Thursday, November 7, 2013

Grief Set In Motion

"Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble:
mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly."
Psalm 31:9

Tonight, I got to missing Mom so much, I thought I would go under.
I was on the phone with Debbie, and we were thinking about things
and talking together, and all of a sudden, it just hit me....
like a ton of bricks.
It must be the holidays coming around again...
that must be what is triggering this overwhelming missing her.
We've been planning our Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers and Zachary's birthday party,
and it just doesn't feel right at all, without Mom being here enjoying it all with us.

I know I already got through all of the "firsts", but does it ever get any easier?
What about the "seconds" and "thirds" and on down the line?
How do you not miss someone who has been in your life since the moment of birth?

I have come to realize that grief washes over the heart in waves.
I can go from being fine one minute...
to falling completely to pieces the next.
Can anyone else relate?
A song,
a scent,
a sight,
a taste,
a place,
and especially a dream....
can propel me backwards to last April in an instant.
To the point of unbearable grief.
To the unrelenting reality...that she is gone.

I woke up yesterday morning from a dream.
While it was happening, it was wonderful.
I saw myself, next to Mom.
We were in a kitchen someplace unfamiliar,
and I was trying to cook a meal.
Zachary was a baby.
I handed him to Mom and asked if she would hold him and get him to sleep for me.
I saw the familiar love in her eyes,
as she tenderly took him in her arms,
and began to rock him back and forth, patting him in her sweet, familiar way,
holding him close, and saying all the things I remember her saying to him.

My heart was the dream.
Everything felt so right.
So familiar.
So comforted.

I awoke to harsh reality.

Zachary is no longer a baby.
He is a maturing, growing boy, now in the 7th grade.
And Mom is gone.
Never to return.
To sing to Zachary.
To reach her hands to help in whatever possible way she could.
To light up at the mere sight of him.
To lighten any load I might be carrying.
To say all the comforting things she used to say.

Boy, have I missed her lately.
Do you ever stop missing them once they're gone?

In the midst of troubles and hurts and confusion and just everyday life,
I have longed to call her and ask her what we should do.
I need her.
I miss her....more than I could ever type words on to this screen.
It is near-unbearable sometimes.

As soon as I opened my eyes, from the dream,
satan was right there.
"That part of your life is over.
That season is past.
That chapter is closed.
You will never....ever get to feel that way again."

His words were so tormenting.
I was back at square one.
Right there.
Standing next to her grave site.
Trying my utmost to keep it together,
failing miserably and falling completely apart.

The other day, Zachary and I took a trip to the cemetery where Mom and most of my family are buried.
Since it is over 600 miles from our home, it was my first time going back since she died.
I knew it was going to be hard.
I was dreading it more than words, 
but I knew I needed to do it just the same.

As we drove along the river from Kim's house to the cemetery,
my pulse quickened, and my anxiety went into overdrive.
I felt like I would explode.

How I wished Kevin could be with us!
He was torn...wanting to be there with Zach and me,
but needing to stay behind to care for his own parents, who are failing very quickly.
We all agreed that it would be best for him to stay where he was.

I asked Uncle John and Aunt Linda to meet us there.
I felt the need to share those moments with them.

When we were getting close, I called Aunt Linda
to tell her we were on our way.

"Okay, John's getting ready.
You'll probably beat us there."

"Yeah, we're almost there", I replied as I saw familiar places.

"Well, maybe it's good, Cheryl.
Maybe you need some time....with yourself, you know?"

"Yeah, I know.  You're right."

I made the oh-so-familiar turn....and drove down that all-too-familiar road.
How many times have I been there through the years....
in the back seat of Mom and Dad's car....
where I felt safe and protected and loved...
with them in the front seat?

I fell to pieces....literally.
Had a complete meltdown.
Under the wheel.
I couldn't see the road.
It seemed my tears were spewing, instead of spilling.
We came to Papaw and Mimmie's grave first.

They are laid to rest there...side by side.
Their tireless efforts and labors for God are forever ended.
They've traded their cross for a crown.
Their spirits have the God Who gave them.
I can just picture them Jesus' feet...
basking in the glory of Heaven and hearing Him say, "Well done" to both of them.
No two soldiers of the cross have ever deserved to hear those words more.

I was only three when Mimmie left us,
but, I can remember the night she died.
I was sleeping on a cot in the same room as her hospital bed.
I remember seeing Mom standing over her,
and the family gathering around, 
and a lot of commotion.

I was too young to really understand...
that the sweet Mimmie I used to call on the phone and sing,
"Cast Your Cares Upon the Savior" to was forever gone...
out of our lives....
but never away from our hearts.

Papaw died when I was 12.
What a man of God!
They called him The Walking King James.
He died in my bedroom, where we had set up his hospital bed,
after he came to live in our home the last two weeks of his life.
I will never forget how Mom would go in and sit with him during the day
and ask him where he wanted her to read to him from the Bible.
His answer was always the same.
"Somewhere in Hebrews", he would reply.
That was one of his favorite books.
The book of Hebrews has unfathomable depths....
as does every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Next, we came to Aunt Opal's grave.
She left this world way too young, in my opinion.
Hodgkin's Gland disease was what took her.
I have heard Mom talk many times of the lumps that kept appearing...
and how she was diagnosed...
and how sad it was when she died.
Only 15....just two years younger than Mom.
Mom lost her one and only sister when she was 17.
She missed her 'til the day she died.
I think it affected Mom in ways none of us really knew or could understand.
I could never count all the times I have heard her say how badly she longed for a sister.
She is so beautiful...on the pictures I have seen of her.
They say she was also very sweet.
Uncle Orville said after she died, there was a mysterious, halo-shaped formation made from feathers....
on her pillow.
Some might doubt that, but I never will.
Only Jesus can comprehend Papaw and Mimmie's pain as they stood there...
right at the very spot I now stood....
all those years ago....
and buried their 15 year old, sweet girl.

