Grief never dies.

Daddy died May 14, 1960. He was 46; I was 16. He had been scheduled for open heart surgery the following week, to replace a heart valve damaged by the rheumatic fever that daddy contracted during WWII. He’d had several heart attacks and was looking forward to regaining his health. But he had another heart attack in the middle of the night and this time, he died.

It was the night of my 11th grade Junior Prom, which I had reluctantly attended with some boy I didn’t really know, and whose name I can’t recall to this day. I had spent that evening sad, not knowing why, just sad. I’m sure my date had a miserable time.

I never recovered. I began dating guys mother didn’t approve of, marrying Paul when I was 18, basically to get away from my unhappy mother. He was loving, he was kind, he would give anyone a helping hand or give them the shirt off his back – when he was sober. Unfortunately he was an alcoholic.

Mother died June 22, 1970. She had never recovered from Daddy’s death. She had become a full-fledged alcoholic, in and out of rehab, wrecking her car, hurting herself, attempting suicide several times over the next nine years. She shot herself in the head on June 28, 1969. It was my daughter’s 4th birthday. Her concerned pastor and other church friends sat in her living room, unaware of her plans as she walked out into the back yard and fired the shot.

She lived in a nursing home for nearly a year, eventually dying of pneumonia. Her beautiful hazel eyes were open but she was non-responsive, non-moving, although a friend told me years later that she went often to visit and was sure mother heard her as she read the Bible to her and prayed. She was sure mother responded to her questions with eye blinks. I seldom went to see her, never talked to her, thinking that she herself simply wasn’t there, lying so still on that hospital bed.

For many years after mother’s death, I had nightmares every few months. Really it was the same nightmare: Mother was missing. In the dreams I was looking for her everywhere, going from house to house, friend to friend, relative to relative, business to business. Mother’s car was still in her front yard, her purse was still there in the house, but she wasn’t there. Sometimes other people were helping me look for her, sometimes she had just vanished that day; other times I was the only one still looking, she had been gone for a long time. The content was always the same: Mother was missing.

(It wasn’t until shortly after Tim died that those nightmares stopped happening. One night Father God graciously gave me a vision of heaven where I saw Tim, Mother, and Daddy living and working, full of joy and eternal life. I never had another of those nightmares after that.)

I never recovered. My marriage fell apart when my husband and I couldn’t just make things work. Several years later I met and married Tim, a wonderful man. With the Lord’s help we faced many challenges, especially Tim’s health problems.

Tim died December 15, 2006. He fell at home, broke his leg near the hip, had surgery to repair it, had a heart attack in the recovery room and lived one day. No-one had thought Tim wouldn’t recover; he always recovered! He’d had so many health problems in his life, but he always recovered! Until that day.

I never recovered. For days, even weeks, I couldn’t sleep in a dark house. I turned on every overhead light, every lamp throughout the house and slept – although I didn’t sleep much – with the lights on. I couldn’t drive down certain streets in town, I would take various detours to avoid familiar streets. I couldn’t shop on certain aisles in the grocery store; that’s where I used to buy Tim’s favorite foods.

I couldn’t do medical transcription for a certain doctor’s practice any more. He had been Tim’s doctor; that was the waiting room where Tim would wait, listen to a little pocket radio, sometimes chat with other patients. I tried to continue but didn’t last more than a few days. I just couldn’t go into that waiting room, not even into that building. They said they understood.

Gradually I could turn off the lights at night, drive down those streets again, shop in those grocery aisles again. But there are still some things I don’t do. While a year later I donated most of Tim’s clothes to shelters, I have never thrown away some of Tim’s belongings. I kept a collection of his favorite neckties, ties I had bought for him. I kept his South Carolina ID card, his wallet, his cologne, his watch. I sleep in one of his undershirts.

People die. But grief? Grief never dies.

Some people will get this. Some won’t, the ones who think you’ll just “get over it.” Who say “Time heals all wounds.” No it doesn’t. Time may make the pain less, like a fading bruise. But underneath the invisible damage is still there, not throbbing as much but still there. Until…

          I never recovered – but I did heal.

There is a solution to grief. Even if grief doesn’t die, God can heal all wounds. Father God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit know exactly how grief feels. Accepting their understanding, comfort and healing is how I have survived intact, one more day, one more week, one more year.

