Sneaky Grief

We had beautiful weather for the last week or so here in North Georgia. Sunshine, 80 degree temps, and beautiful blue skies have us all aching for summer to arrive and school to be out. But a few days ago, after another beautiful almost-summer day, I headed off to baseball practice with our boys, and within minutes something changed.

The sky darkened, the clouds rolled in, and out of nowhere the heavens opened up and pelted us with rain.  Instead of sitting on the bleachers cheering on my boys, I found myself covering my head (why do we do that anyway? It accomplishes nothing. But I digress.) and running for the shelter of my car. We were all left shaking our heads, exclaiming, “Where in the world did that come from?”

 

Yeah, grief is sneaky like that, too.

 

Maybe you have had a broken relationship or a broken heart. Perhaps you’ve lost a close friendship or a loved one. Death, divorce, disease, disaster… they all leave us holding a handful of broken pieces that somehow must be dealt with.  It takes awhile to sort through them- some pieces fit back together rather seamlessly, while others require a little more effort. And some pieces need to be put away for awhile, possibly buried, or even thrown away. A lot of this sorting happens pretty quickly, but the “odd” pieces take a little more time. Eventually new pieces find their way into our hands, and our hearts are slowly mended into something a little more whole. Not perfect, not the same- never the same– but a heart nonetheless.  Joy, hope, and love gradually find their way back to us, and our hearts begin to beat again.

 

And then, from out of nowhere, lightning strikes.

 

Perhaps it’s a song on the radio or a favorite food or an activity you shared together. Whatever it is, something happens and suddenly your heart aches and your eyes burn and you find yourself covering your head and running for shelter, fighting the tears as you flee. Grief pops up in unexpected places and unexpected ways.

 

My sweet friend, Diana, recently went HOME to be with Jesus after a long, painful battle with cancer that ravaged her body but strengthened her soul. She taught our oldest daughter piano for many years, and mentored her in life and faith, as well as music. We did much of our grieving throughout her illness, which made her death more a culmination of the grieving process  for us rather than the beginning of it. I have a total peace that she is in Heaven, and have even experienced great joy knowing she is finally completely FREE of the sickness that was consuming her body.  Before she died, she wrote precious words encouraging her family and friends not to mourn her with sadness, but to celebrate her with joy by moving forward with love and laughter, and we have done our best to honor her in that way.

 

But last week, our daughter scored really well in a piano competition, and without thinking I pulled out my phone to text Diana the news like I always do. Only I couldn’t.  (The sky grows dark.)

This week we are preparing for Sarah’s year-end piano recital. She texted me today to remind me to send her new teacher the “dedication” sentences for the program and to ask my help in wording it because she just can’t bring herself to write “in memory of Diana” herself.  (Lightning flashes.)

Mother’s Day was this weekend, and as I was searching for ways to celebrate the “moms” in my life, I suddenly realized her precious girls have no one to give their gifts to this year. (The rain pours down, pelting me in the face.)

And then, a photo of Sarah and Diana popped up in my “memories” on Facebook from last year’s recital. Curse you, Facebook!  And yet, thank you, Facebook.

 

Yes, the clouds rolled in quickly, seemingly from out of nowhere, and surprised me each time with an unexpected downpour of emotions when I least expected them. There was no way to prepare and no way to hide. I had to just embrace the tears, open my arms to the moment, and then…

 

Let it pass.

 

Because that’s the thing about a pop-up storm. It surprises us and it soaks us, but it usually doesn’t last long or cause very much damage. It just gets everything really wet, and then moves on.  If we really want to, we can chase after it, desperate for the rain, aching for the darkness.

 

Or we can let it go.

 

We can open our arms and lift our face to the sky (because, again, what is the point of covering our head?). We can feel the rain as it soaks us and embrace the grief for a few minutes as the memories flood our hearts. And then, we can wipe our eyes, dry ourselves off, and allow the clouds to pass.

The funny thing about pop-up storms is that within minutes, the sky is usually blue once again, and the sun shines just as brightly as before.  Everything is refreshed, greener somehow, ready for whatever is to come next.

Grief doesn’t always feel so sunny afterwards. But if we lift our face to the SON, there is hope and peace and even joy to warm us.

 

 

 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, The Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

 

 

 

 

This Moment…

(Author’s note: I wrote this several years ago on New Years Eve, but thought it was appropriate to post today, on Mother’s Day. Thanks be to God for the indescribable gift of allowing me to be a mom! It is, by far, the hardest and best role I’ve ever had. Oh, and the 10 year old is a teenager now and takes FOREVER in the shower. How quickly things change!)

 

This moment.

Our 12 year old daughter comes bounding down the stairs in her Disney Princess baseball T-shirt and converse shoes, ponytail swinging behind her, smile full of metal, as she heads towards the piano to play, yet again, that crazy fast run in “Let it Go” that she has worked so hard on for the past few weeks.  And she nails it; only this time she keeps playing the rest of the song, and I can feel her radiating with confidence and pride at the accomplishment and satisfaction that results from really hard work.

 

Our 10 year old daughter interrupts our dinner conversation to tell another random story about something that happened in a 90’s sitcom episode which has nothing to do with anything. After dinner, she chases her brothers around with a marshmallow blaster gun and their new bow and arrow set until we force her to take a shower (and have to remind her again to use soap. Seriously??).  From her room, I can hear her singing about “Taylor, the Latte Boy” at the top of her precious 10 year old lungs.

 

Then there’s the 6 year old. He’s trying so hard to be a big boy, to not cry when he gets hurt and not transform into the Incredible Hulk every time something makes him so mad that he feels like he’s going to explode, which is every other minute.  He thinks so hard about every decision because he just doesn’t want to make the wrong choice.  He is still a little bit timid and nervous in new situations, but he is slowly coming into his own.  I see him stand a little taller when he says something he knows is going to be funny, and that little grin peeks out the corners of his mouth when everyone laughs at just the right time.  In no time, he has convinced his little brother to strip down to his underwear and run around the house with him, as they try desperately to escape from the marshmallow-shooting monster in the minion shirt and ponytail.

 

And my sweet baby. Four years old, almost five; chubby cheeks, dimpled like his daddy’s, and a smile that melts the heart of everyone within a 10 mile radius.  These big words and phrases pop out of his little preschool mouth with uncanny timing, cracking us all up and causing us to temporarily forget the 2,397 messes he has left randomly around the house.  He sneaks another piece of candy off the week-old gingerbread village and scampers away in his bare feet and ninja turtle underwear, his round tummy poking out from behind the couch. A scream of laughter escapes from his lips as an arrow bounces off his bottom.  The big-sister-minion-monster is suddenly tickling him, much to his dismay and delight.  But have no fear; big brother quickly comes to his rescue, and they are off again into the hunt!

This moment. 

Prayers whispered, covers pulled up to their chins, messes remaining all over the house, nightlights glowing softly, and stuffed animals tucked in all cozy-like, too.

Eyes closed, a soft kiss brushing their foreheads, a last look, and the realization that this is the last time I will tuck them in this year.  Another whole year has passed.

My, how time flies!

It has been a regular year with ups and downs; exciting, frustrating, endearing, exhausting… blessed.  I was given another whole year with these precious little ones (and some not so little anymore. Sigh.). And 12 months later, we are all still here.  Another day, another breath, another chance to love and laugh and learn.

Oh, how grateful I am, Lord!

Thank you for the gift of this moment– the opportunity to reflect on all the other little ordinary, everyday moments that have made up this year, to unwrap them and turn them slowly in my mind, treasuring them in my heart like Mary did all those years ago.

This moment…