May 19, 2014

Riding the waves of grief

It has been more than two months since Dad died. For me, the feeling of loss has not been constant, as many people told me it would. Rather, it comes in waves. At predictable and unexpected times.

Of course, while grief is a universal experience, it is also an individual one. No two people grieve in exactly the same way.

I think for me, the enormity of everything we have been through dictates that I only deal with the emotions a bit at a time. If they were to all come at once, I would be swallowed up. They are simply too big.

I spent the better part of the past 18 months pushing the emotions aside in order to be able to focus and address each crisis we faced. Now they are slowing seeping out me, rather than rushing. And I think that's a good thing.

I can go for long periods feeling life is normal, then a wave will come along and knock me to my knees. Once it has receded, I gain my footing and continue on.

The hard part is never knowing when the next one will hit.

We speak of him daily. Doing so does not make me feel sad. SB loves to hear stories from my childhood involving BaBop. It is comforting for me to recount cherished memories, and I love that it helps her get to know him better.

One of the things I have told her is how Dad loved to pull little pranks on me, or try to trick me into believing something that wasn't true. He did it for years. Most of the time, he failed. But on the rare occasion he did get one by me his eyes would sparkle, he would grin from ear to ear, point at me and say, "GOTCHA!"

SB is currently working to perfect the art of the gotcha. And she is getting very good at it. Sometimes I will let her believe she has tricked me, simply to watch the pure joy it brings her. But more and more, she really does get one past me.

Her eyes will sparkle, she will grin from ear to ear, point and me and scream, "GOTCHA!"

She attempts a gotcha multiple times a day. It does not get old. I told her BaBop would be very proud. And that I believe he is smiling down from Heaven watching her carry on the tradition.

At Dad's memorial, our pastor gave an incredible eulogy. She  captured the essence of him so perfectly, and I loved how she compared him to a piece of jazz music, his favorite.

I asked if she would send me the text. She has been dealing with a difficult family situation of her own the past few months, but managed to send it to me this past weekend:

I don’t know how you remember Sam…

Husband… Dad… BaBop… professional… good, long time friend… great neighbor… golfer… best dressed always…

Twinkling eyes that hinted of fun ahead or

Concerned eyes sharing in your sorrow…

Man of faith… elder, Stephen Minister…

A man who loved music… especially jazz….

However we encountered Sam, it was a one of a kind moment… even if it was the same place, the same people… the experience of Sam would bring newness, freshness…

The smile… the laugh… the pun…. the interest in you… even in these late days… How’s the church? Interested in what was happening…

Sam was very much like the jazz he loved…

Predictable? No…

Consistant tempo? No

Smooth? Yes, smooth jazz… innovative…

But steady… memorable… colorful… lively… YES!

Daughter Elizabeth came to (our church) first. Her wonderful spirit and presence was contagious. We began to talk. She spoke of being a Stephen Minister. I was longing to start the ministry here…Elizabeth gathered all kinds of materials to help… and then she added… my parents are moving here and they are both Stephen Ministers! Did I hear the Hallelujah chorus? Sam spoke in church and after church a woman came forward and Anne became her SM… the dream team…

Then, there was a need for fellowship and discussion of community issues at the church… the Floras stepped in… Sam with his can do attitude took charge… we all held on… the programs and response were wonderful and a ministry was born…

Much like the jazz Sam loved his life played the solid themes of goodness, excellence, gentleness, prayer and faith which got richer as Sam moved through his life… and ours

And we know that in jazz feelings can be expressed, emotions brought to the surface that our words can never fully grasp or render…

There is much about our lives… our lives as individuals and our lives together that remains a mystery to me…

I think at times like these though memories and love come to us as God’s gifts of grace… memories bind us to each other… to the one we love…

And the love of that person… the love that brought you here today… the love for Sam… the love you want to share with his family… the love of God that this place reminds us of… that deep love can never be taken from us…

While we grieve… while we miss the unique music of Sam’s life… God embraces him… calling him by name…

At times like this it seems that the song death sings has power.

Death seems so final to us on this side of eternity…

However, scripture tells us that on the other side of our earthly lives, Jesus has gone to prepare a place just for us…

Scripture tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus… not even death…

So then the truth of our lives becomes that we are here not because death has come…

We are here because love is real.

Sam would want us to trust in that… this day when we can’t see clearly what we are to do next… which way we might turn to stop the sorrow of this time the apostle Paul suggests we do three things: like Sam’s jazz we are to play our lives boldly holding to these instructions:

Trust steadily in God,

hope unswervingly,

and love extravagantly. 


And the best of the three is love.

I will cherish these words always. But when I received them via email on Saturday, they proved to be the most powerful wave to hit me yet. I'm still working to regain my footing...



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