Grief is kind of like the lens of a camera. Sometimes the zoom spans out, giving the viewer a bigger picture (perspective, hope, breathing room). But during times of raw emotion and aching memories, the lens transforms into a microscope, keeping the griever from seeing things with enough scope to cope. The image is too close for anything else to enter the picture. It overwhelms.
The last few weeks, with Christmas on the horizon, the dulled pain of loss becomes more acute again. The lens zoom narrows and focuses on those little memories, those times when life was different, more complete and not void of someone so core to your family. For you, in may be a grandparent, a spouse, a sibling. For me, it’s my dad.
This is our second Christmas without him, but the distance has made the holidays no less painful. In fact, if I allow myself to analyze, I think this Christmas is harder than last because I haven’t adequately prepared myself for it–ignorantly, I didn’t think I needed to. So, in a way, the grief sideswiped my blindside and leaves me slightly stunned.
My daughter and I just finished watching Little Women–her first, my uncounted. The film always makes me cry at least twice. But a death scene hits me strange now, pinging something deeper in my soul than it used to. Before Dad left, I would cry because I had fully entered the lives of those in the story, but now I cry because so much of what they feel, think, say, and experience pulls back the pain of March 23rd.
I try to hold onto the good, but sometimes I just want to scream. Want to hear his voice, the voice I seem to be forgetting. I want to feel his arms around me, hugging me and patting my back. I want to watch him laugh over a Monk episode or play a game of Rummy, and sit on the beach with Dad. I want to feel the calm of his presence, take a walk around the neighborhood with him, see him color with my kids again. I want to bake him his favorite cherry pie and surprise him with it. I want to ask him questions about God and personality weaknesses we both dealt with. I want to quit feeling this void when I go to their house, the house he built.
I appreciate all the times Dad was there for me, driving to my college to tune-up my car or shovel snow out from behind the tires, leaving me notes on the dash. The times he reminded me to check the oil and keep at least a half a tank of gas in the tank during winter. I appreciate all the times he ran up to our house to do fix-it jobs or install a shelf or repair a faucet, just because he knew it needed to happen. I appreciate the house standing warm and sturdy around me, a gift of countless unpaid hours of service–a 9-year-old wedding gift. I appreciate all the times Dad offered his service and love.
Dad taught the value of hard work, saving, being responsible for myself and family, giving abundantly, and desiring to study God’s Word.
Because of Dad, I appreciate John Wayne, The Andy Griffith Show, Glenn Miller, donuts, well-crafted crown-molding, farm-fresh eggs, gardening, and the value of a good stretch. Because of Dad, I crave vacations on the beach, road trips to surprise places, and a simpler existence at home.
If you are unwrapping grief this Christmas season, remember a few things:
1.) This life does have a purpose, but we were made for eternity.
Be prepared for life and death. Apart from Jesus, neither make sense and both will be filled
with confusion, separation, pain and despair.
2.) Trust that God’s lens is much bigger than ours–not just “bigger” for that word doesn’t
begin to capture the magnitude of God’s scope. He sees all, understands all, and has our very
best in His hands.
3.) Don’t ignore your pain, but reach outside of it. I was talking with a sweet prayer partner
at our church who is widowed and also recently lost her mother. She has no children or
and other family members are distant or elusive. She is spending part of Christmas with a
friend and their family. But what if said friend hadn’t considered her position and made that
invitation? There are always lonely people around us, those who are widowed, orphaned or
rejected. God wouldn’t have mentioned these people so often in His Words if they weren’t
imperative to remember.
I Thess. 4:13-18