“Mama, tomorrow when you come in here to wake me up, DO NOT just turn on the big light. I want you to come sit on my bed and scratch my back and talk softly and say, ‘Morning. It’s time to get up now.’ The big light hurts my eyes and I do NOT like loud in the morning.”
She may only be six years old, but she knows what she wants in a wake-up call. I can’t say that I blame her. I’ve never understood how my husband could stand to have the volume on his alarm clock set to the “eardrum disintegration” level. Or how anyone could willingly hit the snooze button repeatedly and volunteer for repeated auditory assaults every nine minutes. I have my alarm silenced a millisecond after it sounds and I don’t want to hear from it again until the next time it’s needed. Until I’m fully awake, I like my environment to be dim and soft.
- Right after my dad was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer, a friend and I were talking about the difference in the way my family received the news. For me, it felt like someone had walked into a dark room while I was sleeping and snapped up the room darkening shade that covered the window, flooding the room with noonday sun. Suddenly, I was wide awake and face-to-face with some of my biggest fears. For my dad, the progression was more subtle. It was more like someone inched his shade open a little bit at a time, gradually exposing the circumstances to light. I think God allowed him to process his diagnosis in smaller, more manageable pieces.
Sometimes you face life events that feel like your mom thundering in your room, turning on all your lights, and singing “Wake Up, Jacob, Day’s A Breakin'” at the top of her lungs. Sometimes life events come on the scene more subtly, like when she scratches your back and softly asks how you slept.
After the initial gut punch of my dad’s funeral, I felt like someone turned off all the lights again. The part of me who always needs to know the right answers (my Cliff Claven side, if you will), wanted all the answers then and there. I wanted to know how to get to okay and how to process what I was feeling in the neatest and most concise way possible. I wanted to go through the stages of grief and be able to give a full report on my progress by the weekend. I wanted to fit all the weird, new things I was feeling into wherever they were supposed to go in my box of emotions. But that’s not how life has happened for me.
For awhile I’ve tried to read books to make sense of what I don’t understand but the words lay flat on the page and the sentences don’t fit together. I’ve sat quietly in forced introspection only to find my thoughts will not sit still. They fly around my brain and I never seem to come to any steadfast conclusions. Lately, I’ve quit trying to make sense of the senseless. I’m allowing myself more space and more time. I’m still reading and “introspecting,” but my expectations are different now.
Anne Lamott said, “…. a lot of us fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible, and as privately. But what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place, and that grieving alone heals grief. The passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone will not heal it.”
Time does not heal grief. Grief heals grief.
I’m learning that grief doesn’t always look angry or sad. Sometimes it’s simply the realization that I’ve gone several hours without that empty ache in the pit of my stomach. Of course, it’s also feeling a little sad and even guilty that I wasn’t conscious of the ache for a time, but then it’s the conclusion that all of those feelings are okay and part of the process.
Slowly, inch by inch, it feels like God is gently raising the blind, allowing in just the light I need for that day. I know that I will never completely understand this loss. But I also know that I am learning new things about life and death, about grief, about God. And I’m hopeful for the day, not too far away, when all the mysteries of life are answered and I stand in Him complete and whole, and I walk with Him in the Sonlight of His presence.
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Corinthians 13:12 (The Message)
*MGO stands for “My Grief Observed.” These are the posts I’m writing about my grief over my dad’s death in November 2009.