For a week now, I have been swimming in the fitful waters of mourning. Sadness surrounds me. Loss weighs so heavily sometimes I find it hard to breathe.
I have been pulled up short—surprised by this unpredictable ebb and flow of tears.
I sit at the desk my dad made for me with his own hands. For a man of few words, the eloquence of his handcrafted message was just the affirmation I needed to gather up courage to write. He approved, and I bask in both the affirmation and approval even as I grieve the fact that he will never run his hands over the cover of my book as I run my hands over the surface of this desk.
Somehow I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t really grieve Dad’s death. After all, he’d been diagnosed with this terrible terminal disease of the lungs four years ago. I’d watched the devastation, prayed for his release, begged God to take him home.
“I’m grieving with Dad,” I’d said, “so that when he’s gone I’ll just be happy for him.”
I’ve heard of people who have a definite sense of their loved one’s presence even after death, but I only feel his gone-ness. He isn’t here, hasn’t been since I held him in my arms frantically searching for signs of life.
I know where he is. I know without even a hint of doubt. But as assuring as that is, I am still reeling with the realization of the separation.
And so I mourn honestly— not the man who was so terribly weak and struggling for air— but the J.H. Waterman who gave me life, whose love never wavered, the man whose steadfast faithfulness informed my view of God.
It is His presence I sense so near in these hours of sadness. As if the Father is nearer or clearer, as if He pulls me closer in my longing for Dad. As if I hear my Father better because my dad is with Him.
There is a strange sweetness in this place of mourning, a deep rest. A togetherness with God.
Because I think He is sad too, that He weeps with me. It wasn’t supposed to be this way and that’s why we mourn.
That’s why tears redden my eyes and sighs escape unbidden. Why grieving and loss of any kind cannot be stuffed into a nice clean package and tied with a tidy bow. Why life screeches to a halt and only resumes at half speed.
Why we dread death.
Life was supposed to be a grand celebration in His presence, a great cooperation with God. Life was planned as an endlessly eternal connection with the One who made us in His image, for His delight.
And Someday it will be again. Because of Jesus. Because He chose to die to make it all right.
While we wait for that Someday, sadness is part of our stories. We cannot will it or wish it away. We dare not pretend or push it from sight.
But we can invite Him in to mourn with us; we can sit in the quiet of loss and hear Him speak. And we can listen to His words in the silence and let Him pour oil on the raw hurt.
I’m listening now, finding joy in the midst of sadness. Relishing His presence here.
From my heart,
Have you heard Him in the silence of sadness? Have you seen Him at work even when life stops suddenly? Can you tell us how? Remind us what to listen for as we navigate our own stories?
(image by Bethany Small)