Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grieving "With Hope"

It is the middle of the night. I have brought my little computer into Mom’s room so that I won’t disturb my husband or the dogs. It is not lost on me that my refuge at this moment was the home of the one who often gave me refuge from the storms throughout my life.

I awoke into one of those moments of terrible grief. I want Mom back so much that I can feel her arms around me. At this moment, that actually is more hurtful than comforting.

Several hours ago, my sister and I were talking on the phone about how sad it is that our family waited until Mom had passed to start learning how to take care of each other. Mom had even left a note with her final instructions about how the most important thing was “family UNITY’” [emphasis hers]. We agree with that now and sometimes say, “Mom would have wanted it this way.” Why was it so hard to do before? What a gift to her it would have been to show this type of caring when she was here to see it.

Right after Mom died, people started quoting that familiar Bible passage to me: “we do not grieve as those who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13-18). That passage actually instructs us to encourage each other with those words. And I do have hope in the manner the Apostle Paul is talking about. I do believe the dead in Christ shall rise and I will see my precious Mother again. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus was personally excited about that prospect for me. I believe that in His infinite mercy, He wants to see even the least of us reconciled and reunited when He returns. That is what He has been teaching me about, right? Mercy.

And yet I grieve. There is a huge void in my life where love had been overflowing for the last 41 years. If this is what grief “with hope” feels like, I cannot imagine the horrible weight of grief that presses down on those with “no hope”. Or do they whistle in the dark and comfort themselves with false platitudes? Maybe they don’t feel grief with the intensity that I do. I have no way of knowing.

The last week of Mom’s life was filled with massive amounts of pain. Straight morphine was all that was keeping her comfortable. The doctors let us know that she would never recover from this. I’m pretty sure we were all asking God to give her release. I remember whispering in Mom’s ear that if she needed to go, that was okay – I would catch up with her later. I really believed that all I would feel after her last breath was relief. Relief that her suffering was over and that she was asleep in the Lord.

And I did feel relief for her. I did. So that is why I am completely surprised that the grief sits so heavy on me. Instead of just feeling relieved, every time I see myself finally taking advantage of opportunities that Mom had been showing me – or making for me – for years, I feel pain and regret.

I wonder if I am doing this right. Is there some Christian formula for grief out there that someone just forgot to show me? How do you know when it has been “enough”? These are questions that plague me, but I don’t go around asking them out loud. I get the distinct impression that all but those closest to me are ready for me to start smiling and saying “fine” when they ask how I’m doing. Their attention spans long ago moved on from my grief, and so I question myself. Am I supposed to be done already? Are there little markers on this path that will let me know I’m still going in the right direction? I just don’t know.

What I do know is that there is mercy. God has been teaching me – more gently than I deserve – about mercy. He has been showing me in so many ways how it works. I believe that God had shown amazing amounts of mercy to me by forgiving every time I did not honor my Mother (and my Father). If I remember correctly, the Bible says that the commandment to “Honor thy Father and Mother” was the first commandment with a promise: “that it might go well with you”. It is God’s mercy that even though we have waited until after her passing to honor our Mother’s wishes, it IS going well for us within our family.

Maybe that alleviates at least a tiny bit of the grief.

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