Monday, August 4, 2014

The Legacy of Grief

This past Saturday, I attended the memorial service for a man who lost his battle with cancer. I did not know him personally, but, as with any funeral I attend, I learned a lot about him during the service. I loved what I heard, and sat there wishing I had known him.

I do know his wife. My sweet friend, Sherryl, walked this long, painful, bitter walk with her husband. She has shared her ups and downs, announced updates, and requested prayers on facebook, allowing her friends to walk this with her, even in a small way. I know she and her family have been in my daily prayers for a while now.

Sherryl is not grieving alone. In addition to all her family and friends, she has two young sons.

Losing a parent is almost always hard. Losing a parent while you are still a child yourself is unbearably difficult. And it never, ever leaves you.

The biggest gift a parent can give their child in a time a mourning is to show them how to grieve and, even more importantly, how to hope. Grief is terrifying for children. It is overwhelming and scary and loud and noisy and all-consuming. But worse is when grief begins to lose its stronghold. Then, life seems terrifying. Are you supposed to laugh? Is it okay to smile? Are you a monster if you make a joke? Do something fun? Will you lose your beloved if you stop concentrating on grief for a moment? What about when your memory of their face becomes blurred? The earth seems to shake when you can no longer recall their voice in your mind.

A child who loses their parent during childhood will only ever have a child's memory of that parent.

As I watched Sherryl on Saturday, she cried; she hugged; she smiled; she looked like she would die herself; she looked strong; she looked weak. Most of all, the love for her two sons shone through. Her younger son gave a moving testimony to his father. When he was finished, he returned to a loving embrace from his tearful mother.

And I thought - she has no idea what she is doing. She has no idea the gift she is giving her sons.

As Sherryl walks this long, difficult road of picking up her life again, she is leading her children. She is testifying to them how to be in pain, yet hope. How to cry, yet live. How to move on yet never forget. How to doubt, yet cling to faith.

I am sure Sherryl does not know this. I am sure she feels like she is stumbling through this whole survival thing, blindly. I am sure she feels she is making mistake after mistake. But, she isn't. She is being a gift to her children. One they will remember for the rest of their lives.

It is August - the month I always remember my father's passing, one week before my 11th birthday. It never leaves you.

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