Grief, Grace and Graciousness

It had been a terrible week. Full of irritations and anger. I knew the undercurrent of it all was the heartache I was feeling over my friends’ pending loss of their 4 ½ year old son. Poor little guy had been battling cancer for a year now and was slowly approaching his death. I ached and hurt thinking about how difficult it was waiting and watching for my son Brandon’s death. He had battled for 6 months. We had known he was going to die soon for a week or so. We had labored with him at the very end for several hours. But not my friends. Their length of times – waiting, watching – was much greater.

I hurt so much for them. Or was it for me?

God’s grace is sufficient for the moment, for any and all circumstances. I could see and feel God’s grace over this family, but not over me. In a stupid conversation I was having with God, I asked for some of that grace that I had during Brandon’s time to be with me now. I was reminded that His grace is sufficient for the moment. I guess that means I have what I need in grace for this moment. But I wanted that other kind of grace.

We went to our friend’s son’s memorial. It was like going to Brandon’s again. Same church, same people, same love, same sorrow. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot I didn’t want to ‘connect’ with anyone. I tried to keep my eyes from directly seeing people. I just wanted to hold on to my emotions and get through the service intact.

The day was beautiful and the courtyard was set up as if for a birthday and not a memorial. There were families and kids. It looked like a happy occasion. And I so get that. Because it’s God’s grace for the moment. Because this little guy really is in a better place and we will be there sooner than we can imagine.

As we approached the doors to the lobby leading into the sanctuary I could see T setting up a refreshment table and P and K along with L. I was afraid to acknowledge them thinking I might start to crumble. So I touched K’s arm, looked at P and gave a quick hug to L. I don’t know why I hugged L. Somewhere inside I was still conscience of not being rude, but afraid of falling apart if I spent any time lingering with K.

I navigated the lobby staying close to my husband. In front of us ladies were finishing setting up dessert tables. There must have been hundreds of cookies and they looked like they came from an Italian bakery. To the right there was a table set and reserved for the family. There were people moving every which way but mostly to the line to sign the guest book pages before entering the sanctuary. Everything and everyone around me just seemed like objects to avoid crashing into.

G was overseeing the table with guest book pages. She saw me, gave me a sympathetic look, hugged me. I think she hugged me. Maybe I shrugged her off? Anyway, I then tried to write our names on one of the many pages laid out, but I couldn’t see because of the tears forming. I handed my husband the pen and told him I couldn’t see to sign. I continued walking into the sanctuary to find a seat quickly. I stopped caring about being rude.

We had gone in the first door and sat on the isle on the left side about 15 rows up. Typically we sit on the other side of the santuary. I was hoping if we sat here we wouldn’t be seated near many familiar faces. I wanted to go to this memoral alone, me and my husband. It was, it is so personal for me.

The tears had been unleashed. Now, all I could do was try to control them. My husband found me, sat down, and said something about it. I couldn’t speak.

The stage was set with blocks made from children’s floor mats made to fit together like a puzzle. They spelled out the little guy’s name. There were 2 floral arrangements on either side of the stage. Both were all white flowers and set on stands. I wondered if they were the flowers I had ordered for the pastors. I was asked to order something keeping in mind that the design should reflect this being a little boy’s memorial. I thought to myself – so the florist should make it blue flowers or put toys in the arrangement? I placed the order and told the florist what I was told. I also told her that I trusted her design ability and she should do what she thought was best. She asked me what should be written on the cards. What do I care what should be written on the cards! What can you say anyway? And why should I say it for them? Of course, that isn’t what I said. I told her how the pastors were very close to the situation and had really already said the important things to the parents, so could she come up with something nice for their cards?

As we waited for the ceremony to start I carefully looked around at the people in attendence. Some people you couldn’t miss. There in front of us about ten rows was D, aunt to the little guy’s dad. She was standing and helping people get seated and situated. The immediate sight of her brought up deep emotions. I could feel my face contorting and trying to hold back more tears. D, who brought our family Italian sausage and rolls for dinner. Who made it a point to visit with my mom and dad. Who included my daughter on fun outings. She was there when Brandon was healthy and then got sick and then died. I made sure I didn’t make eye contact with her.

