Yesterday, as I was waiting to be called in for my eye appointment, I began feeling anxious. I text my friend to ask her to pray for me. Thankfully, my husband was with me, and he began ‘talking me down’, so it wouldn’t turn into an all-out panic attack. I wondered why I was anxious about getting my eyes tested. Never before had I been anxious about this.
Then, it hit me: On the day that my daddy died, I’d called to make an appt. to get my eyes tested at this very place. That evening, my nephew called to tell me Daddy had died. The next day, I had to call and cancel my appt. That was four months ago today. It took me four months to reschedule my appt. One that was long overdue.
What I experienced smack dab in the middle of Costco was simply another moment of unexpected grief. Tears began to flow as I sat in a chair outside of the eye doctor’s office. And wouldn’t ya know, the doctor called me in at that moment. As I sat down in the chair, I said, “Please know, I don’t normally cry at the eye doctor’s office.” And I shared with her the trigger. She said, “Can I give you a hug? I understand.”
After the appointment was over, I walked up to the receptionist’s desk to pay. The lady was wearing a necklace with a dragon fly. I told her I thought it was beautiful and so unique. With tears in her eyes, she said that her friends got it for her in remembrance of her brother who’d recently passed away. Dragon flies were his favorite.
Then, of course, I got weepy, and she knew I had a story, too. So, she asked, and I told her. I apologized for my tears. She said, “Oh, your tears are welcome here. We all understand grief. It hits us out of nowhere.”
Two strangers showed such compassion to me. Two people who are part of ‘the club’. Two women who understand that even when you’re going about your day, looking as if you’re kicking butt and taking names, being productive at home or work, just below the surface, it’s there. It’s always there.
Grief has become an ever-present companion in my life. Specific or random memories and moments can bring it to the surface in seconds. Then, at other times, it’s hard to pinpoint the reason for its appearance. More often than not, it shows up when it’s least expected or at inopportune moments, such as when I’m preaching or leading worship or even as I stand in line at the grocery store or when I’m waiting to get my eyes examined. Grief is always there. I’ve been told that it does get better. Slowly, I’m beginning to realize this is true. Still, you never “get over” it. You never forget the person or the memories or the loss.
For me, my grief journey has been complicated and compounded. I’m not only grieving my daddy’s death, but several other big things, too. It’s messy, really messy, but absolutely necessary. It’s healing, but painful. And in the middle of it all, there’s day-to-day life to live, family responsibilities to tend to, school assignments to complete, and work/ministry/pastoring duties to fulfill. Life seemingly goes on, but it’s not the same. It’ll never be the same. It can’t be. A seismic shift has occurred. And in many ways, I’m thankful for that. Sometimes, change is needed and, ultimately, it’s for the best.
On Thursday, I was at a pastors’ conference, and I caught up with a pastor-friend who shared with me that the last year has pretty much been Hell for him. I agreed, and told him I was thankful for his honesty. In some ways, his honesty gave me permission to be even more honest than I already am. The last 18 months have been Hell. While I wouldn’t want to walk this journey again, it’s made me a more compassionate and empathetic person and pastor. For that, I’m grateful.
Over morning coffee, I randomly came across a blog post from John Pavlovitz, “Acknowledging Our Grief Anniversaries“. As I read his words, it was as if each and every bit of it was written specifically for me. Perhaps, it will be meaningful for some of you, too. 💛