I have been thinking about grief. Well, my dad was dying when I last saw him and then he actually died two weeks later and was cremated. (I am used to seeing the body before burial, right? so some how not seeing him dead makes me feel like I am missing out on something. )
And then I jumped from the funeral onto airplanes and took off to the other side of the globe on a giant wonderful trip that left me so full of emotions and
excitement all the while thinking… my dad would love this picture and story but he will never see or hear it… so the trip was fantastic and I hide my moments of grief as best I could.
And then I jumped back to North America life, visited my mom for a week, caught up to the time zone, sat in the empty house while she was at work and looked at dad’s empty recliner. My last conversation with him was like this:
Me: Are you gonna be here when I get back from my trip?
Him: YEA i ain’t going no where
Me: you gotta eat. People who don’t eat die.
Him: I EAT. I don’t do nothing.
Me: I love you. so EAT.
Him: I love you too.
I hugged him goodbye the next morning and jumped on another airplane. Transported me back to my real life and got immersed in the “Things that happened while I was gone” conversations. I got into doing those tasks that were necessary (like our newsletter: With these Hands 2015-2016 ) and calling places. And preparing grade reports. And listening to their hearts and trying to encourage their souls.
And there was school Christmas to attend to – activities, handbell practices, Advent lessons, count down to the end of the semester, classes to teach, crafts to handle.
Through it all, trying to not cry as much as I could. My first week back, I had to clear the classroom of people – they meant well but I, with the distractions of my emotions, I could not multi-task with the many observers I normally have in my classroom. I had to get pretty straight-forward and say – “Not now, I am working with students.”
I remember one day saying to my students, “I have nothing on my mind today. What do you want to know about the last month in my life? Australia? New Zealand? My dad’s funeral?”
The answer was, “Your dad’s funeral.”
The only person who really seemed to be interested in hearing about it. A student. And I told my class all about it. I showed pictures of the urn and my brother demonstrating a new urn. I showed pictures of my cousin George singing and Pastor Shorb speaking and people crying and talking and eating and sharing as families do at funerals. I told them about planning music and not having my violin handy and not having my church family handy and not having resources to do things as I would have wanted things done. I told them how God had provided the pastor and the church family in Pennsylvania to take care of the refreshments, how God used the music to help me to talk at the funeral about my dad.
We don’t address grief well. I know I address differently now that I have said goodbye to my dad. My grandparents were not so close to my life that their passings while sad were not heart-shaking-ly traumatic for me. (I think I saw that in some of the funeral attendees and I related to them.) I was in PR, unable to jump onto the next airplane for their funerals. I had spent time with them whenever I was “home” and felt that was sufficient. And it was. But now I know that being there for my parents could have been important. But at the time, we talked… they said, “Don’t come, you saw them alive…” So maybe that was enough?
Many peers have been walking this same road – many of them losing parents in the recent months also. And we are able to share our grief by Facebook and letters and e-mails. It’s like group grief share by internet. Valuable to each of us.
My young staff pretty much have avoided this part of my experience. It’s what I did when I was that age. We don’t want to “make someone cry” or cause grief… but in our silence, we often don’t address a grief that is deeply felt and unknowingly adds that insult to the injury of the death experienced. Did that make sense? So anyways, Delilah was by my side. As I sat on the porch and CRIED like I hadn’t cried since Boots and Tux’ deaths, Delilah was at my shoulder.
Recently, I have found some moments to just BE and to SIT and cry and let God minister. I am on the “upswing” most days. (It has been five months.) I still have those moments of GRIEF squeezing the tears out of my eyes (right now as I review this), but I am moving along into funny memories and less crying… some days, I think I have recovered and then I think about Martin and his garden and his flowers and his work stories and his love and so I am not moving along… But time is moving along and God is unchanging – still very much my comfort and peace and hope.
I am also finding that I have an open heart to the grief of others… a friend on Facebook who is walking through the death of her baby, a friend in the area whose father unexpectedly died.
Bottom line: it is SO IMPORTANT to say you care and that you are available for tea and tears or bowling and being bowled over by honesty. The person who is left with the empty heart, needs YOUR words, hugs, presence… for the next three years. Be there. Consistently. Just to invite me for a game of Scrabble and keep inviting until I say YES. Because that crying person will say YES eventually and your persistence in asking will mean a lot. Just hand me a tissue and don’t freak out when I blow my nose into it.
Now, on to something more cheery!