Suffering is guaranteed. How we perceive it and allow God to use it is our choice. It comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it strikes swiftly, mercilessly and without warning. Other times it taunts us. We know it’s coming and the wait is excruciating.
Watching my husband die of a terminal disease was a taunting suffering. It was my greatest fear-come-true. But I’m not very afraid any more. I’ve walked into the roar of the lion. And, like Daniel in the lion’s den, God sustained me in miraculous ways. But I didn’t know that when I wrote the following journal entry three months before Ray died.
June 9, 2015: Everyday Tears
“This is a season of anticipatory grief. I look at Ray and see a diminished body, sad eyes, and the ever present cannula protruding from his nose, symmetrical tubes looped over his ears as the oxygen concentrator huffs and puffs in the back ground, a white noise in our surreal life that delivers the breath of life - reminders that our days are limited - that we will not grow old together and that I will finish our journey alone. While I sometimes crave solitude, I cannot begin to imagine what life will be like without my best friend. What if I forget to tell him something really important before he dies? There are no do-overs. I get that. But I have no idea what it really means, or how I might agonize when faced with this reality…just one more thing, God. Like an afterthought as someone walks from the room. Tonight, I can’t stop crying.
Sorrow is my every day companion. It silences me - distances me from family and friends. I want to share my life and thoughts with them but I can’t utter the words without crying. Maybe someday. But for now I’m struggling to get comfortable with my everyday tears. Not as a burden to Ray. But as an expression of the grief that has begun to strangle my heart.”
During their growing up years our seven kids weathered the typical bumps, scrapes, and bruises childhood seems to require. If Ray was home he would scoop them up, carry them to the kitchen and set them on the counter to inspect the wound. Usually a “doctor daddy” did the trick…a hug and a piece of candy. Crying ceased, giggles erupted, and off they went. It worked because they trusted their daddy; they focused on him and not on their owie; and they expected him to deliver.
My pain needed a big “doctor daddy”. And my Abba Father delivered. He sent his peace that passes understanding; family and friends who weren’t afraid of my tears; texts, cards, phone calls and emails to let me know I wasn’t forgotten; books on grief, heaven, and spiritual formation; solitude; the beach; and two dogs who nestle into me when I cry.
Suffering is guaranteed. But allowing God to comfort us is a choice. For my young children hugs and candy did the trick. I needed something more substantial in this grieving season. What about you? Will you let God comfort you? He created you. He knows you. He loves you. And He longs to be your God of comfort.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
I’ve struggled for weeks deciding how to write this blog. It’s not been easy. But I owe you an explanation after a nine month absence. This blog isn’t about adoption. But it is my authentic offering of life (and death) stuff that feels like I’m living someone else’s life.
Since my last post I’ve moved from Colorado to North Carolina. My husband, Ray, and my mother have died. Yet amidst my grief, the limitless details of a cross-country move, and the administration of dying I’m grateful; I’ve experienced strength and peace only God provides. And His grace, poured into every nook and cranny of my life, has been sufficient.
Ray was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease in 2014. A biopsy in 2015 confirmed our worst fears; there was no cure or effective treatment for his interstitial lung disease. Four months later he died in my arms at Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.
During the in-between time we laughed, loved and enjoyed our children and grandchildren. We helped prepare one another for his death and my widowhood. And we embarked on our final adventure together: we sold our Colorado home and moved to coastal North Carolina. This was our empty-nest-happy-place we grew to love through beach vacations. When Ray realized he could breathe at sea level without supplemental oxygen he wanted to move here. We thought he had more time. But Ray died from complications of his disease on September 12, 2015, just two weeks after our arrival in North Carolina. Exhausted from the move and his death, and needing time to heal, I have decided to stay for now.
I don’t like suffering. But lessons I learned in the trenches and on my knees through our adoption journey helped prepare me for these losses. God has strengthened, comforted, gone before me, and shown Himself to be tender and merciful in ways I had yet to experience. This “set-apart” season is a gift - a time to pray my good-byes, let go, and rest – a time to transition from being married to my solo journey.
One of my greatest fears was that my husband would die before me. The word “widow” gives me the creeps; it feels brittle, old, and drenched in suffering. I hoped I would never have to check that box to describe my marital status. But my fear of suffering was worse than suffering itself because my fears did not account for the presence of Jesus, the tenderness of God, or the strength of the Holy Spirit to soften the blows. His grace has been sufficient.
I think of each of you in the midst of your present trials and sufferings. I want to hug you, encourage you, and let you know it will be ok. God is for you! And He is for your children, your husband and your family. He is on your side. He is the God of comfort, peace, grace and rest. He will be the lifter of your head when you can’t. He is faithful. He is the sustainer. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. And we were created for heaven.
I have missed you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to update me on your happenings…and your feedback. I look forward to this new season of our journey together.
“Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matt. 11:29 MSG)