When Death Comes

I woke up one spring day and was handed a box of grief. When I opened the box, every word in my mind and soul dried up like a drop of water on a hot black skillet.  My best friend and my rock left me for the other side. No good-bye. No warning. I count down the months and my mind has not yet returned. I spend my days underwater where colors and sounds are distorted. Circumstances I shrugged off, unhappy days, frustrating coworkers, thwarted plans, all seem to dance to the faint drum beat of the refrain, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I am tired.”

I try to wrestle the loss into something that makes sense, something that I can pick up and put in a closet or put away on a shelf until I can deal. Instead, I feel weak, fragile, and completely alone. I can’t find my way and no amount of scripture, experience, or hope in the future takes away my reality right now. When the house is completely silent and my day’s work done, I miss him. I miss him. I miss him.  When there is no project, no dogs to walk, no chores to do, I miss him.

The memories assault me unbidden, like yesterday when I heard the faint sound of the seeds dropping from the trees to the pavement on an ordinary fall day, I am back with him laughing on the deck of another warm fall day, watching the seasons come and go. I am older and wiser. I know this part of my life is never coming back. His voice is just a memory. The tears fall down my cheeks unbidden and I can’t stop them. But I am at work, so I dry my tears and try to remain numb and pretend I am not struggling.

I am no stranger to loss. I lost another life a long time ago. I lost one of my children, and now my grandchildren, a long time ago to a past I can’t change and one I haven’t been forgiven for. My other child, I almost lost to depression. It’s different this time.  At mid-life, my well is just dry. I fear I won’t bounce back. I have been told I was a horrible mother and a horrible grandmother. A horrible wife.  I have been dismissed, ignored, hated, misunderstood, and unappreciated.  I am tired. I am tired of fighting, I am tired of the enemy winning. I am tired of holding it.

I wonder where my chutzpah went. I used to possess the most amazing characteristic of doggedness any human could possess. I fought to keep the roof over my children’s head and food on the table. I fought a loneliness that was bigger than the Grand Canyon. Every day. I fought and I fought. But what I did wrong was I didn’t acknowledge the abandonment, rejection, and pain I was enduring. My mother or my grandmother never did that and I am my mother’s daughter.  I never allowed myself to be weak or to cry or to feel fragile because then I would have to admit to myself that I had been rejected and abandoned.

So I am writing this today to change that pattern. It is hard for me to admit defeat, but there you have it. I need someone. I am like a dog that has been kicked one too many times. I need for love to come alongside me for once and help me, to listen to me, and to just love me. I wanted to move be near my family, but instead I find myself  alone at the beach. I knew it was going to be this way. I knew it. But after four long years of trying to find my path for whatever days or years remained to be written in my book of life, this was the door that opened. I don’t understand it. It wasn’t my first choice, but at least I can be alone walking along the ocean or out watching the water rush under the pier. It is a small measure of consolation.

I am crushingly defeated. I earn less of a salary than I have in a long, long time. I am struggling to live and using credit cards to make it from one payday to the next. Did I mention my safety net is gone? Did I mention I miss him? And I don’t live large people. I’m talking basics here. The old panic attacks are returning in the middle of the night. How am I going to make that next payment? How am I going to get my dogs to the vet? Do I have enough gas money? I peddled like a mad person to keep that bicycle moving forward for my children. Today, I peddle like an old woman to keep it all afloat before my energy runs away like a rebellious child. I am tired.  It’s like an old 45 record player spinning the same song over and over again. Been there, done that.

The poverty and homelessness in Myrtle Beach is astounding and it frightens me. The disparity between the rich who use this area like a playground and the ordinary folks who live here is amazing. I watch people no older than me walking aimlessly down the road with a bag of their belongings and I am struck with fear that I am so very close to being just as destitute. I go from feeling so grateful and blessed to absolute fear.  What if I don’t make it? What if I get fired? What if, one day my mind does run away and never comes back? How long will it take for someone to find me curled in a fetal position drooling like a crazy person? Days? Weeks?

So this blog was to be about God, about hope, and about His purpose and plans. Except sometimes we don’t feel hopeful, joyful, or understand. In fact, life remains a struggle for most of us. This nonsense preached from the pulpits about being blessed in your life in the here and now is all wrong. We are blessed in the heavenly places:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3) Faith is the substance of things hoped for but not yet seen. (Heb. 11:1)

And there you have it. In no hope, I have hope.  When I am faithless, He is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Tim. 2:13) I do hope in God and I do believe God has a purpose in all of this. He remains the reason why I can say, I have failed, I am lonely, I need help, and I know in my heart that God is near and not far. “The Lord hears those who cry out, and he delivers them from all their distress.”  (Psalms 34:17)

I am imperfect, and there are those that love to remind me of this, but I must remind myself in times like these that my righteous standing before God is not due me because of what I have done but rather what He has done. There is nothing I can do to stand before a holy and righteous God. All of my works will burn up in His presence. God never promised a life free of pain, disappointment, wrong turns, or days of despair. No, he tells us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isa. 43:12)

What comforts me most right now is reminding myself that grief and loss are part of the human experience and that I have a savior who, thou was God in the flesh, experienced these same emotions: “He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” (Isa. 53:3) Yes, my savior understands me and He understand my time of pain. And when Lazarus was laid in his tomb and they told Jesus, scripture tells us: “Jesus wept.”

David, too, experienced great sorrow in his life, one also full of family rifts, particularly with his son, Absalom, who ultimately betrayed him. Yet, you can just feel David’s grief as he cries out over the death of Absalom: “But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son! “ (2 Sam. 19:4) Despite Absalom’s family intrigue, David loved his son with all of his heart.

David was also unjustly persecuted by Saul, who is a type of our enemy in the Bible. “When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Then Saul lifted up his voice and wept.  He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you.…” (1 Sam. 24:16)

The enemy does not pick strangers to wound us, side track us, or to hurt us. Rather, the enemy studies our weaknesses and uses people in our life to attack us. He accuses us day and night before our God. It is a time-worn tactic but most effective.

Finally, I must remind myself that our time spent here in our earthly vessels is not the end of life for a believer: “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”

This reminder that life does not end in death and that my enemies are not flesh and blood, also brings me to a most peculiar verse in the Bible for me to draw comfort from. It is a verse in Jeremiah where God is reprimanding Jeremiah because he has grown weary of the race: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? (Jer. 12:5)

There is race we are to run and I must not let the enemy win the war. This scripture reminds me that my pain is bigger than just me. I must not grow weary of the battle. This is, surely, what it means to not take the Lord’s name in vain. Have we counted the costs? Have we gone into battled unequipped and unprepared? As God tells Job: “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? ‘Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct me! ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding,…’ God help me and God comfort me.