Sometime while we sleep, the moon slips behind clouds, hides behind their walls — building, rising, thunder rolling, lightning striking.
And when day dawns, we listen to the coffee maker drip, draw open blinds to stare across a gray Mississippi horizon, watching the way the sky turns into itself, puckering its face as if the heavens themselves were sharing in our grief, this day we lay to rest a man who taught us all about true redemption.
The dirt from the recently dug grave turns to mud and is this really the way it has to be, God, I murmur, can the sun not shine on this day we so desperately need it to?
Maybe I’m sad too, He whispers and I find comfort here because so often I forget God feels what we feel. He came to earth a human, felt the joy of life, the sting of death and when our hearts hurt, His hurts alongside it.
It’s okay, I whisper, Thank you for sharing in our grief.
Here’s the thing about grief; it shows up when we least expect it. We may be able to hold our tears back on the day the coffin is carried across the gravel, across the mud… but a week from now, maybe months, when we pour coffee into two mugs instead of one, grief knocks us to our knees.
Maybe it’s when Mother’s Day rolls around and she’s been gone for years, this lady with soft smiles and gentle words but then you see a bouquet of flowers, lilacs, her favorites, and your face turns shiny, heavenward, there in the grocery store next to the cards you no longer buy.
We are all only a phone call away, a six-inch dotted yellow line away from this grief, knees hitting the ground and the screams echoing loud inside our head. But can we remember, also, that we are all only a prayer away from heaven, the One who knows all and holds all and loves all?
The throne of grace is only reached through brokenness; is only touched when some manner of healing is needed.
I spoke with a man, once, who had driven his tractor over his own wife, him not realizing she was there bringing him a sandwich and lemonade for lunch.
“I don’t remember,” he whispered, “I don’t remember the funeral, the weeks following. Even now, I don’t know what color her casket was. What I remember most was climbing alone into the mountains where we often went for picnics, her and I and the girls, and I found this place where we used to go and there were rocks, huge rocks, where we used to sit together and watch the day end. I started screaming,” he said, “I screamed and screamed and I flung those rocks hard down the mountain. I knew nothing but rage. Nothing but pain. And then the sun went down. I watched the way it fell into the lake below. I’ve never seen a sunset since that was more beautiful. I stayed there, then, holding my knees to my chest, just sobbing and the moon came out and the stars along with them. I felt God, then. He slipped his arms around me. I knew at that moment that the emptiness I felt was only going to be filled with love.”
Yes, we can fill the emptiness of grief that way, by continuing to love what is gone, by reaching to love those left behind, by filling ourselves full to the brim with God’s love.
So when Mother’s Day comes, it’s okay to take a moment in the card aisle and hold close some words that remind you of her. Maybe you buy her some dark chocolates and remember her each time you take a bite. Maybe you take your motherless daughters up the high mountain with the big rocks and you sit there watching the sunset, drinking lemonade and eating sandwiches and remembering. Maybe you pour two cups of coffee instead of one, then sit extra long drinking from them both, watching the day rise and remembering your years together.
It takes great bravery to face grief, to experience the sadness of it all… but the brave, I realize, have faith in a God who will see them through.
So when that storm rolls in my friend, and the sky bends low to the earth, maybe it’s God way of leaning close to your ear and whispering, “We’ll get through this… We’ll be okay…”
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18 NIV