Death of a loved one is an amputation. I fear the loss of memory. No photograph can truly recall the beloved’s smile. Occasionally, a glimpse of someone walking down the street, someone alive, moving, in action, will hit with a pang of genuine recollection. But our memories, precious as they are, still are like sieves, and the memories inevitably leak through. — Madeleine L’Engle
Jody, my best friend for 20 years, was gone, the most unexpected turn in my nearly fifty years of living. I was left to grieve. And I discovered that grief had a way of morphing. Grief did not look or feel the same from moment to moment or day to day. I cried constantly despite my efforts not to. I felt mentally numb. And I battled for my faith.
I was in full-time ministry. I should have been fine. I knew where Jody was-in heaven. I’d see her again. She was fully whole now and would never even want to come back. I knew these things. I had taught and believed them for years. I should have been fine. But I was not fine and found it hard to imagine I would ever be fine again. Life lost all its color, all its laughter. Everything seemed bleak shades of grey and black. Hopeless. Vague. “Loss strips us of the props we rely on for our well-being. It knocks us off our feet and puts us on our backs. In the experience of loss, we come to the end of ourselves.” Indeed.
In the weeks and months that passed I gradually came to realize I could not/would not abandon the God who had loved me, forgiven me, and comforted me for over thirty years. I knew him too well. I cherished our relationship too much to throw it away like the flower arrangements that faded with age. I read books on grief and talked with others who were at different places in the grief process, all of whom helped me realize the importance of faith. I learned that mine was not a perfect faith, but it was one that would prevail.
The battle was difficult and the lessons hard to articulate. But I will try to share what I’ve learned with you.
Tragedy and loss can never be fully anticipated. I was not prepared for my loss then, and I will never be prepared for future losses. I am simply not the same as I was when Jody was alive. There is a hole in life-the place Jody occupied-that will always be hollow and void. I wasn’t finished doing life with her. I wish she were still here. My soul, however, has grown in the process.
I have had to learn to live with the principle I call co-existence. I have come to grips with the reality that loss and life, sorrow and joy, emptiness and hope live side-by-side with me now. All these things co-exist.
The unseen, eternal things mean more to me now. God is simply more a part of my life. I’ve been forced to grapple with his love and his goodness in light of my great loss. “Jody? You took Jody? You gave Jody and me this remarkable friendship. Why would you take it away?”
I’ve had to completely rethink God’s sovereignty. “Couldn’t you just have put your finger under that plane? It only missed getting over that mountain by a hundred feet! You did that kind of miracle in Idaho, why not in Arizona?” I have learned that not all of my questions will be answered and that the greatest tribute to my friend is to go on living full-on, full-out for God. It’s exactly what she would have wanted. Of this I am certain. He has been my Guide and my Captain, and he will take me through this great loss as well.
Copyright 2008 by Barbara Francis
Barbara Francis is the author of Unexpected Turns: Leaning into the Losses of Life (Expert Publishing, Inc., 2007), and publishes three monthly inspirational newsletters, Embraced, Devoted to Prayer and Prayer Page. For more information, please visit http://www.barbarafrancis.com/.Tags: Depression, grief, hope