Although it has taken a long time, I have come to see grief as an uninvited guest who just keeps showing up. Occasionally I expect her. Other times she comes when least expected. She’s not someone to be rid of. We have become friends. After all, she is here because the one who is missing was deeply loved.
In the fall of 2005 I lost my only surviving sibling, my brother, age 49. He was hunting, got lost in the Beartooth Mountains in Montana and died of hypothermia before he was found. [ This rocked my world, having lost two other siblings as a child, a tiny baby sister and a 2 1/2 year old brother.
* * *
Oh, hello, Grief. I wasn’t expecting a visit from you tonight. You know his birthday is tomorrow don’t you? Your visits have been fewer and further apart and I was hoping you wouldn’t show up this year.
But here you are.
That’s thing about you. You show up when least expected. If I don’t invite you for a visit you invite yourself. At first I was glad to have you around for you are evidence of having loved well. For a long while I was comfortable with you. I needed you to help me make sense of all I was experiencing. Then you gradually drifted away, as I learned to live without your constant companionship
So, tonight when you tap on my door as I head into the coffee shop to sit by the quiet fireplace and just be alone in the crowd, I tell you to “go away.” The tears you bring with you will make my aching head pound even louder than it already is. You are the one I need. You continue to knock. I ask you to hold off another day, but you follow me right into that public place. Don’t you get it – alone in the crowd is what I need tonight.
You sit down in at the table across from me, a steaming cup of black coffee in hand. “Won’t all that caffeine keep you awake?” I ask.
The stranger seated at the table next to me doesn’t need to see my tears. I don’t like how I look when I am crying. Occasionally when you visit, I need people, but not strangers, not tonight.
Unsurprisingly, you refuse to leave. Maybe you like the soothing glow in the fireplace and the low hum of the evening coffee shop crowd as much as I do. I finish my coffee; I invite you to ride home with me in the car when I am ready to go home. It’s dark, no one will notice or pay attention to my tears.
You follow me into the house. I don’t try to stop you. You stay for the rest of the evening, grabbing one of the afghans my mother made, curling up on the other end of the couch from me. We sit together in the quietness of the house. When the tears come, I let them come freely. When I go to bed, you are still here. Sometime during the night you crept away quietly.
I am glad you left before morning. I spend his birthday thinking of how grateful I am I had him in my life and reflect on how God answered my little girl prayer for not only a baby but, for a baby brother so many years ago.
I expect you’ll show up again, and although I am I am glad you come less often, when you do, I’ll greet you, hand you an afghan, and sit in your company. I’ll thank you for being with me on this journey.
You seem to leave sooner that way.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Grief will find you. Grief will heal you when you befriend her. Denying her entry will come at a great cost, for grief will find its way into your body and come out in harmful, destructive ways to yourself and others. She will find you even when you try to keep her away. Tears, so precious to God he collects them in a bottle, are the way to healing.
You have kept count of my tossings;
You have put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
In the beginning, I wanted to know when grief would end because the pain was so all-encompassing. Over time, it has become apparent we are meant to be lifelong friends until we arrive at the time and place where tears are wiped away and there is no more death or dying. Those I have grieved will be with me. Grief’s work will be done, for the missing and the grieving is for those I have lost and now found.
At that long-awaited reunion, I will joyfully release her to befriend another who needs her. It will take a while for them to be friends. I wish I could tell them they will find her patient and kind, even though she will insist they pay attention to her, for embracing her is the way to peace in the losing.
(You can read this post and the reflections of others throughout the month of April on www.ThePerennialGen.com)