When I go to the dentist to have work done on my teeth, with the exception of a cleaning, I get a shot of Novocaine. For about two hours, I don’t have any pain. It starts out feeling pressure and then moves to a tingling sensation until finally, I get the feeling back in my mouth. On another occasion, I got a shot to numb an area on my face. And still several more times, my eyes have gotten drops to numb them for laser surgery.
Numb is good most of the time. It helps us not feel physical pain. But when we talk about numbness because of a tragedy, there is a dark side too. If being numb means we don’t feel pain, that can be a blessing. But otherwise, numbness can keep us from feeling anything. We can’t think clearly, we are distracted, we sometimes … don’t care about much.
Numbness blocks memories too. When grief runs deep, some people can’t remember the funerals of their loved ones. The blurred memories usually never become clear.
How do we get the feelings back that so deeply desire? The medicine wears off. But it isn’t as simple as that with our emotions. Perhaps we should do what David did after his infant son died. We should get up and worship God (II Samuel 12). Maybe we should recognize the presence of God and cry out to Him (Psalm 18:6). God doesn’t reject our cries.
Will we ever get over being numb? It can disappear in a short time… like Novocaine. It can stay with us for a long time like a physical wound that is healing. Eventually, we will feel again. And we will still remember.
Sometimes, you just want to curl up in a corner or climb under the covers, thinking that every heart-ache will go away soon. You want to be left alone because talking is trivial and quite annoying at times like this. Every musical note is welcomed and yet shunned. Every ring of the telephone is an encouragement, but a reminder that others’ lives are going on. You don’t want to go to work or even to the mailbox. You want your groceries just to be there instead of you having to go out in public to buy them.
And then, your heart cries out that you want someone — anyone — to be there for you. Most have already gone home and back to work or school. The leftover potato salad at the funeral dinner has been packed up for you and you find there is no one left to share it with. While you don’t want company, you still want someone there. You want to cry on a shoulder and then be left alone.
Isolation is one way to cope. It doesn’t solve the problem of loss, but it gives us opportunity to pray in private, to grieve in private, to find peace with our Eternal God in private.
Believe it or not, there are many, many people who empathize with that. To be alone forever, though, doesn’t give us the total strength of heart we need to live again. We must find solace with our friends and family who may also be grieving. Together, after a time of going off by yourself, you grow strong and courageous again.
It was only a few years ago that I discovered the cassette tape that had my grandmother’s Memorial Service on it. The preacher of her church spoke a few words and my brother and I told personal stories. That cassette tape was transferred to cd’s which I gave away at Christmas to several family members. I remember the expression on my mother’s face when she opened her gift. She gasped a little gasp, looked up, and just smiled. It was HER mother’s service on that cd.
Christmas gifts have special meaning most of the time, especially for the giver. Some are fun, while others are practical. Many times they are sentimental.
Then there are the gifts we never open. We just remember. They include gifts of joy, wisdom, faith, compassion, excitement, and humor. We don’t wrap them up in pretty paper or bind them with an entire roll of Scotch Tape. We don’t display them on a shelf or play with them on the living room floor. And we don’t hold them in our hands.
But we DO hold them in our hearts. They become our most treasured possessions.
So, do a little remembering this year. Remember that Jesus is the reason… well, you know. Thank God for those who came into your life for the season. And I’m sure… very sure… you won’t regift these presents!
Thanksgiving and Christmas this year will be “firsts” for many people. Eleven families from our church will be among them. You may be, too. It will be the first holiday season without your mother or your father, your first-born child, or your very best friend. Maybe you will cry or find a room just be by yourself for a time. But you will remember.
Hopefully, you will take the time to be thankful for who you had in your life and the time you spent together. The grief of their deaths will never leave, nor should it. However, the kind of grief you can live with falls in the categories of compassion and love. Grief is deep and it is clear when we meet these “firsts.” It reveals to us our uncompromising love for those who have gone before us.
I think of Thanksgiving and am thankful for my grandmother, step-father, mother, and niece who have all passed away in the last 17 years. I think of Christmas and how my Savior brought Eternal life — what a GIFT!
When the holidays come and we grieve the way we do (or will), remember that we can have peace because of our God. Without God, there would be no peace when we come to our “firsts” this year.
It wasn’t too many years ago when I opened up a box and found some biographical sketches my great aunt had written. There were probably 15 or so stories of my relatives, yet none of them were exhaustive. I wanted more. Then, my great aunt’s very, very brief autobiography appeared. It was interesting and quite unusual. These prompted me to write a reflection of my own grandmother and give it to her only daughter, my mother, on what would have been her 100th birthday. So I had gone back into the recesses of my mind and wrote about “things” and funny “stuff” and personality.
There was my grandmother’s generosity, her wonderful fudge, and chocolate chip cookies. There was the time she left the lid on a “Fry Daddy” and melted it with the potatoes; and when she was told that Petroleum Jelly was a good conditioner for her hair (it wasn’t, as she said 3 days later). Then, there was her faith in God which was genuine.
My grandmother has been gone for nearly 17 years, so these memories stay with me. They are not poor substitutes for the real grandmother, but this is what I have along with many, many pictures.
Really, we never forget, nor should we. But the pictures, recipes, music, trips taken, hand-made clothes, smiles, words of wisdom, faith, kindness to the unfortunate, and generosity to the needy are the very things that keep our loved ones “alive.”
From December 30, 2015 until January 9, 2016, I conducted 9 funeral services. The age range was 6 months to 86 years. The grief for all those families was deep. The joy of remembering lives was also deep. That is the emotional battle that continues to rage on. I’ve mentioned in other writings that there is no time to ever get over the loss of those we love. Nor should there be.
It has been over 30 years ago that a young lady in our community lost her daughter when a school bus hit and killed her. Today, she still grieves and talks about that daughter who never grew to be a teenager. She never had a boyfriend. She only had 9 Christmases with her family. But this was over 30 years ago. Isn’t it time to move on?
The truth is, we do move on. But we move on and take the memories and even the grief with us. The grief isn’t supposed to cripple us, but make us keenly aware of our love and compassion. It tells us to value the life God has given us; to know that people come into our lives for a reason, and also for just a brief moment.
How long has it been since you lost someone? It may have only been a matter of days or weeks, or it may have been years. The time doesn’t really matter. We will continue to work or play, read or sing, socialize or worship God. But the memories (treasures) of our loved ones will go with us. We will remember the day of their deaths and we will shed tears again. Perhaps for years and years and years.
But know this: God is our comfort in times like these.
“With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him” (Psalm 142:1-2).
Everyone has a story to tell. For the elderly, the pages are filled with history that the young can marvel at. The chapters equal the number of years they lived. There are still people alive who can remember the Great Depression, WWII, or some other event. Many also married, had children, built homes, worked tirelessly inside and outside the home. Moms baked pies and planted gardens. Dads worked on the car in the driveway and built bookcases in the workshop. They got involved with their community, made friends with their neighbors, and went to baseball games. Perhaps they laid a foundation of faith in God.
The best legacy one can leave behind in this story is character. What kind of person are you? Are you kind? Compassionate? Giving? Spiritual? Genuine? What you are is what people will talk about at your casket. Through the tears, they will remember. Sometimes there will be laughter for the good times. And many times, there will be respect for the person you were. How will your book end?
May I encourage you to live a life worthy of God’s calling? An old song says, “May all who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe; And the lives we live inspire them to obey.”
What will they say about you?