” – a reference to our grandmother who had passed away less than two months earlier, making us all wonder what she was experiencing as she transitioned between this life and the one to come.

Tonight I said goodbye to an older friend from church.  His life dramatically changed a matter of weeks ago with a diagnosis of leukemia and a series of medical incidents that abruptly took him from an active life to one coming quickly to an end.  My wife sent me a text on my way home from work telling me that we needed to go to the hospital when I got home because time was limited.

At the hospital, my friend was alert, lucid, engaged in meaningful conversation, and had a handshake with his right hand as strong as an ox, while his left laid lifeless – a recent development in his rapid physical deterioration.  In a moment like that, there is neither time nor reason to skirt the issue at hand, no sense in pretending you’ll see each other again in a few days, no reason to pray for healing or to give empty wishes of getting well.  In that moment, it is right and good to acknowledge that earthly life is nearing an end, and that it’s alright.  That is certainly what my friend was telling his visitors.

My friend has had a glimpse of what is in store for him once he passes from this life to the next.  What he has seen and heard and experienced in recent days as he has walked that fine line between this life and the next has given him absolute assurance of what is to come.  Instead of others trying to comfort him, he is the one spending his last days comforting and assuring others, providing hope, and anticipating a life eternal that is more beautiful and indescribable than he could place into words.  I believe in the reality of what he has seen and in the conversations he has had with Jesus to pave the path he must follow during his final days.  He is ready to go whenever his Lord takes him.

It was a holy moment to acknowledge in that final conversation the greatness of our God, our complete reliance on Him, and gratitude that we serve such a wonderful Savior.  It was gut-wrenching but important to tell him that I loved him, that he was a good man and that I had the deepest respect for him.  It was good to hear his kind words to me, recalling the time I asked him if he would be willing to serve as a deacon.  It was bittersweet to walk out the door saying goodbye, knowing I would not see him again this side of heaven, yet knowing that we both understood what I meant when I said, “I will see you again.”

As I think back on the 60 hours I’ve worked this week, on the many things done and undone on my task list, on how I spent my time, I am reminded that as wonderful and fulfilling as this life can be, this is but a shadow of something far more that we are meant to experience.  I left the hospital thinking, “Now that is reality.  That is important.  That is what this life should be about because ultimately this life is only a prelude to the eternal one to come.”

I am thankful for my friend.  I am thankful for his faith and how he demonstrated it in his final days.  I am thankful that I had a chance to say a proper goodbye.

As I write this looking at a screen blurred by tear-filled eyes, I will simply say “Until we meet again, my friend…”

A Time to Be Born

Posted: February 24, 2013 in Parenting
Tags: , ,
Tara and Kyle

Tara and Kyle

As I write this, my nephew, Kyle, is with his fiance, Tara, at a hospital about 60 miles from here welcoming to the world their first child, a little girl.  I eagerly await holding little Josie in the coming days.  This will be my first crack at being a great-uncle, so I want to get it right.

All new parents know that life is forever different once you take that huge leap from being a couple to being a family with children.  It isn’t easy, but somehow with love and patience and hard work, we make it through challenging times and move on to days of growth and maturity and, if we are fortunate, great joy.  As I’ve heard my cousin Debra say, from the time we have our children, our hearts are forever walking around outside our body.

It is easy and good to celebrate new life.  I don’t mind the sound of babies crying when I’m around because I am thankful for each little life and the promise each bundle holds.  If I’m in church, for example, and a very young child is noisy, so be it.  I’d rather have them present and reminding us of the spectrum of life and growth than shuffled off to another room where they don’t “bother” the adults.  Bother me all you want, kiddos.  I’m glad you’re here.

So I am thrilled at yet another new life in the family that is arriving just one day after seeing the other newest member of the family, the new son recently born to my cousin’s daughter.  New life abounds.

What is different about the birth in progress as I write this is that the event is bathed in my mind with thoughts of the baby’s paternal grandmother – my sister Stephania Jo, whom we called Jo-Jo.  We lost her to cancer in 1995 when she was 40.  She left behind her husband and two young boys, Eric and Kyle.  Eric has since left this earth by way of a tragic car accident years ago.  So as I think about Josie coming into the world, I cannot help but think about Jo-Jo.  Oh, how I wish she was present to take part in this celebration of life.  She would be so thrilled and she would be such a magnificent grandmother.  It would be a joy to share grandparenting stories with this sweet, dear sister whom I miss so much.

