“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. ”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I have seen this quote dozens of times. I have always appreciated it. However, in the last few days it has felt more real and more true than it ever did before.
Around mid-August last year, my mother took that journey that would begin her final days, weeks and months. She was surrounded during that time with her family. There was hardly one night that she was not kissed goodnight by one of her children and very few mornings one was not there when she awoke.
She died in early November as the days grew shorter and the leaves began to fall from the trees. The celebration of her life and spirit was held the week of Thanksgiving. The plan had been for her children and as many of her grandchildren to gather to feast and celebrate together. Instead we gathered to remember AND to feast.
Some of the words of good friends and colleagues were “take some time off.” I would have, but the life of the church and the life of a preacher very rarely stops. Advent was upon us, there were special services to plan, three Christmas eve services and then all the necessary programs would need attention after the first of the year.
A crisis at the church, funerals, Lent, Easter, you can imagine the calendar pressing on and on. I have a phenomenal staff, so there was a trip to see grandkids, a continuing education event, Annual conference and grandkids visiting. No real down time and then, more funerals, more funerals. Difficult funerals, a tragic accident, a suicide, well-loved members of the congregation, six since June 28. Then there is the world-wide sadness: Ferguson, Missouri, ISIS terrorizing in Iraq, the Ebola virus in West Africa, I could go on and on.
I share this not for pity or sympathy, but grief sometimes weighs heavy on the heart and soul and catches one unaware. I am not unique in that experience. Many I know struggle just to get out of bed with the deep sadness in their spirits.
In some ways it is the “road less taken.” Many avoid it, filling time with activities and avoiding those whose grief is palpable. Widowed spouses and partners, parents with empty arms know this well. Many, however, are filled with grief that has been multiplied over time. Loss of jobs, broken relationships, friends and family who have died and all of a sudden the journey of grief can no longer be denied.
I have all the right training to understand “grief.” I know the stages and the explanations, but like C.S. Lewis I need to note that no one can actually describe grief, it is a little like fear, or nerves or any number of things. I only know that it feels like a heavy weight around the heart, like a hand that squeezes and makes it difficult to breathe. It is sad and dark and dreary and lonely. It a journey that is traveled in moments and memories, in tears and in laughter, in darkness and light.
So here I am, taking that ongoing journey of grief. I am not alone in this journey, others travel it as well, but I remember the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” “Come to me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give rest.” Or the words of the Psalmist: “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil, for you are with me. ” Trusting in the comfort, the strength and love of God on this ongoing journey of grief, I am graced to serve.