Even though I’m a bit of a technology nerd, I’ve always preferred to keep a small personal notebook for my calendar, addresses, thoughts, reminders, and the all-important “to do” list. The idea of entering information into an electronic device has never especially appealed to me. I like the feel of paper, a good pen, and the grainy leather of my well-worn pocket binder.
Usually around the first of the year I spend some time going through the calendar from the previous year, reviewing and reflecting on the events of the past twelve months. It's both interesting and informative to take the long view and see where I’ve been, what’s changed, and where I’m headed. It all adds up to one thing - change, large and small.
When we grieve often we feel like the calendar stops. For a while the death date of our loved one seems to mark the last day of our life as we’ve known it. For many, this is sadly true. In one final breath everything changes, nothing will ever be the same again. We may even think of this date as a benchmark for the rest of our life - life before death, and now life after the death of the one we love.
When my beloved husband got sick suddenly and unexpectedly, his illness became the sole focus of my life. For me, time seemed to stop. The calendar meant nothing except the slow, steady daily grind that led inevitably toward his death. Someone asked me about an event that happened in the “outside world” that spring when, for me, time stood still. Quite spontaneously I answered, “Oh, I missed the spring that year.” In truth, I have little recollection of anything other than the daily struggle of hospital life and the inevitability of death.
When we stop to consider everything that’s happened since the death of our loved one we realize that our lives have changed – dramatically and irrevocably. Depending on the nature and timing of our loss, sometimes the adjustment curve is so steep and long that we see nothing ahead except a future that seems frightening because of the vast unknown ahead.
Yet it’s important, to pause from time to time and take a backward glance to see where we’ve been, and how far we've come to arrive where we are today, in the here and now. When we do, we're able to see and better appreciate our God-given strengths. Though we grieve, we give thanks to God for the fortitude of our faith that gives us the sheer will to make it through all the hard days. We give thanks for the God-given will and determination to navigate around all the obstacles that stand in our way on the journey that leads us toward peace, hope, and new life.
As I continue to navigate change in life, I pray that God will steady my heart through the power and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. In the face of all the monumental changes caused by the death of one we love, we need divine balance and eternal equilibrium. What is your prayer at this moment in your grief?
God steadies us in our grief so that we neither fall back into our sorrow because of all we feel that is lost, nor get ahead of ourselves in anticipation of what might yet be. The steadfast love and faithfulness of God are exactly that – steady, “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:22 NRSV). God’s steadfast love is holding you close, especially as you grieve - today, forever, and always.
Turn, O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
Psalm 6:4 NRSV