Who knew that a visit to the dentist office could trigger such intense grief? You would think that after facilitating grief workshops that I would be better prepared. Of course, I do know that the one consistency about grief is that it is unpredictable. Why should I have been surprised that I found myself struggling to hold it together and unable to answer honestly the questions that were being directed to me?
Today would have been my father’s 85th birthday. My day ended up being very full–of appointments, surprises, joy, and sorrow. Grief is sometimes not so clear cut–it is layered and messy. The goodness and the hardness, the beauty and harshness of life obscure the emotions and sorting out reality is challenging. At times, I walk on very thin ice as I maneuver the mine field of emotions of grieving and my own dying.
I received an early morning good news text from a friend about the arrival of her baby. A stunning bouquet of spring flowers arrived mid-morning. My three-month blood test was the first appointment. Now I wait for results. Afterwards, I went to pick out the marker for my gravesite. Yesterday I paid for my plot. Each step brings me closer to being ready for death where I will be reunited with my father, my sister and so many other dear ones. For the first time in a long time, I felt tremendous sadness about leaving this world, even if it meant I debated about whether I should spend the money on a new crown to replace an aging one. Who knew that would make me sad?
Several times during this last appointment, I found myself wanting to weep…because I miss my dad, because I know how my passing will take a toll on my loved ones, because I will miss this life which I have loved. I knew that I could not bring myself to tell the wonderful, always-upbeat staff that I may not make it to my next six-month cleaning. I was vague about the work that needed to be done as the dentist said it was not a priority. I felt like a fraud but I knew that I could not speak without crying so I avoided the issue.
I paid and the lovely receptionist went over the treatment plan with me. She looked slightly puzzled by my ambivalence instead of my usual cheeriness. She looked away for a moment and I took a breath. I am dying, I heard myself say, I am not even sure I will be here for the October appointment. She looked up and her hand went to her chest: Oh my! My heart….before she looked away. I am sure she said more but I do not really remember except that I felt held. She handed me my receipts and I left. I felt emotions arise in me but I could not cry. I sat in my car and thought for a moment about my dad and my own situation.
This adventure has dark days on it. As I end this day, one final text rolls in full of love and encouragement by someone who understands. The goodness and beauty of others allowed me to keep standing today. I am emotionally exhausted but I am not in the abyss. I think of my social worker who tells me to free fall and let go of control. That would not have worked today. I think instead I have to stand on the thin ice knowing that Jesus will catch me if I fall through. He will grasp my wrist and pull me close to him until I can stand again on my own. For anyone who has ever gone through grief, you will recognize these emotions. Perhaps it is because my time is short that I do not fear being in the dark space for too long. Tomorrow is another day, and God’s mercies are new every morning.
How do you find your way in the darkness and sadness?
What graces have you received today that were a blessing?
Papa-God, I know you and Papa are here today with me, holding me up and caring for my heart. May I move from thin ice to a solid foundation again soon. Amen.