Waves of Grief …And Love, Grace, and Peace
Sisters and Brothers,
“Grief is like waves.” If you have heard me talk about death, you know that this is my motto. Grief is like waves in the ocean. It isn’t something you get over. It is something you learn to live with like waves in the ocean. They never stop coming in. Maybe the first time you are out in the ocean, the big wave topples you over. That’s okay. Every wave that comes in, you learn to lean into it a little differently. It doesn’t mean that there are no big waves or that you won’t be toppled over again.
The waves of grief become an uninvited companion in your life. The small ones take you off guard: a smell, a saying, a laughable moment, a funny story, reaching for the phone to call or text. The large ones overwhelm you or make you queasy: a song, a first that happens, reality setting in, the loss of future memories, anger at the whole situation. Navigating the waves of grief becomes a daily routine. Yet, I have realized that “grief is like waves” doesn’t tell the entire story. The waves rest in the water of God’s love.
After my mom died, my nephews, who are 12 and 8, arrived at my parents’ house to find Melissa, a family friend, there after making a Costco run for us. We didn’t ask for it. She was just there anyway. I leaned down to Eliana, Connor, and Dylan amid their grief and said, “Do you want to see God’s love? You might not feel it very strong now, but you can see it.” They all looked at me like I was a little crazy but wanted to see this love. “Stand here and look at all the food coming into the house. That is God’s love. Look at ALL the food.” Person after person came filing into the house with a handful of food. At one point, my dad walked in with another handful and said, “Laura, I don’t know where we are going to put this all.” We found places in the house and in our bellies for ALL that food and love. We were overwhelmed with the water of God’s love.
Furthermore, the sand your feet stand on is the grace and peace of God. You have to feel it. My mom spent 12 long days at Duke Hospital and could only have one visitor for the duration. My siblings gathered in Knoxville around my grandmother, while I stayed with my dad in a hotel. It was a rollercoaster. When she became stable enough, we wanted her back home. It happened fast, but it happened. Monday, July 20, I got to see my mom for the first time. We were there when the flight arrived at UT Medical Center. We got to talk to her, even though her eyes were not open, and she was not responsive. It didn’t matter. She was home. We called in all the family back to Knoxville on Monday night, knowing that she wasn’t going to make it. Through it all, God’s gift of grace for us became our peace.
On Tuesday morning, my mom opened her eyes. We didn’t tell many people because it wasn’t a positive step like we had been praying for. One eye was lazy, and the other couldn’t shift past her mid-line. After getting a second opinion from the Neurologist, we knew life-sustaining measures would be taken away. The whole left side of her brain had severe brain damage. We knew in our heads that when my mom looked at us, she might be seeing but not comprehending what was going on. My head knew that, but my heart knew God can interpret, understand, and give us the closure that we so dearly needed and pass all our messages along to her. My dad, siblings and their spouses, grandmother, uncle and aunt had some of the most challenging and beautiful moments with my mom over the next 2 days.
Davin and I had our time to sit and talk to my mom. I got to thank her for always being there for me, for being my travel buddy, a second mother to my children when work was crazy and even when it wasn’t, for witnessing the birth of both of my children and taking handwritten notes about what happened along the way, for forgiving me when I was a wild child and teenager, and for teaching me to be a mother and wife. After all of that, I told her that Davin and I often say “I love you” through three hand squeezes when we can’t say it out loud. She looked at me and then at Davin. A couple seconds later, she started to squeeze my hand. My heart knew that was God giving me what I needed to go on. That moment of God’s grace and peace will stay with me forever.
In the grief waves, God’s love, grace, and peace surround you if you allow yourself the time to look for and feel it. I could go on and on with stories and moments of great grief and an even greater love, grace, and peace given by only God, but I will spare you. Instead, I will leave you with are the powerful words of Romans 8:38-39. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When you feel like you are drowning in grief (for any reason, not just death grief), sisters and brothers look around and see God right in front of you. Feel the sand underneath you and know of God’s grace and peace for you. If you have problems seeing or feeling God, ask someone to see and feel for you. That’s the responsibility of the body of Christ.