For a while this afternoon, the emotion was overwhelming.  I cried harder than I recall doing for many years – tears of joy and sadness.  I was thankful when the sadness turned into laughter as I talked on the phone with my cousin Debra.  The ending and beginning of life have ways of tugging at all of our heart strings to the max.  That’s OK, but it isn’t easy.  As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, there is “a time to be born, and a time to die” (3:2).

Today is a time to be born, so welcome to the world, baby Josie.  You have wonderful parents and a loving extended family who will care for you in every way possible.  You will be blessed by the many family members who will shower you with love all of your days.  I look forward to being a small part of that extended family for many years.

And someday, when the time is right, I look forward to telling you some stories about your incredible grandmother Jo-Jo.  I’m sure others will as well.  You would have loved her just as she would have loved you.

Leap Year Lesson #351: You Must Move On

Posted: December 17, 2012 in Grief

Moving OnThe saturation of media coverage for the Newtown, CT tragedy is just too much.  It isn’t healthy to watch the coverage constantly after a tragedy like that.  At the beginning when we’re in shock and trying to find out what happened, watching in disbelief is understandable.  But when it reaches a point of repetition with little new information from one broadcast to the next, it’s time to move on.

There is no danger of forgetting what happened, and I am not suggesting we do so.  What is necessary is to get back into some semblance of normalcy in our routine – not to pretend it didn’t happen, but to get on with life in a way that brings healing.  We still have families to take care of, jobs to performs, volunteer work to offer, classes to attend, plans to make, service to perform and much more.

I was chatting with someone Friday afternoon about our recollections from many years ago when the few major networks that existed signed off late at night and there was nothing at all on the air after that.  Incessant coverage didn’t happen for anything anytime.  Not so today with hundreds of 24-hour networks and each of them sacrificing truth in the early reporting in the sad attempt to be first to report something – anything – whether it’s verified or not.

In the effort to fill endless time on the air, we don’t need to see the young surviving children interviewed by the media.  As a parent, I would never allow a child of mine who had just experienced such a thing to be interviewed by the media.  I don’t understand why some are allowing it.  It’s their call to make and not mine, but I think it’s just too much and unnecessary.

We mourn for the loss.  We learn what we can from it.  We do everything within reason to protect ourselves and our loved ones from such senseless acts.  And we move on.

Leap year lesson #351: You must move on.

Dig DeeperAs the nation deals with yesterday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the long process of grieving begins.  I appreciate stories from antiquity that tell of allowing long periods of mourning – a month or so – in recognition that grief isn’t something that we turn on and then turn off like a switch mere days later.  You probably feel a little bit different today than you did yesterday, and different today than you will tomorrow, but you and I will be impacted for a long while to come.

Part of the process that helps me deal with such tragedy is to dig deeper into the subject through the writings of trusted sources.  To that end, I have read a number of articles written on the subject in the past 24 hours by Christian leaders more experienced and wiser than me.  I started accumulating them and posting them as comments to yesterday’s lesson and will continue to add others there as I find them.  For the sake of convenience and to reinforce the point of today’s lesson, I offer them in the list below as well.

1. Billy Graham: “Suffering: Why Does God Allow it?

2. Russell Moore: “School Shootings and Spiritual Warfare

3. David Platt: “The Gospel and Newtown

4. John Piper: “How Does Jesus Comes to Newtown?

5. John Piper: “A Lesson For All From Newtown

6. John Piper: “How Shall We Minister to People After the World Trade Tower Terrorism of September 11, 2001?

7. Al Mohler: “Rachel Weeping for Her Children — The Massacre in Connecticut

8. Douglas Wilson: “And Slew the Little Childer

There is much that goes through our thoughts and emotions in times like these.  It helps not to travel that path alone.  Discuss it with others.  Bare your soul to God.  Seek and glean the wisdom of others to help bring clarity of thought and to try to make sense out of the senseless.

Leap year lesson #349 is Dig deeper for understanding.