Sunday, December 6, 2015

Dear Grief

I knew my father was dying. Essentially, aren't we all? It's this chaotic mixture of living while dying. A seen march toward an unknown end date. He had only been sick for a short while, but what a sickness. Cancer and all the treatment options- doctors and hospital visits. And medicines. And bills. All the rearranging of life.

I guess you could say that I was looking at this thing a little one sided. I didn't even really consider how his death might affect me. While he chose to try and beat his cancer monster, all I could think of is how much better death seemed. Although he always said he'd never want to live that way, once diagnosed, it's what he chose. You think you know what you would do until you're in that situation. He chose to fight, and all I could really think these past months is, "Wouldn't Heaven just be so much better?!"

Yes, Heaven is so much better. Jesus is so much better. To be present with Him is our greatest joy - the thing that propels our very essence of life on earth. When you get the Gospel, it changes you. You live differently. It's not a living out of obligation but a life fueled by love. A longing for a life well lived. A journey worth going. A race worth winning.

So, why did he even chose to fight this cancer with such slim odds? That's a question I'll never know the answer to, but seeing him so ill, so overcome with disease... It really did make me look at grief one-sided. His side. He would be so much better off. In a better place. With no sickness. No cancer.

It's been a few weeks since Dad's final home going. We had his memorial service a week ago.

But here's what I forgot. Here's where I underestimated all this grief. This is the side I failed to see. My side.

Dear Grief,

I sincerely underestimated you.

I forgot about you when I grabbed my phone to text a picture of my daughters on the fishing pier to their PawPaw. Dad loved the gulf.

I didn't know you would show up while I walked the aisles of Buc-ee's and happened to see the orange slices. I didn't realize grief could transport me to my childhood and see Dad emptying a bag of his favorite candy into the candy jar. He loved orange slices.

When we traveled back home after your service, you left me feeling like life sucked out as we drove through west Texas and into New Mexico. Dad loved the west. I'm so glad he got to visit us here.

And Grief, the tears are easy to understand, but I failed to realize that you come through as anger and untimely, random acts of who-knows-what, too. I guess you're what made me clean my house the second I walked in the door after being away from home for nearly 3 weeks. You are so weird.

I didn't know you would show up at my daughter's piano recital as she played "Jessica's Theme" from Man from Snowy River. She had learned that song for Paw-Paw because it was one of his favorite movies. And she played it at Christmas...on a piano in front of a Christmas tree. (Dad loved Christmas so much that he actually left their house decorated year round for the past 3 years!) Grief, you threw a sucker punch there. My tears weren't understood by the crowd around me.

And that's another thing. Grief, you didn't warn me about crowds! For Pete's sake, I am a people person! Who knew all I would want to do is avoid crowds. And, plus it's Christmas! I am supposed to be attending parties and shopping for presents. But I can't fight you right now, Grief. So, I'll settle for warm blankets, a cup of coffee, a few holiday obligations, and maybe I'll somehow get some shopping done between your waves.

There are places I expected you to show up, Grief. Like when I find Dad's handwriting on the box of Christmas keepsakes he gave to me. There's the Christmas village that he took me to Lowe's to buy. We added new pieces each year. I knew you'd show up as we unboxed it yesterday. I expected you then.

I also knew you'd wash over me afresh when I read Dad's hand written notes to me in the book in which his poem was published. I fought you, Grief, but you were at least expected there.

I really have to give you credit for the anguish I feel about living so far away from my mom. I had no idea how hard it would be to drive away from her house last Monday. Although I know she'll be fine, she's dealing with you right now, too.

I understand that you're going to be with me for awhile. But Grief, I also know that you're going to gracefully bow out at some point soon. I get that you have a job you're helping do right now. That you are bringing about the mourning. This is good. It's part of it. And, truly, I thank God for you.


JOY is coming. MORNING is coming. and PEACE... already here.

So, Dearest Grief, do your job because Jesus is doing his. He will allow you this and even use you for my good and His glory. But: Know this, you are a means to an end.
"O death, where is your sting?
O death, where is your victory?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 
But thanks be to God,who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (ESV)