I have thought for a while that it might be time to close the grief portion of the ‘Gleanings From Claudia’ blog. It is a bit of a conundrum to think about because closing the grief portion of the blog seems to send a message that grief is done. It isn’t. It never will be done until the day I step into eternity. But there is discernible change in the grief, and that is truth for others too.
Powerful grief still surfaces at times and catches me by surprise. But those breaches are much rarer now than even a year ago. Yesterday Steve, Joni and I enjoyed an Easter lunch with Jake and Cheryl and their broader family. I found myself surreptitiously peeking at the urn with Becky’s cremains that rests on a ledge high above the kitchen. At first glance my eye couldn’t find it and sorrow rose and I thought “where have they taken her?” But then I saw the urn, standing where it always does, and my heart eased a bit. Why in the world is the urn important to me? I don’t even know. I wrestled long ago with not having a place to go and leave flowers or pay respects. I threw down the need to know that Becky’s name is engraved somewhere in stone to be seen and remembered and pondered over long after I am gone. I really thought I got over that and fully rested in the fact that cremains are not Becky and a place with her name means nothing in the face of her vibrant life in eternity. Our God knows her name and will never forget it – it is engraved on His hand and celebrated in heaven. But yesterday that brief moment of grief-panic made me realize the wrestle isn’t quite done yet. And grief lives on.
BUT there is so much that isn’t grief! The girls are doing great. Growing up, very clearly young women now, Amity is 14 years of age and Dara is 12 years old. This is crazy talk in my head – they CAN’T be this old, and yet they so clearly are! The picture Joni took of them on Easter is so revealing of who they are – Amity is a thinker and introvert who also loves people and helping others. Dara is a total extrovert and cut-up who loves people and parties and being in the middle of it all. They each have aspects of Becky in them and yet they are very much their own people. They still miss their Mom and are growing in their ability to think about that missing, but at the heart of it they are very normal adolescent young women figuring out life. And it is good.
Jacob is a blessing! He is going to school; something he dreamed of doing after Becky finished her degree that was put away after she died. The dream has been resurrected and he is schooling online and enjoying it. He also begins teaching a Sunday School class at our church this next weekend. He has done this a couple of times now, and I see his eagerness to be back in this role and engaged in the discussion of ideas that will come from it. He and Cheryl have a sound marriage and are a comfort and encouragement to one another. They both work at it, just like Steve and I work at our marriage, and it is good. It would be easy to see Cheryl as God’s lifeline to Jacob, but I see something different. God has given them to each other – mutual lifelines perhaps? The sparks of joy and enjoyment I see in them say a lot. I am thankful for the family they have become – a much bigger family than either of them ever dreamed, but rich in blessing and activity!
Joni and Kristin also wear the new normal more easily now. They so clearly miss their sister and yet they’ve developed a new and deeper enjoyment of one another. Perhaps this is about cherishing what was once taken a bit for granted when they were the three musketeers. Our family is heading to Oklahoma in early June to spend some time with the Lee clan there. Us old people are flying, but Kristin, Joni and the kids are doing an epic road trip. Their excitement about this trip is palpable – they cannot wait to begin! It really isn’t about the hours in the car, or eating at diners and dives, or about the wonders of sleeping in motels – it is about relationship. The trip will bank many hours together that will feed their love for one another in ways we don’t even yet know. Life is good.
Steve and I are also both doing well. There was a time when our grief presented as an inability to think about tomorrow. There was no energy for it, no heart to look forward to years of missing Becky. We still miss her and will always know the empty Becky-shaped place in our lives. But we are looking forward. We are planning and processing and praying into what is next for us and it feels good! I think I can say for both of us that losing Becky has deepened our heart for others. When grief visits others, even those we don’t know, we feel for them. There is no casual, ‘oh, that’s too bad,’ rather we pray with knowledge and stand ready to help whenever that opportunity is present.
If you are reading this and standing at the start of your grief journey, know that what feels today like it will end your life, will not. At times you may wish for that end because the pain and longing are simply too much. Hang on. Time will cut the edge of your grief and bring you to sweet memories sometimes interrupted with deep pain, instead of the opposite where you likely now dwell. God is good and He has created us with an endurance that is unimaginably strong. And along with that endurance He gives the hope that a day will come when there will be no more sorrow and no more tears. I trusted His promises in the beginning of grief and I’ve tested His promises in the days since. I can say to you with knowledge and understanding, “Our God is faithful! You can trust Him.”
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalms 27:13-14
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4