On Grief

By Kristen Johnson

Matthew 5:4 (NRSV): Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

We all experience loss and subsequent grief. We all seek comfort, from friends and family, and from God. Sometimes we wonder when the heartache will end, if it ever will. These are the times when we need to rely on our own inner strength, and their are times when it is too much and we need to rely on the comfort of those around us.

This past Friday, I lost a most beloved Auntie. She was literally loved by all who met her. Her name was Dorothy and she was 98 years young. Beautiful Aunt Dorothy was wickedly funny, charming, graceful, and never said a cross word to or about anyone. She was married for more than 60 years to my Uncle, a Baptist Minister, and she served in youth groups and Sunday schools during the entirety of his ministry as a pastor.

Although I am relieved that she passed quickly from a stroke, with no lingering pain or terminal illnesses, I am jealous that heaven gets to have her. Worse yet, I have slipped in to “feel-sorry-for-myself-itis” because she is the fourth major loss in my life in the past few years – all from this same, wonderful generation.

First, I lost my Grandmother. She was quite literally my favorite person in the world and I miss her every single day of my life. Grandma was a force – we all knew not to cross her, and heaven forbid anyone should cross any of us. She loved fiercely, was fiercely independent, a true feminist before the term even existed, and a hardcore, lifelong New Deal-Democrat.

Second, I lost Grandma’s brother – my 100% hero, my Uncle Toy (a childhood nickname that stuck for his 80+ years). He was shy, funny, brave, and the most generous person I have ever encountered. He was a true hero – serving in World War II and Korea, as well as serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression and in the postal service. Both he and my Grandmother were very, very involved in their fraternal Lodges – giving tirelessly of their time, energy and financial resources to charities throughout their lifetimes. (I know this is where I get my love of community service – they lived and breathed it and I learned from their wonderful examples!)

Next, I lost my “adopted” dad who I called Papa-Ray. We worked together over 20 years ago.- he as a retiree from the Navy working in the information booth of my community college, and me as the nighttime receptionist. We forged a long-lasting friendship when we kept each other company over the phone lines during our long night shifts. After discovering that Ray didn’t have a family, I invited him one year to spend Thanksgiving with my family and the next thing I knew, we all adopted him and he adopted us. He spent the last 20 years of his life referring to me as “daughter” and my “real” dad not only tolerated it – he suggested that he adopt me!

And so, I am very sad and feeling like a little orphan girl. But, I am trying to count my blessings. After all, I am eternally blessed by these 4 people and their lasting influences. They all loved me fiercely and the best. And, my best lessons have been learned from all of them. Among a great many things, I learned laughter and fun from Aunt Dorothy, the gift of service from Grandma, that heroes exist from Uncle Toy, and what true love and friendship are from Papa Ray. All of those things are just the tip of the iceberg. I have countless (all good, no kidding) memories from these 4 angels in heaven.

I know that they are having a great time in heaven right now – hopefully even spending some time catching up with each other. But, I miss them and selfishly want them here with me.

I pray that each and every one of us spends time now with the ones we love. Life is too short and we miss out if we aren’t paying attention.

Psalm 147:3 (NRSV): He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.

Serve all with love.

Photo courtesy of: stocksnap.io

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