Wednesday, December 29, 2010
We Sorrow Not As Others...
Brian's Dad was able to spend Christmas with us this year, and I am so glad he did. I tried to redirect my thoughts every time my eyes and mind wandered to the empty space on the couch next to him. Brian, his dad, and I quietly wrapped gifts Christmas Eve, and my throat kept going dry as I watched him lovingly wrap the gifts he picked out for the children...I eventually thought I would choke if I had to watch anymore. I asked Brian to put the radio on to help us along...the cheerier the music in the background, the more it was obvious that someone was missing. Then there were the meals..each meal I prepared, there was the empty spot where she would have been bustling along next to me to get food prepared, how my heart ached. I had successfully put off dealing with much of the grief since she passed away early this summer, because, well, things have been hard, and very busy with Brian's schedule and homeschool. Then came Christmas break, and there was no escaping. Each night after the day's events came to a close, there was no getting away from my thoughts, my memories...reality.
I thought back to the day I got the call, Tuesday, June 1st. We had just moved into base housing and I was trying to finish up the school year- (the girls were attending our church's school since Brian had been deployed) and unpack the house with Brian gone on trips for training and work. Brian's parents had flown out and spent time with us in April and we moved soon after that since the owners of the house we were renting would be returning early. The move was only a couple of miles away, but a move is, well, a move.
Now, I am not one to believe that the Lord uses signs and wonders,like He did during Biblical times-not that He can't or won't, we are just in a different time. So, without getting too off track or putting too much emphasis, as it is probably coincidence, I will say this, the Lord will use what He will and in this case,certain circumstances prompted us to pray more than we would have without being prompted. We were petitioning the Lord for help that we didn't even know we would need, isn't God GOOD? I don't pretend to understand, I just do it.
So, here it is, call me crazy, but when we moved, it was onto the street, New Orleans Way. I immediately didn't like it and huffed around about why we had to live on a street name after a place I have no plans on visiting because of all the awful things it brings to mind. I told Brian as such and he proceeded to tell me how odd it was that he would be taking a trip to New Orleans, for work...though he had never had to before. I was sick and rebuked myself sharply for the knee-jerk superstitious thought: "it's a sign". I did tell Brian that I really felt to pray about this trip like never before, except for his deployment, and I shared that I was worried for him. I thought perhaps my worry stemmed from knowing he would be surrounded by filth which could cause a stumble in thoughts or be a temptation to the eyes. So, I pushed and asked if the trip was absolutely necessary, because I didn't feel peace about him going. There was no way out of it, so we just prayed over the trip. I was still uneasy and fervently praying, even as he left, that the Lord would protect him.
We sent my beloved off to New Orleans, and couple days later, he called...unable to get the words out that his mother had passed away. I was shocked to disbelief and immediately crumpled to the floor wishing I could be with Brian in his sorrow. I told the children that their Grandmom, whom they had just seen a couple months before, went to heaven, and there we sat, amidst boxes and chaos from the move, crying and praying that the Lord would help Daddy and Pop-pop and us..to bear the loss. The much needed prayers we had been lifting up, I believe, were prompted and blessed because of how everything worked together so we could get through a very trying time. I'll just briefly mention how the LORD helped me though the anemia I was dealing with at the time, there is no explanation but the Lord's provision. I was so very weak and He showed Himself very strong in my need. Psa 63:1 "O God, thou [art] my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;"
The call came Tuesday; the children and I attended Wednesday night Bible study the following evening. The love and support from our church family was overwhelming. God is so good to put people in place so that we don't have to bear our grief alone. The offers to help were so loving and I felt lifted and strengthened, though my heart was aching to be with my husband. We weren't sure how things would work out to get him home and to his parent's house to be with his dad. The Lord had plans.
