Valentine's Day is fast approaching. I remember going into a store in early January and feeling overwhelmed by the mirage of pink and red hearts, proclaiming Valentine's Day would soon be here. Christmas decorations were still up in many of my neighbor’s homes. But, not in mine. Not this year. Maybe next year? I can't really think that far ahead. When I try to look ahead, it makes my head hurt. It is easier to just not think about it. Not think about it? How can I not think about it? It consumes every part of my being. What or who is this powerful thing? It is called GRIEF. Even the sound of the word is sharp and jagged. It sounds like something that would hurt. Webster defines grief as "keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss." I define it as an empty place in my soul. I am told that grief is a natural and normal emotional reaction to our loss. But, I don't feel very normal. In fact, I feel like I have been thrust onto a fast moving train and I can't get off, no matter how hard I try. Isn't there a key I can turn or a brake I can push with my foot? When does this journey end? To figure out when this journey will end, I guess I have to go back to its beginning. Even though I don't really want to "go there."
I have learned that confusion is a by-product of grief. I find that I am even confused over when this journey began. Was it when the doctor walked around the corner of the curtain in the crowded ER room and I saw a sad look in his eyes, before he even spoke a word? Or was it months later, when the compassionate nurse hurriedly got the family out of the ICU room to go get dinner and then took my hand and said the words that are seared into my mind and heart forever, "Honey according to the machines we are watching, he's got about five minutes left. Why don't you crawl up in that bed with him and tell him anything you want him to know?" I did. I held him tightly and told him that I loved him. I could feel his heart beating next to mine. A heart that in just a couple of minutes would beat for the last time. I kissed those lips that had kissed mine a thousand times. Was it my imagination or did those lips kiss mine back? I'll never know. And then I said the words I knew he needed to hear, "It's okay. You can go now. Go be with your Mom. Go be with Jesus. I will be okay." And with that, he took his last breath and stepped into eternity. As he stepped into eternity, I stepped into my journey of grief. I was now a widow. There is another word that sounds sharp and jagged. Was I ready for the journey that lie ahead? I think not. Would I have rather simply buried my head in the pillow? Absolutely. It is too bad that life doesn't allow time for that. Our world seems to rush everything. A quick check of standard bereavement leave policies show that many companies allow three days when there is a death in the family. Three days? That is hardly time enough to prepare for the funeral, much less time to grieve?
It can take weeks or even months for the heart to catch up to what the head already knows. Speaking of the heart reminds me again of Valentine's Day. And just yesterday, I was in the store again and to my amazement, Easter baskets and bunnies were displayed. And once again, I felt overwhelmed. I am left to wonder how long this journey of grief will last. Until then I will hold close to my family, my friends and my church. Without them, I would surely crumble. I am comforted by a verse from Jeremiah in the Bible. "I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow." Jeremiah 31:13. I am not told how long it will be until my mourning and sadness will be gone. But I am assured that it will happen. And that gives me hope. A hope that one day I will be able to enjoy the holidays again. For now, my memories envelop me. My dear sweet Robert is... Always Loved and Never Forgotten.