I began writing a blog about heaven some months after Tim died. Maybe reading through those posts will help somebody else. Here’s my favorite one:  https://speakingofheaven.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/touching-base/

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“I will get through this”

woman-looking-out1Since I’ve been re-reading and studying Philippians, some things keep coming back to my mind. Memories of other lessons from this book, some quite a while ago… like “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13 KJV)

Alone in the apartment, I stood in my bedroom and yelled at God. Out loud. I raised my fists and shook them at him. I called him names. I said, I don’t like you! I don’t believe you! I don’t believe in you! I don’t believe anything in your Bible. You don’t love me and I don’t love you! You didn’t take care of me.

It was early evening and my children were off somewhere with their friends. I had no friends.

There was no place I could go, or wanted to go, because somebody I knew might be there and they would go out of their way to avoid actually speaking to me. And besides, I had no money.

I had a good time wallowing in self-pity. Sometimes I paced around the darkened room, sometimes I stared out of the windows overlooking the street, watching a few cars go by. Sometimes I examined the sparse furniture in this rented apartment bedroom, wondering who had lived there before. But who cares, I thought, they were no doubt better off than I am.

And after a while, I heard a quiet voice intruding into my thoughts. Are you through?

And yes, I was through – for now. I realized that he had been listening to my rant, not arguing back, not zapping me with lightning bolts for being rude. Just being patient, patiently waiting for me to be through.

I clenched my teeth, clenched my fists, and determinedly began to speak out loud again.

But I choose to praise you. I choose to thank you. I choose to worship you. I choose, by an act of my will because I sure don’t feel like it. I WILL get through this. I WILL survive this.

I CAN do all things. I CAN DO THIS.

Out loud I began to repeat any verses I could think of. Scripture songs I had memorized. Psalm 23. I began to thank him for the ordinary things, like the clothes I had on. The shoes I wore. The fact I actually had a roof over my head and food in the kitchen. That my teenage children had clothes and food.

More and more things kept dropping into my thoughts. Health. Job. Car. Family. Books. Library card.

I began to praise him with clenched teeth for who he is. Not what he does for me, or gives me, but just for who he is. Almighty. Creator. Alpha and Omega.

After a few minutes I realized my attitude had changed, my feelings had changed. Although my feelings of hopelessness and loneliness had not totally vanished, they weren’t as dreadfully painful.

The praise and gratitude became real. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time, recognizing how much had evaporated from my emotions. I was surprised. Surprised and puzzled.

The voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. Better now?

The year was 1978. My children and I had left our beautiful home and mini-farm, left a situation of abuse that had become intolerable to them and to me. What now, God, what now? was like a broken record running around in my head.

One thing now, I had learned a valuable lesson. Praising God doesn’t stroke his ego, doesn’t increase his power, doesn’t do anything for him. But it certainly had done something for me.

(Also see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/empowerer-of-me/)

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, but… there’s a party going on!

I received a lovely card the other day from friends, and I truly appreciated the card and the handwritten note on it. Printed on the inside front cover was a familiar Bible verse, I Corinthians 2:9, “But as it is written (see Is. 64:4), Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” That’s where the quote ended on the card.

But that’s only part of the Apostle Paul’s statement in I Corinthians. Without the “rest of the story,” that part is really misleading.

Paul’s statement continues in verse 10, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit…” How neat!

If we pay attention to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can have a glimpse of the things God has prepared for us who love him, wonderful things. Reunions. Parties. Worship. Assignments. Fellowship. Learning. Sharing. Laughing.

David Marcy, Pastor of Kingstree United Methodist Church, said a comforting benediction at the cemetery after Ora Lee’s funeral, and he mentioned Ora Lee having peace now. Instantly the Holy Spirit spoke to me and added – and a PARTY!

I suddenly got a mental image of a wonderful celebration going on in heaven with Ora Lee at the center, a for-real party with Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father God, and all of Ora Lee’s family and friends (especially Tim, T.C., Theron and her mom Annie) hugging and laughing and enjoying themselves immensely.

I couldn’t be sad after that moment. I was sorry for us, for all of us who will sorely miss her and T.C. and Tim, but I can’t be sad knowing where she is and what she’s probably doing.

From now on, whenever I see that incomplete fragment of Paul’s comment about heaven, I’m going to think, “PARTY!”