Brian was originally going to fly out alone from New Orleans to meet his Dad,but when my parents offered to keep the kids for us, and front money for plane tickets, Brian said he really wanted me to be with him. There were to be no services held at all for her memorial, but Brian insisted on seeing her and saying goodbye. She had put in her will that she wanted to be cremated and that was that. I remembered when she had called to discuss her will with me...Brian was deployed to Iraq at the time, and though I told her that I did not like it or agree or want to think about her dying...I would respect her wishes. Looking back I wish I had convinced her otherwise, but the burden at the time of Brian's deployment loomed in my thoughts and the last thing I wanted to talk about was death. Funerals and memorials are for the living..and I now know how necessary it is to have that as part of the grieving process. I had no idea we would be facing the loss of her only a year or so after we had that conversation...she was only in her 50s.
Plane tickets were secured with the help of my sister and my dad, I had to focus on how to be a support to Brian and comfort the children. I was still dealing with the house not being unpacked, so I pleaded for strength and help from the Lord and tried to put all else aside to focus myself with packing our things for the immediate trip so that when Brian was able to fly back to Virginia, we would be ready to make the 10 hour drive to Ohio and fly out to Arizona the same day. I had never left my children with anyone before,for a weekend...but I knew I needed to be there for my husband...it was going to be hard, and I had my fear of flying to face (and distract), but God is bigger than all this. He was there and supplied our every need, every step of the way. I look back amazed at His provision.
We arrived in Ohio, got the kids settled in about a half hour and then my dad drove us to the Columbus airport. Brian and I were truly as one person through it all, the Lord knitting our hearts in support of one another. We flew, enjoying a rest after the long drive and prepared to meet Brian's Grandmother and Dad who would meet us in Las Vegas. I know we were exhausted, but we were so raw with emotion, we didn't notice...even when there was still a 3 hour drive to Lake Havasu ahead of us upon arrival. We embraced Brian's dad, rather than trying to put anything into words. Words, there are no words for such times as this.
I couldn't talk for almost the whole trip to the house...I didn't know what to say and neither did anyone else, it seemed. Brian and I silently held hands in the back seat and looked at the starry desert night...it was so big and a comfort to remind me again of God's greatness and my smallness. We stopped to get a bite to eat and my tears finally decided to course down my face as I ate...but I was numb.
The more I wiped, the more they flooded out.
We had been traveling for almost 19 hours straight by car and plane, when we pulled up to the house where we had shared many fond memories. Oh, how my heart ached for my children just then, since they had always been with us when we would visit. It had been 4 years since we had been to their house due to our being stationed overseas for 3 years and then Brian's deployment when we had gotten back. Did I mention how difficult military life is...esp the part about always having to say goodbye?
We entered the house and their little Westie dog, Daisy, quickly rushed up to greet us. I sucked in my breath to control tears as I looked around the house...not wanting to see. I saw her jacket and purse were still on the counter, as if she had just stepped out of the room for a minute. Pictures everywhere seemed to jump out at me, her face with the children and us...it was more than I could bear. I could almost hear the giggles and splashing out back where the pool was..more memories of wonderful times. I finally allowed myself to look over at the recliner where just days earlier her husband had found her...already with Jesus. A single red rose rested on her chair. Hurrying on to the guest bedroom I couldn't contain my sorrow. The room was still all decorated, just as it had always been for the girls...she had been so excited to show us. The children's toys, still in the closet, stared emptily back at me and also seemed to sorrow. Even now, I can barely think about it without tears and the sick feeling of loss.
Weary, Brian and I laid in the bed that night and just cried...there were many things unsaid but understood. Our hearts ached over the questions and "what-ifs" that just could not be voiced...closets of pain that could now never be opened. At least we had each-other and the Lord holding us both through the night so that we slept peacefully...tears stopped still on our cheeks til morning.
