Confronting Fear

In his book A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” And though fear is a normal part of the experience of grief, most often grief magnifies our human capacity for fear. Eighteenth century philosopher and politician Edmund Burke wrote, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” When we grieve, fear seems to ambush us when we are unprepared to defend ourselves. And when something as small as a microbe represents a threat to our global safety and well-being, we easily succumb to fear, anxiety and, in the worst case, a kind of subdued hysteria largely driven by irrational though very real questions such as "Am I going to die?" which are the inevitable subtext of catastrophic events.

Poured Love

The intangible, unseen nature of hope is sometimes elusive, especially when we grieve, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?” (Romans 8:24 NRSV). It takes spiritual energy, patience, and a certain faithful fortitude to hope, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25 NRSV). Often hope takes more imagination than we are able to muster. When we feel that all is lost, for a while we simply do not see the value of hope. We ask why we should reinvest in life if there is a chance our hope will again be disappointed, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God” (Psalm 42:11 NRSV).

Whole Life

We grow spiritually through the experience of grief when wholeness inspires not greater self-sufficiency, but rather deeper dependence on the faithful presence of God. Wholeness, then, is a by-product of trust that inspires gratitude and affirms without question or reservation God’s abiding presence in our lives.

Reconciliation

Reconciling ourselves to the death of one we love is one of the steepest and longest hills we climb on our journey through grief. Reconciliation is a continuous process of adjustment and acceptance, with a few stops and setbacks along the way.

The Orphans

The Dallas Arboretum is an urban oasis of both natural and man-made beauty on the banks of a lake not far from downtown. This beautiful place has been a refuge for me, especially since the death of my beloved husband. Before Leighton died we enjoyed going there together; after he died it became my grieving place. I can sit there “beside still waters” in every season of the year to think, journal, and remember. On a crisp December afternoon one year three days before Christmas, I went to the Arboretum to reflect on the season in a peaceful moment of “all is calm, all is bright.” When I left “my” bench I was refreshed by the exquisite beauty of the clear, cool day and the feeling of being far removed from the noise of the city and the season.

Into the Woods

In the first chapter of Luke we read, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” We need God’s light and guidance on our journey of grief as we make our way through the vast forest of our spiritual and emotional pain. At Christmas, our thoughts and feelings are especially attuned to both the absence and the presence of the one we love and grieve.

Forgetting

Even if we have done the work of forgiveness, when the dying coals of pain, bad memories, and negative experiences are fanned to life by some reminder from the past, it is not always our first response to douse the flames, especially at the holidays. Sometimes we had rather just cozy up to the fire, make some s’mores, and warm our indignation by the roaring fire of our hurt and self-justification.

Forgiving

When we grieve, the holidays can seem like a kaleidoscopic emotional blur. Our spirit spins. Deep within our being we feel the chaotic contradiction of sorrow and seasonal joy, sadness and holiday cheer, loneliness and festive gatherings.

A Future

When life as we know it has been brought to a standstill by the death of one we love, the future we once imagined, perhaps even relied upon as a certainty, is no more. Our hopes, our dreams, our inmost desire for fulness of life beyond the horizon of today are unalterably shaken. And though remnants of our ideal longings may survive the finality of death, the fragile ruins of the future we once envisioned become a commentary on our past.

Seeing Eyes

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon in December, I attended the funeral of a woman whose husband I knew and wanted to support. He was an adoring, loving spouse, in every way a faithful servant who cared for his wife throughout her long decline from Alzheimer’s disease. The service was a fitting tribute to a joyful life well-lived in love and service to her family, her church, and others.

Collective Grief

In our present society, we’re continuously confronted with acts of violence that are at once shocking and simply unimaginable. The picture of a desperate, heartbroken mother with the cross of Ash Wednesday still freshly signed on her forehead told the story this week of the shock, destruction, and despair that devastated the community of Parkland, Florida on a holy day of remembrance.

The Angel Wore Sneakers

…not just any old work shoes, but hot pink sneakers with shiny silver stripes that peeked out from the bottom of her sensible khaki pants. This particular angel had bright yellow curly hair, the perfect complement to her sunny disposition. Her job was to arrange and maintain the Christmas floral arrangements in the large gothic dining room of an historic estate house open to the public. She was the “flower lady”, responsible for artfully brightening this moody space with its soaring cathedral ceilings through the vibrant beauty of fresh seasonal flowers.
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