There are stories painful in the telling and stories painful in the writing.
And there are stories painful in the living, even when the pain is decades old and unsurprising but unexpected.
My story of loss is 11 years along. Eleven years of missing someone who should be there and someone who was gone too soon. Eleven years to become accustomed to days like today when I wish so desperately I could pick up the phone and tell my Dad ‘Happy Birthday’.
Eleven years of hearing that grief is supposed to fade with time. Yet wondering every year at the new manifestations of grief that seep into each benchmark and bookmark event where my father’s absence strikes me.
Because today, my Dad’s birthday, my soul ached with his loss. Ached even though I didn’t recognize that a number on the calendar was tied to my sense of discontent, my sense of brittle spirit that caused me to wonder at my own impatience and the longing to shed my emotional skin like a snake.
It wasn’t until tonight that I recognized the source of my unsettledness and unhappiness.
I miss my Dad.
I miss my Dad.
Rolling over in bed towards my husband I blurt out why I’ve been out of sorts today. “It’s Dad’s Birthday today”.
My husband, the dear and wonderful man, looked at me. He looked at me and saw me. Saw all the stories behind the grief, the shared experience of loss, the years of times like this where I look at him and need him to know that even though it has been years, it hurts beyond imagining.
And we settle in to the grief together.
Mourn with those who mourn.
There isn’t one answer to what can we do in the face of another’s grief. We don’t often know the right thing to do or say and feel helpless in the face of it.
As someone who has lost a person so dear to me, I know the grief will always be there. I know that it will look different minute to minute, day to day, year to year. I know that it can come in an instant and stay for a month. It can feel as sharp as a blow to the stomach or like death by a thousand paper cut memories that won’t be shared.
And the grief feels like a yoke too heavy to bear.
We ache with the weight of grief. All of us, whether this is a past and present experience or an experience to come, we will all mourn.
We will mourn loss of person, loss of relationship, we will mourn our regrets and the road less traveled.
Mourning is a broken, horrible, beautiful part of this broken, beautiful world in which we live.
Mourning is our hard-wired response to the injustice and indignity of loss and grief. It frees us to express our soul’s discomfort in the face of all that seems wrong.
As I sit in the dark trying to grasp my heart and head and soul’s grief over death I am reminded that we are not wired to deal with death. God did not intend it for us.
Apart from the theology and doctrine of why and how, the extent of God’s intervention and prevention, yet I sit in the dark and I mourn.
Everything in me rails against this. That I should have been without my father at 27, that there are people sitting together in the hospital where I work waiting for their own loss of loved one, that there are people I love who won’t live to see other people I will love.
But this I know to be true, God did not leave us in our loss and weakness.
He grieves when I grieve, He mourns when I mourn.
He gives me strength and tears and barren open prairie in which to cry and yell at the top of my lungs till my throat is sore.
He gives me a husband upstairs who was willing to stay up with me even though he is preaching tomorrow.
He gives me children who look like their granddad, who want to know about him and want to know how they are like him.
And He gives me a promise that someday this will be done.
That someday there will be no more heart’s cry into mourning. That someday the last tear will be wiped away. That the old grieving has passed into dancing and joy.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell 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.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Romans 21:3-5