I think Bono’s onto something when he sings, “I can’t live with or without you.” Except that the without you part slays my heart today.
Last summer, my mom’s husband, my stepfather Mark, left this earth because of cancer.
I hate cancer.
I can live without Mark and Twilla (I have to), but I don’t really want to.
My life following Mark’s death blurred. My life following Twilla’s death has a similar haze. A general pall that causes my mind to slow down, fumble my words, sap my strength.
I have not given myself the space to grieve. And that monster grief lurks very near, ready to pounce. Part of me feels guilty for the need. After all, my mom has more right to grieve her spouse. My friend Johnny has a greater grief in the long letting go of Twilla, his wife.
Who am I to need to grieve?
I know by research and experience that the grief process typically lasts two years. Except that sometimes it doesn’t. I can try to pretend the pain away, stuff it way down, and live my life in spite of it. Only to have the pain resurface in a volatile way years down the road.
Even today, I grieve my father’s death. He died when I was ten years old.
I still think of his parents and grandmother as alive, sometimes forgetting that they no longer live in Kettering, Ohio.
Truth be told, I don’t want to live without those I love. I hate death. I hate the way it strips us bare of the laughter, the stories, the presence of those we love.
So I sit here and type these words in my bathrobe, which is hard enough to admit. I’m just not myself these days. I am changed by grief, haunted by it, really.
I am doing my best to bootstrap, all the while hearing the voice of Jesus beckoning me to mourning, to grief, to remembering. That takes time and space and tears and a string of days empty of obligation.
And yet life has its obligations, right? It demands to be lived. I have to believe that God gives us all grace to stumble and flail in the aftermath of losing a loved one or two. And maybe part of the journey is learning to see afresh just how fragile we all are, and that part of grieving is giving ourselves permission to be broken and hurting.
Yes, there is always one foot in front of the other. But sometimes we bow to the earth, grabbing at the dirt, wishing our friend or family member still walked it. Knowing they are beneath the dirt, wordless. Maybe instead of step by step, it’s better to say tear by tear.
Today seems a good enough day as any to let those tears come.