For those who grieve the loss of a person dearly loved and for those of you in the trenches of the war within as you watch your beloved fade away, you are not alone. You are not forsaken. You are loved. Your devastation is perfectly understood and your sorrow entirely known by the One who gave you the gift of grief. My weighted heart knows this well each Valentine’s Day. Seven years ago to the day, my family said goodbye to a man we loved. His name was Robert, but I just called him Peepaw. He had pancreatic cancer. His death was slow and imminent. He endured enormous pain and emotional turmoil. Two years of overcoming and struggling and grieving and hoping and wondering and knowing, and then he was gone. His death was so expected and still so sudden. After he died, I sat in a chair in the corner of the room in my grandparent’s house where he took his last breath and wrote for hours. If a thought entered my mind, my pencil etched it onto paper. The following is an excerpt from that time frame:
An empty bed.
Left alone, dented with the weight of a weary body now breathless
Heaving, gasping, now relaxed, still.
‘He’s gone,’ I say to myself. ‘He’s gone. No more pain. No more sorrows. He’s gone.’
But just like the impression on this bed, he lingers here.
How long will it be before the foam he struggled then rested on regains its former straightness?
How long until his presence is removed from here?
Creases in the foam and a deep, deep indention give testament to the event now over.
Funny, this room has housed so many in recent days, and now…nothing. No one enters in.
Everyone passes the door as though nothing of significance has ever graced the walls inside.
It is now just a room like all the others in this house. Just a room where someday soon people will come filled with laughter, and sleep.
Children will run in and out of this door as they did many years ago with no knowledge of what moments it has held.
It is just a room. It is just a bed. He was just a man.
And now he has found his fulfillment sitting at the feet of a merciful Savior.
His body sleeps. His spirit soars.
I think I will grieve the most when the weight of his body has left this bed. No one will ever again cause a shape of this likeness to appear.
It was his and his alone, and He is gone.
I still see him. He exists in my firstborn’s wit and my second son’s eyes. His mischievous nature seeps out of my youngest son’s very pores. I hear his voice in my daughter’s laughter. The smell of a wood burning fire brings a rush of memories of a dimly lit den, a bowl full of nuts, and his hands cracking their shells. I cry over ribbon candy. I haven’t set foot in a Golden Corral in 7 years because, trust me, no one wants to see me standing over a metal container full of the hominy he loved blubbering. Cracker jacks and circuses and cotton candy and silly jokes about blue elephants are weightier subjects to me now than they once were.
Valentine’s Day is now a day where love is displayed most prominently in grief. I loved him then. I love him still. I suspect I shall love him always. Love is like that. Relentless, Timeless, Death-defying. Grief is too. It changes as weeks and months and years pass, but it lingers always. Had I loved him less, so too would I have had less loss to grieve.
And grieve I did. And grieve I still do. Every Valentine’s Day, I am met with the same reality.
He is gone.
But my grief does not linger alone. Hope meanders beside sorrow and love binds the two together inseparably. I am not alone in my struggle either. The Lord grieves with me in my loss. He weaves His everlasting love and the Hope of an eternity of peace and joy into my grief in ways only He can. They are bound together. I grieve the loss, and rejoice in the hope.
The Lord loves me the same as I love Peepaw, more so even; and I am utterly grateful for that fact. He loves you too. Relentlessly, Timelessly, Defying Death…he loves you.