"Oh, my dears; you're still just BABES in the world of grieving!"
She'd already won our hearts and our ears with her wealth of godly wisdom from decades of grieving her own son and her obvious love for us, so evident in that warm and tender smile. She had won, hands down, the right to speak things to our souls that would very likely offend, coming off the lips of nearly anyone else.
Our dear friend, Alice, was unquestionably right; there's a PhD to be earned in the school of severe grieving, and Karen and I were still in our freshman semester.
That was months ago.
Those whose hearts have melded with ours know it's been a year this month. It's already been a year since the last time I hugged my handsome son and heard him say in my ear, "love you, Dad." Soon, it will be the first Father's Day since (a Hallmark holiday I'd selfishly eradicate from all the calendars in the world if I could). And June 23 will be the first anniversary of the day we heard over the phone our boy was gone.
We've talked to so many veterans of loss since then; heard their stories, sobbed and sobbed with them, sat silently and shook inwardly through the pregnant pauses. We've been through "Grief Share," read the books and the blogs.
And I've traversed the full gamut, I think: the panic, the guilt, the analysis, the anger turned to rage. The knot in my stomach has twisted and turned until it's torn a hole in my gut that has festered into a burning abscess. I've taken those downward "graveyard" spirals and hit what I've hoped is "bottom" ('cause I sure don't ever want to experience "bottom" if what I've hit ain't already been!). I've sat and knelt and paced and wandered and done NOTHING but wallow and let the sheer, raw waves of sorrow upon sorrow beat down on me.
I felt I HAD to, to earn my degree; to qualify me for what I hope to write next.
That is why there's been a long pause since the last installment in this series, "Our PRESENT Heavenly Residence."
To be perfectly honest, I also kept myself insanely busy teaching my final semester at New Tribes Bible Institute. I threw myself into it with energy beyond what a 61 year old Lyme sufferer could reasonably muster, cramming everything I felt I absolutely NEEDED to say, this one last time, to my beloved students about to be launched out into the deep. I met with many individually and tried, by God's abundant grace, to answer their questions and satisfy their youthful ache for encouragement and the insights of age (regardless of what the worldview gurus will tell you so dogmatically about "millennials!").
I feel it's time to make these truths as practical and personal as He allows. It's time for the rubber to meet the road; time to put these things in such a way that my brothers and sisters who are daily ravaged by the genuine, unrelenting pain of loss can put shoe leather to these lofty truths and walk a mile in them to see if they'll endure the marathon.
And I just couldn't afford to be glib about this. I couldn't just give Ivory Tower platitudes and proof-texts, and exposit His infinitely precious Word in theoretical abstractions only and feel I'd done anyone any good, until I'd run that brutal gauntlet myself and been put through some testing.
And now, we're coming up on one year.
A few days ago, I got down on my hands and knees to scrub the inside door of the room where Levi put off his earthly tabernacle. And with my face right down in it, I rudely discovered that the specialized cleaning company from Chicago hadn't done their job nearly as thoroughly as hoped. And, as waves of nausea and tidal waves of grief slammed me all over again, I felt in that moment as though the presence of my son were in that room.
Does all that mean I've now earned my spurs? I won't be so arrogant as to claim so.
But I can forewarn you, in the midst of trying to encourage and uplift, I may actually exhort and challenge my fellow mourners (along with my own self!) in what's to come (ALWAYS GENTLY, and with love, empathy and proper, unfeigned humility, I do hope and pray!), and you who sorrow may wonder, "where on earth does he get the chutzpah???"
I can only say I dearly hope it's NOT from anywhere "on earth." And I can assure you that, here on earth, my heart is broken into a million pieces, just like yours. And I feel the results of every piece not in its proper place, just as I know you do.
And don't worry; I know I'm still learning (and failing!), too.
More later, Lord willing.