The Tunnel

“O my God, teach me, when the shadows have gathered, that I am only in a tunnel. It is enough for me to know that it will be all right some day.”  George Matheson

I came across this quote the other day. And then I saw this picture. It is a perfect representation of my experience with grief.  There are stretches of darkness and then the light breaks through and I can see the life and beauty around me.  And then I turn a corner, and once again am surrounded by the darkness. It is all so random.

A very wise young woman told me this week, “grief is a lonely place”. And that is so true. I can be among people one day, in the light and then without warning, a cloud descends and I am unable to stop the tears from coming.  And those who have seen me in the light are encouraged that I am doing so “well”.  After all, it has been six months. But what they may not know is that there are many times when I grope along in the dark tunnel, unable to see the light ahead and unsure where to place my next step.  This very wise young woman wrote a blog about this and you may read it here. I hope she writes more so she can help others understand why it is so lonely and how others can help. I look forward to reading more about that.

Another very wise young woman told me this week that it “takes a community to help one grieve”.  You can read this blog hereSometimes the twists and turns of grief are just too much. And we all just hope someone will “pick us up” and relieve us of the sadness, confusion, frustrations, and general symptoms of grief. But since it has been six months now, life has gone on for those not directly impacted by our loss. And yet we still need others to hold us up and walk with us for a while; to help us get around those speed bumps.  I hope this wise young woman will write more on this topic. I look forward to reading that post.

I am so blessed to have these wise young women in my life.  They cry with me and laugh with me. We talk, pray, hope, and dream together. We keep one another moving. We pick each other up. You see, they are my daughters. We walked together through the difficult days of Mike’s diagnosis, illness, and death.  Molly and I rejoiced with Rebecca in the birth of her first child and then ached with her the next morning in the death of her Dad. Rebecca and I cheered Molly on in her victories upon her return to college and cried with her in her trials of learning how to move forward as a young woman without her Dad.  And Rebecca and Molly have showered me with their unconditional love and care…just by being who they are.  I look at them and see their Dad – in their smiles, twinkling eyes, determination, and love for others.  These are brave young women and I have no doubt that they will carry on their Dad’s spiritual legacy.  

So we continue to walk through the tunnel.  Together. Even when others may not have the words or do not know the depth of our sadness, we know we have each other.  And as we each move forward, it is ‘enough for me to know that it will be all right some day’.

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Beauty from Ashes

It has been six months since Mike passed away. I much prefer to think of it as when Mike “went to Heaven” or “went Home”.  But that might sound really odd to some people.  To me,  saying someone passed away sounds like they are gone forever.  And I don’t believe that Mike is gone forever.  At all.  He is gone from my sight and all my senses but he is very much still alive in my heart in addition to being in Heaven.  When someone fills you up with that much love, it just doesn’t go away.

Anyway, today marks six months. The odd thing is that I just don’t know how I feel about that.  And I don’t want to dwell on it.  So grief is having it’s way with me even when the emotions are not at the surface.  I received a very short and kind email this morning from my son-in-law. He wanted me to know that he thinking of me and praying for me today – on this special day. He remembered.  And from that message came this response back to him as well as to my girls:

“These verses have been on my heart this week – God’s promises:

 ‘to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness,  a planting of the Lord  for the display of his splendor’.  Isaiah 61:2-4

 The word for me this week has been “ashes”.  The symbol of grief in the Bible.  Worn on the head, they covered the body – ashes don’t usually stay where you put them…they float here and there and leave their mark on everything they touch. Like grief, ashes are born of fire – of trials. They are colorless; lifeless. Ashes bear little or no resemblance to the form of the thing they were before the fire.  And grief feels like that.

 But the good news is that we have a God who does not leave us in the ashes.  As part of His “rescue” plan, He takes our grief and gives us a crown of beauty, pours joy on us, clothes us with praise, and make us strong – all to His glory.  He is doing His work in us all; minute by minute so long as we are authentic in our grief and yield it to Him again and again; and are able to share our feelings and thoughts with Him and with others.

 Today, as every day, I choose to look to Him in the hope that He gives us; knowing that this grief is not going to be with me forever and so I will let Him do His healing work in me. And this is why I can look forward – to tomorrow in hope, even while today I may look back with sadness.”

So while I continue to live in the state of “is this really my life now?” I have to bring it back to “for this minute, the answer is Yes”. And so that is how it goes.  Minute by minute. And then day by day. And then month by month. And then before I know it, I look back and say, “has it really been six months?”  And then I realize that yes, God has been at work.  The ashes are fewer – sometimes hard to see – but on days like today I know it to be true. I see the beauty of spring through new eyes and feel just a tiny bit stronger.  And thank God, there is hope.

I know I have posted this song before, but it is one of my favorites and is another reminder that brighter days are ahead.

“There will be a Day” by Jeremy Camp.