When Everything Falls Apart…

The ever present weight of memory. The hope of what is to come. There is no distinction. It is all woven together. The frightening and beautiful noises of it all resounds across the miles and miles of our years. In this tension of both/and, we live and move and have our being, all in the presence of a God, who also sobs and sings.
~ A Hole in the World, Amanda Held Opelt ~

It has been almost two months since my grandmother’s death. Two months of wading through a dense fog. I am not the same person I was a year ago…two months ago. “You look tired.” “Have you lost weight?” “How are you…really?” The carefully curated facade is cracking. People are starting to notice. Things are falling apart…I am falling apart.

As I approached the door to her house the other day, I saw a note addressed to “Ms. Peggy.” I said to myself, “Do they know she is gone? Did they see the men in suits take her body away? Wheel her hospital bed out the front door?” I opened the note, hands trembling, scared for some reason the words that lie inside. It simply read, “To the family of Ms. Peggy, Know that everyone here was very fond of her.” My eyes began to blur over with tears. I struggled to find the keys and unlock the door. When it finally flew open, I slammed it shut.

There I was standing in her dining room– a room where we ate meals and laughed together. Where, after I incessantly rang the doorbell just to annoy her, she would answer in her bathrobe and curlers usually chiding me because I came before she had a chance to get ready. A flood of memories flashed through my mind. The staple of those sweet memories gone forever. All her things just as she left them, but her gone. I doubled over as love and sorrow mingled together. A cry of deep anguish erupting from the depths of my soul. Once it started I did not know if it was going to stop. I can count the number of times on one hand I have cried like that.

I wailed that day in my grandmother’s foyer and had I let myself, I could have wailed until I was hoarse and my bones were dry. Nothing left in me. When I dried my tears, stood up, and walked away. Nothing was different; she was still gone. I was still standing in her empty house, broken by my sorrow. But there was something strangely healing about honoring the deep pain within me. About releasing it into the air. Something about allowing myself to lament the brokenness of this world and the losses that have destroyed my heart.

I wish I could say that moment in my grandmother’s foyer was the only instance in this year I have cried…but that would be a lie. When I list out the losses I’ve endured in such a short span of time they still do not seem real. I have found myself staring into an abyss I am not sure some days I can crawl out of. It feels hard to say that out loud, to even put into writing. It’s hard to admit the weakness I see in myself. My pride tells me I should be able to emerge from this hellish year stoic and unresigned. I was not raised to fall apart. We power through; we pick ourselves up off the floor and move on. 

But this year the weight has felt too heavy of a burden to bear…so I lay here on the floor, praying for healing. I am still unsure when it will come. In this, I have been reminded of just how weak I actually am. I have realized how desperately I need my Savior. In a year where people have walked out of my life taking the shattered pieces of my heart with them and I have been confronted with the reality that all love ends in death, I am so grateful for the friends who have stayed by my side.

The ones who have sat with me in the vast darkness as I cried gently reminding me of the light even when I could not see it. Who so deeply believe that better things are coming even if I cannot even see them on the horizon yet. Who have been my strength on the days when I could barely get out of bed. They have held soft space for my tears and rage, allowing silence and presence, rather than hollow words, to be our companion. True friendship, true love stays no matter how much you can give in the moment. I could cry so many tears of gratitude for the ones who have never left my side. Next to God they have been my anchors in this vast sea of heartbreak. They have slowly begun to pull me out of the abyss, reminding me that goodness still exists even in darkness.

What I have learned in this year is that grief is communal. As life is meant to be lived together, so grief is meant to be done–together. In our highly individualistic society we think we must walk the grief journey alone. In American culture, we often believe the lie that true emotion belongs alone behind closed doors. That is, if we even allow those emotions to escape from us at all. We don’t really know how to deal with pain or discomfort. We avoid and numb and then we brag about our stoicism. But refusing to acknowledge the reality of the pain we all experience is actually not very healthy or Biblical. It’s damaging.

I do not know exactly when the idea that we cannot express deep emotion, especially in the church, came to be. But I know that Scripture is full of rich and deep rituals that are emotive. That are real and raw. If the Jewish faith, and the Bible as a whole for that matter, teaches us one thing, it’s this: that while this world is full of great love and glory of the Lord that is meant to be praised, it is also full of immense pain and sorrow that should be lamented. Scripture does not try to deny that these polar opposites exist simultaneously. There is no air that life is not hard or full of suffering. 

The book of Job is so evident of this. Words of pain like: “He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my paths in darkness… he uproots my hope like a tree.” lie right beside words of hope: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19: 8-10;25-26). Job and the people of Scripture knew praise and anguish could occupy the very same breath…so when did we lose this.  

The more times I look death in the face, the angrier I get at this shallow view of our culture. Because a faith that isn’t honest about how it feels, that cannot sit with someone in pain, or that tries to numb it with trite remarks and hollow words like, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” isn’t really a much of a faith to stand on. A cultural view that continues to tell people that they need to hold it together because showing deep emotion in the face of loss or tragedy would be weak, or even worse feminine, is not something I am really interested in believing in anymore.

Our legacy in Christ is one of triumph that came through great suffering and pain. We bear the marks of our God, which means we bear both the glory and the suffering. In order for those around Jesus to know the fullness of the resurrected life, they still had to sit in three days of darkness and grief. Don’t get me wrong, I never want to become a person that the tragedies of this life cause me to become so cynical that I lose the ability to dream and bask in the wonder of the Lord. At the end of it all we still serve a God who called a man out of the grave. That is our destiny, and what could possibly be more hopeful than that.

But there is something about experiencing pain and suffering that makes love and joy all the more real. They are felt more deeply knowing you had to fight the darkness to discover them again. Because love that is honest about what it has to lose is always deeper. Something inside of us changes when we discover we can look death square in the face and still emerge from that empty, hollow space with the capacity to feel love and joy. To honestly feel at all…

Because if love can still exist after you bury yourself in the ground with the ones who have left you. If life can still mean something after it’s reduced to ashes. Then surely, there must be a God whose image we bear. Surely, there is an eternity beyond the ashes we all return to. If flowers and leaves beautifully unfolding again can still bring joy after death becomes a close companion. And if the sun dappling its light through the trees can still stop you in your tracks after you’ve descended into the abyss of grief…then surely, we must be more than a cataclysmic accident of happenstance, more than just this flesh and bone. And surely, surely God must breathe resurrection into us. 

So we wail. We rage. We fall apart. We tear our clothes and sit on a bed of ashes. We dig a grave and bury ourselves under weighted mounds of grief. We give ourselves over to the pain and honor the sorrow felt deep within us. We let a part of ourselves die all while knowing that in Christ all death leads to resurrection. And on the other side of that resurrection lies sweeter love and deeper joy. 

Kuc Obed Kedi sweet friends. If at any point now or in the future, you need permission to grieve– to fall apart, you have it my friend. Oh, you have it. And when you rise from that abyss, may you find that sweeter love and deeper joy that is only hard-won through pain.

To the ones who have helped carry the weight that has burdened my soul, you have been the light keepers in this darkness. For that, I am forever grateful to call you my family and friends, and to share this hard, sweet, beautiful life with you.

One thought on “When Everything Falls Apart…

  1. Thank you for your transparency in sharing your grieving journey. Know that we continue to pray for you. God is with you through it all.

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