I kept my eyes steady on the stage, soaking up my tissue and trying not to shake or make sounds as I cried. When I did gain some control I tried to look around a bit, but I couldn’t without wanting to out and out sob. It felt like I was at Brandon’s memorial again but this time with out that certain specific grace given for that moment in time. I saw familiar faces, faces I’d seen at Brandon’s memorial. I saw love and I was overcome by it.

A video slideshow was shown. It was precious and even stirred up a little laughter. I was thinking maybe I could get a hold of myself and we could stay for the reception. A wave of emotion hit me again – from a picture or something said or from just looking around? A song was sung. I can’t remember what is was. All I could do was close my eyes and somewhat reach my hand up with a clenched wet tissue and with my other hand hold my husband’s. I went away in my mind to meet with God to find comfort and strength.

Composure was slowly coming back to me as I listened to the speakers. An Uncle, a second Uncle and then Grandpa or Papa as he was called . Papa’s sharing wanted to hit me hard, but I valiently fought off the sobbing. I was beginning to think I could get some control here and we could stay for the reception, but it took me awhile before I could speak and tell this to my husband.

Another video played. This one had his sisters and cousins telling funny stories. Of course this made me think of my kids. Then there was a picture of the little guy in his underwear with a huge sword tucked in like his underwear was a sword’s belt. The sword was a big as his leg. A flash of memories hit me – Brandon, my daughter, swords, my dad Papa, backyard…

The pastor got up to do his message. I had texted him earlier “Lord bless you with an anointing for today” and he had replied “thank you.” It’s got to be so hard for pastors, because even though they are the messengers of truth and hope, they also know that unless the message is received in and by the Spirit it’s just a bunch of words. And it was just a bunch of words to me until he said some of us give sermons and some of us are sermons. I was stabbed to the heart.

The service ended and we were invited to stay in the sanctuary to visit or come up to greet the family. There was no way I could do any of that. I needed any leftover strength or control just to walk out and see if I might be able to stay for the reception. People were saying hi to us and I kept walking and looking straight ahead at the door. I might have been the first person out the door and into the lobby. As if waiting for me was D. She said she knew this must have been very hard for me. She shared how much she remembered Brandon and she appreciated our times together back then. I lost it. We hugged, we cried. Then there was G again. Like she was waiting to catch me. I hugged her too and I thought I was going to have a full on breakdown right there. I was so close to totally losing control. So weird for me being in such a public place.

I got myself together, walked toward my husband, told him I was going to the restroom, not once acknowledging anyone in my path. The bathroom was packed of course. Ladies were being polite as they waited for a stall. I didn’t wait. I started with the first door pushing until I found one available. I must have sat there for 5 minutes? I was so aware of all the noise and clammor outside the stall. I held my head in my hands and sobbed quietly. Momentarily I was somewhere else. I was in my personal space of grief and I didn’t want to share it. More accuately I didn’t want my grief to interfer with other’s. Not today, not now.

When the noise died down a bit I left the stall and hoped to be able to wash my hands and face and quietly slip out the bathroom, find my husband and leave. I was stressing about going through the lobby to look for him. There were so many women and girls in the restroom there was a line to the sinks! And it happened that I bumped into A and her daughter, my God-daughter. I looked right at A and told her not to say anything to me or touch me. She grabbed me and hugged me. I lost it. Then my God-daughter hugged me and didn’t want to let go. I just wanted to hide or leave or disappear, but I was so thankful they were there. I asked A to do me a favor and find my husband and tell him I would meet him at the car. (God’s grace for the moment.)

I put my sunglasses on and walked out into the sunshine and to the car. As I waited for my husband, my daughter texted me. In the car, my husband said to me he didn’t see anyway we could stay for the reception. This day was for the mom and dad of this little guy.

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