We woke to the news that Brian's Grandmother had gotten the wrong bag at the airport
and we would have to make a 6 hour roundtrip voyage to remedy the situation. None of us complained...the drive seemed to provide comfort to us..and we were together. There was some discussion as to whether we would *see* her or not, since there was not to be any service or memorial and no viewing service arranged. It was decided that they would arrange Brian's mom in a small room where we could see her one last time. The sooner the better, were my thoughts...face the grief head on. I can't remember if we saw her upon returning from the airport or the next day, but we all braced and readied ourselves. I brought along an old hymnal...because singing is comforting when your heart can't find the words. Brian asked if I would sing "In The Sweet By and By". We arrived at the funeral home and the kind attendant led us to a room that barely fit us all...and there she lay. She was on a gurney covered in a quilt, but I could still see a hospital gown peeking out at the top...she was not "made up" like you typically see them during a funeral, but very much looked asleep...the lamps helped disguise the blue tinge to her face, but it was traumatizing to see her that way. I started to block it all as reality when Brian suddenly fell upon her chest sobbing and crying "why"...to her, not the Lord. There we all were, faced with the very raw "real-ness" of life and my whole being shook inside trying to hold on as I saw my husband crumbling before me...his Grandmother lovingly stroking her daughters hair and talking of her love for her... Brian eventually turned to me and asked if I could sing the song we decided on...I wondered how I could utter anything, but suddenly a great peace and strength lifted my voice and carried it out of my mouth "There's a land that is fairer than day...and by faith we can see it afar, for the Father waits over the way, to prepare us a dwelling place there..". And the ugliness of this world faded away as we turned our thoughts to where she was now residing, she was no longer in sorrow...and we no longer sorrowed as the world, but were in prayer lifted to thoughts of the truth. The truth that she had asked the Lord Jesus to save her and though we would be facing the sorrow of loss...it was only temporary. I don't know how long we lingered at the side of the one who I had known since I was 16...who had taken pictures of Brian and I together before prom, who sat and cheered with me for Brian during his highschool wrestling matches. She was there to watch us say our vows in marriage and then had been present in the delivery room for each child's birth (except Ayden's because he arrived early while in Japan). I allowed my thoughts to animate her face into her beautiful smile and recalled how she had looked into the face of each of my children and called them by the nicknames she made up for each of them. I remembered the joy when the children would climb onto her lap and she'd smother them with kisses. I thought of the late night card games we'd play, how she'd help the kids splash me in the pool...our trips together...I let it all play out in that room. We had a celebration of memories...and then we all kissed her goodbye.
I left there changed. Proper perspective about what matters and what doesn't, had been reinstated. I left determined to LOVE more and to LIVE actively in each moment. I knew it all had to count, these moments, this life, and it all had to be for His Glory if it was to be anything at all. There is no emptiness like the the one you feel when you know you could have done more...and the opportunity is gone. There is no going back. I hold on longer, listen more, talk less...lift up that which matters most and tear down facades that lead to ruin.
I didn't think I would be able to write this and share it with you, but now that I have, it is like I have had a burden lifted. God is bigger than any hurt, sorrow, pain, loss that this world has and He can comfort when no one else can understand. We spent the next couple of days going through and sorting her things...tears flowed throughout as we huddled over the "mother's" journal I had given her..to pass down to the children. Her thoughts and memories preserved...so my children can know her. The burden and grief of it all would have been too much if it hadn't been for the truth that this life is but a vapor and that we are just passing through. Heaven is our home when we know Christ. We bagged up her clothing...and there it sat, and I thought of how this life is so fleeting. I thought of all the petty things we worry over, and how the end of all those things is nothing...leaves no mark. I thought of how no one can prepare you for all that is contained in what we refer to as -grief, it is something you must rely on the Lord to get you through. And He more than just gets you through it, He abounds in His pouring out of grace, and peace comes just when you think it never will. So much more...but no words to say it.
Brian left for the airport with his dad a few hours ago...and there is a temporary emptiness that we feel, because we know we will see him again. We spent this Christmas, remembering Christ and making new memories, loving one another, laughing, reflecting...thinking ahead to when we will all be reunited with our Lord. There are always bright roads ahead when you know the Lord, because there is always hope. So, we sorrow not, as others...
1 Thess 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.