Growing up my mom had this Indian Prayer plaque hanging in my bathroom which read
“Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”
I think I use to feel that one should just “get over” the loss of loved ones but the older I get, the closer I grow to God, the more I realize, as C.S. Lewis points out throughout his book “A Grief Observed,” that the loss caused by death is grief that is a process and not a state. It’s been almost 17 years since my Dad passed away and sometimes it feels like it was yesterday. Right now it feels like it was yesterday. I think especially this time of year is hard because I have such great memories with him. Him BBQing, going to the creek, the country, stopping at this funky little stand that sold sweet potato pies and pulled pork (probably the only one in all of Oklahoma), eating watermelon in the evening sun, riding bikes, many things that are my childhood experiences.
The last time I went to see my mom and she asked me if we could watch old home movies together I had to decline. Watching them makes me so sad and to be honest, the pain has been more than I’ve known what to do with. If she asked me today, I would say yes, not because it’s easy but because I’m ready and willing to go to that place and go to that place with her.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize the loss that she experienced when my father, her husband of 17 years, passed away. My mom came from a fairly hard life and when her and my dad got married in her mid-twenties, they began enjoying life together and building a life together. My dad had gone through a rough time of his life so as a distraction from the pain, he got a second job working the graveyard shift at a local cafe where my mom worked mornings. My mom, completely oblivious to the fact that my dad was interested in her, was shocked when he called her and asked to take her out. Their relationship grew and they married. They were a really great team! My dad loved my mom so much. He was very kind, a very hard worker and creative in making things beautiful around the yard for her. Though I lost my dad, my mom lost her man with whom she as an adult had built a life with, this man who was reliable and stable, her world radically changed. Loosing a parent is hard, but I think loosing a your husband or wife would be something far more shaking.
It’s been easy for me in the past to wish my mom would just get over the fact that my dad is gone, but time and God have shown me the unnaturalness of death, the intense pain that forever resides deep in the heart when we loose those we love. We were created for the garden, we were created for eden, a place without death. Grief is a process and not a state. Jesus knows exactly how to comfort us because He knows us intimately and fully, an his comfort is not empty but is truthful about our pain while simultaneously filling us with life and peace because as the scripture states “a mind set on the spirit is life and peace.” To be with God, to receive his love, to pour out the truth of my heart to him is the basis of it all.
At the end of “A Grief Observed,” by CS Lewis, he states
“But then of course I know perfectly well that He can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all.”
And I think this is a pretty appropriate response to the need of healing and comfort that comes with the loss of loved ones, the loneliness of life, the deep needs of the human heart, to draw near to God for the sake of being near him, not gaining my personal understanding of a theological viewpoint I wish to validate, but just to be with Him.
I miss my dad a lot, and that doesn’t change because he left when I was young and he’s never coming back. And that’s okay.