Next, we came to Uncle James.
I remember when he died.
I was six years old.
Doctors promised him ten extra years,
but, in spite of their promises, he bled to death on the operating table.
Papaw had to bear the brunt of losing another child....without Mimmie this time.
She had gone to be with Jesus almost three years before.

Next, came the grave of Uncle Cecil.
I have such great childhood memories of him and how our family
would gather together in his basement to sing and play music.
We lived in Florida when he died.
I remember the night the news came to Mom and how hard she cried.
He died very suddenly, without any warning.
He and Mom were close, and it affected her deeply.
She, Dad, and I drove the long trip to Ohio to be at his funeral.
Another trip down that lonesome road....
to lay another loved one to rest in that sad line of graves.

Next, we came to Uncle Earl's grave.
Though he spent the last several years of his life in a wheelchair,
I remember how he looked like the picture of health.
He fought a long and losing battle with Multiple-sclerosis 
and finally succumbed to it in 1992.

Next, came the graves of Uncle Paul and Aunt Dorothy.
Uncle Paul played the mandolin and was so comical.
As I stood there, I started thinking about how close Aunt Dorothy and Mom were
and how they used to call each other "Gut".
Don't ask me why....the secret of its origination died with the two of them.
They never would tell.
Aunt Dorothy died just a few months before Mom.

As we wound our way around the cemetery, I knew we were getting close.
Memories of last April rushed over me like a tidal wave.
I felt like I would drown.

I spotted it and sobbed like a baby.
There it was...Mom's name....just like the old Vern Gosdin song...."Chiseled in Stone".
Nothing drives reality home more than to see it that way.

Such a beautiful stone...but so cold.

Zach and I got out of the car and walked the lonely path until we stood there....
silently, both of us caught up in our own thoughts...our own grief.
We took her some flowers.
Kim had helped me pick out the little watering can to arrange them in the day before.
Placing them there in front of her grave,
I could almost hear her familiar voice telling me how pretty they were.

We left them there...along with our tears, mixed with the early morning dew.

Soon, Uncle John and Aunt Linda arrived.
The comfort of their presence made us smile through our tears.

We drove around to visit the grave of Mom's first husband and the father of my four siblings.

I thought of how 50 years before Mom was laid to rest just a few feet away, 
she had stood at this same spot saying good-bye to him,
a young widow....surrounded by her four fatherless children.

On we went, stopping to see the graves of other relatives,
including little nine year old Sabrina,
the grand-daughter of my cousin, Steve.

Honestly, it is the prettiest tombstone I have ever seen,
and along the right side is a beautiful poem written by Uncle John.

I felt a sense of peace as we drove away.
It was something I needed to do...going back there.
Facing that challenge.
Making that trip.
And now my first trip back since Mom died
is behind me.
Future trips won't be as hard.

I know it isn't truly the real "her"...buried there beneath that sod.
She is with Jesus in a far better place than here.
He holds her, along with her beloved Opal, and my precious father,
and so many others in His everlasting arms.
At last, they are together at home...forevermore.

It still bugs me that Dad's remains are so far away from Mom's.
My wish is that their physical bodies could have been buried side by side.
The important thing is that they are joined together in spirit...over on the other side.

They are waiting for me.
I know they are.
One day, I intend to meet them there, by God's amazing grace.
Until then, I will keep pressing on.
I will cherish the memories...of the dear ones I have loved who have gone on before.
I will remember them and the wonderful way 
they helped to shape and mold my life.
I will live life....every precious moment I am given,
and by God's help, I will life it abundantly....
just like Jesus wants me to.

Many small things trigger the grief that is still present in my heart.
Much of it is beyond my control.
Some days, I still cry....a lot.
Other days, I don't shed one tear.
Always, I carry my loved ones in my heart.
I know they would want me to go on and smile through my tears.

By God's grace, I will.
It's all about continuing to put one foot in front of the other...
and not looking too far ahead.
Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow...
its trials, tribulations, tests, temptations.....moments of grief.
We are not promised tomorrow.
None of us know how long we have left in this world.
If tomorrow comes, there will be sufficient grace available for us to walk through it...
just like there was enough for today.

Several years ago, I wrote a song called, "I Hear Angels Singing".
Wish I had it recorded, so I could share it with you here.
But, the gist of it is that the loved ones who have gone on before us
are cheering us on....
telling us to be strong....
to fight on.

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,
 let us lay aside every weight,
and the sin which doth so easily beset us,
 and let us run with patience the race that is set before us..."
Hebrews 12:1

When a loved one leaves this world and goes to live with Jesus,
they become a part of that "great cloud of witnesses".
Ever think about that?

If they made it, we can, too, my friend.
Sometimes, I feel like I imagine I hear them singing...telling me and reminding me of that.

So, who do you miss?
Who waits for you...over on the other side?
Who beckons you on?
What loved one is compassing you about in that great cloud of witnesses?

Grief is a part of this life.
Jesus was a Man of sorrows, and very well-acquainted with grief.
He has walked the path before us, and He knows how we feel.

Grief has no part in Heaven.
God Himself will wipe all tears from our eyes,
and we will sorrow no more.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; 
and there shall be no more death, 
neither sorrow, 
nor crying, 
neither shall there be any more pain: 
for the former things are passed away."
Revelation 21:4

I look forward to that, don't you?
That must be some of the sweetest parts of Heaven...
knowing there is a permanent absence of grief...and parting...and tears.
There's more than enough of that in this life.

Thank God, we won't have to deal with it over there.

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