Grief is a robber. Not only has death taken someone that I love, grief has stripped away parts of me, leaving my heart torn and bleeding. Grief has changed me into someone I might not recognize. It has left me longing for the days before I knew such loss. Not only missing Arlynne but missing the me before she was gone.
I was out with a girlfriend lately and she was describing a particularly difficult time in her life. She said that during that time, because of her deep distress, she lost the ability to talk. No, I don’t believe that she was mute but I remember very clearly a few times when I didn’t have a desire to make small talk. Subjects like the weather were just too big a waste of time to bother with. I couldn’t.
This definitely happened after Arlynne died. We got through the first few weeks in a state of shock that still allowed us to function. We had a lot of decisions to make and we could without too much difficulty. In fact, we hadn’t expected Arlynne to be back until August 20th of that summer so, even though we had seen her and had her funeral, it hadn’t sunk in that she was actually gone until after that time. It was that fall, I think, when I felt myself shut down.
We had the 4 youngest kids still at home so there was still plenty to do. The challenge that fall was getting every single one of them started in a new school. Not only that, but Karissa moved away to attend school. I didn’t have the luxury of seeking retreat under my covers and so, even though I was around, I pulled into myself. I saw no reason to engage in trivial conversation so most of the time I didn’t.
I know I am not the only one who has felt like that. I am told that my husband’s grandmother (who I never got to meet) spent a silent 3 months after learning of her eldest daughter’s death. She didn’t talk at all and when another of her daughters finally tried to reprimand her about it, she broke her silence and told her daughter that she could have an opinion when she had buried one of her own children. Small talk is just too small to deal with when you are dealing with something as big as death.
As time passed, things started to get better. I felt like engaging more. Even though I am an introvert, I rarely walked by someone without a smile at least before Arlynne was gone. I’ve started doing that again. Maybe not every time but I’m getting there. Eden was shocked the first time she heard me laugh after a very long time. It still doesn’t happen as often as it probably should but I don’t feel guilty anymore when I enjoy something. That was not always true.
I am definitely more aware of danger now. Arlynne died in an ATV accident. I am not proposing banning them. But I will not be getting on an ATV. My other kids won’t either. I just have this heightened awareness of how very fragile we are. It can be alarming to others. We recently went on a very rare family outing to a nearby waterfall. Eden (13) had run ahead with Nathan (6) and the next time I saw them, they were behind a safety fence venturing near the edge of the rock cliff. I am not a risk-taker but seeing them there made me cry almost hysterically with worry. It was natural response for me. Losing Arlynne did that.
Grief made me feel like an anomaly. It sometimes still does. It has definitely affected my view of life and death. While a lot of people have a very deliberate goal to live as long as possible I am afraid I am quite the opposite. I am not actively trying to bring about my own demise but I am also not looking to break any world-records for longevity. To me, eternal life in heaven is far more appealing than our life here and now. I have been told that I have children here who need me now and I don’t wish to leave them but I also know that what I have to look forward to is infinitely better than this. I am looking forward, not only to seeing Arlynne again (which I do), finally seeing my Lord Jesus face-to-face but also leaving this world of struggle behind. Leaving the worry. Leaving the pain, tears and heartache. Leaving the burdens of making ends meet. Leaving the sinfulness that I deal with every day. My corrupt nature. Heaven will mean the beginning of the best of my life. The eternal when all my faith becomes sight and I am in the place I was created to be.
I was recently reminded that while fixing my eyes on Heaven is not a bad thing in itself I need to be deliberate in how I am spending my time until I get there. Living a closed-off existence that is solely focused on what is to come is not healthy but it is not Biblical either. I obviously have some things left to do in this life. Psalm 139:16 says “Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began”(HCSB). Arlynne completed all the plans her Heavenly Father ordained for her before she drew her first breath but my finish-line is not in sight yet.
So I need to deliberately walk into the things God has called me to do. Some of them are as obvious as looking after my husband and children. This blog may be another. There may be things that are not even be a thought yet. All I know is that when I finally get to Heaven, I want my Saviour to say that He is pleased. That I didn’t waste what I had been given in wishing I was somewhere else.
I pray that my words will bring you hope. I pray that if you have lost someone close to you that you will hear that there is strength to go on. His name is Jesus. He is the one who sustains me. He is my strength when I just don’t think I can endure one more day. He is the one who knows my pain and longing because He wept at his friend Lazarus’s tomb. He didn’t only died for me but He died for you too. And by dying, He destroyed death’s power. It is almost too wonderful for me to grasp. But it is true. His Word says it. I believe it.
I am no longer the same woman I was. Some of the changes have been for the worse. Some for the better. I wouldn’t wish this grief on anyone, not even me. At the end of it all, though, all I can do is trust that this is part of God’s plan for me. And I am certain of that.