I went to a memorial service today for a friend’s dad , who died tragically in a plane crash earlier this week- absolutely, horrible. And then I got an email from another friend whose dad passed away just 10 days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 33 days before her wedding. oh. These kinds of events leave me feeling raw, and heavy-hearted and sad. I think I naturally have lived with a life-works-out-for-the best-kinda-attitude, but sometimes it’s hard to see the best in situations likes these.
When you’re in your mid-twenties you don’t expect to have to bury one of your parents. Obviously, death seems untimely almost whenever it hits, but there is a kind of childlike faith and beauty about holding on to the belief that your parents are strong, brave and maybe even, slightly invincible. But that notion seems to fade away when you lose someone, especially a parent. Something changes when you are hit over the head with the sobering, shocking and surreal notion of loss.
I haven’t lost a parent, so I won’t even begin to explain the array of feelings that comes with that. But I know what it feels like to walk through the loss of a grandparent, and a dear friend that was taken too soon, or a lost hope or expectation. I’ve learned that you can’t qualify or quantify loss. Some loss is tragic and catastrophic other loss is daily agony and pain. You just can’t compare the two.
Jerry Sitster, wrote an incredible book about his own journey of loss and grief, called, A Grace Disguised. After he lost his mother, wife and two kids in a car accident he says, “Loss is loss, whatever the circumstance. All losses are bad, only bad in different ways. No two losses are ever the same. Each loss stands on its own and inflects a unique kinds of pain. What makes each loss so catastrophic is its devastating, cumulative, and irreversible nature.”
I left the memorial service thinking, now what? This is only the beginning- a memorial service is the first painful step in acknowledging the loss, but there are still months and years ahead of grieving a wonderful husband, a loving dad, a trusted doctor and a beloved friend.
I can’t but help think of a tree stump. When you lose someone it’s like a part of your life, maybe a part of yourself, has been cut down. It’s like all of the sudden part of you is missing. Almost as if there was this big, strong tree in your life and now you’re left with a stump. In the book, Sitser explains that every time he looked out into his garden all he could see was this stump that reminded him of what had been once there, and reminded him of who he had lost. And he says that the stump never goes away. The place that person had in your life and in your heart will remain. The challenge comes in the process of healing and rebuilding. How do you let the stump be there- naming the empty, longing and grief that accompanies it, but all the while trying to began to live life again? What does it look like to plant flowers of grace, hope and beauty around the tree stump that is loss?
There is not a simple answer. But maybe, just maybe there is some kind of grace that begins to grow out of our deep hurt and pain. I guess I have to put hope in the God whom I believe in, the God who weeps and hurts with us, and yet also wants us to experience His grace in unexpected ways. I wonder in pain and suffering and loss is there such a thing as A Grace Disguised?