My sweet Emme girl is chattering in her crib, awake and joyful on this Sunday morning. I roll out of the recesses of my blessed maternity pillow and snake my arm across the bed, tapping my iPhone screen to see what time it is. 7:28 am. I exhale, breathing a quiet sigh of gratitude.
She slept well, my little one, blessedly untouched by the ravages of grief. And on this quiet morning, I cling to the beauty of a full nights rest. I am grateful for that small gift, on this, this contradictory day of hope and loss.
Today, it has been one year since I lost my Momma. One year since she claimed her eternal victory. One year of fumbling for faith in a God my heart knows is good.
One year of refusing to be broken, because that’s what she did too.
Quietly I lay in my bed, assessing my heart, cautiously hopeful. I’ve heard a lot about this day. I’ve received many assurances from the well-intentioned hearts of others.
“The one-year mark, you’ll feel so much better with that behind you.”
“Congratulations friend, you made it through the year of firsts.”
But there it is. It’s quieter yes, and perhaps, it doesn’t hurt quite as bad. But a slow breath in and out is all it takes for my brain to remind my heart what it desperately wishes it did not know. She is still gone, even on this quiet morning of day #365. She is still gone, and the pain, it too still clings to my heart like an obtrusive and unwanted companion.
I can’t say that I am surprised. I may have wanted it to be true, the blessed reprieve that so many kept hinting lived on the other side of year one. But I think I knew the truth, even yesterday, the eve of this supposedly monumental day. I think I knew on day #87. And day #168. And day #231. I think I knew and I think you do too.
Time is a gift, one we often push back against with the kind of tenacity we reserve for little. But time is also His, a gift He owns and bestows with a grace and compassion none of us can understand. None of us beats it. None of us stops it. It shapes us, it molds us, it changes us. It can weary us and it can empower us.
But today, on this morning, I am wholly certain that it cannot heal us.
This knowledge, that time is not nearly as powerful as I needed it to be, that I can’t own it and make it do for me what I want it to, it sits on my tongue like a bitter pill. I’d rather have learned this through old age or wrinkles, gray hair or creaking knees. Not through her loss, too quick and too soon. Not through today, with a heart still so raw.
I wonder then, about you, the well-intentioned friend, with a heart that longs for words that would alleviate the pain of loss, of grief, of uncontrollable time. If today, I taste pain as intimately as I did yesterday, what then does that mean for you? If I am not able to celebrate as you told me I would be, if I still feel her loss in all the far-reaching corners of my weary heart, what then can be done? What then can be said?
I think I need you to hear something. All of us who have lost deeply, in whatever form it took, I think we need you to hear something.
The “year of firsts,” it doesn’t fit neatly inside 365 days. Will you consider that for a moment? Certainly, I’ve lived a Christmas, a birthday, and an Easter without her, but you and I both know that life is so much more than a few sweet holidays. This baby in my belly? They’ll be the first one who won’t be held in her arms. When Reese goes to kindergarten? She’ll be the first grand-baby who can’t send her school pictures to her. And when Maylin goes to preschool? It’ll be the first time she won’t exclaim over a grand-baby’s fingerprint art. All of these? These are firsts, beautiful glorious firsts, and all of them will come after today.
You see it; I know you do. In fact, you are privileged to live it, this good, lovely, and painful truth. Life is a gift of countless firsts, liberally sprinkled across the decades. We are privileged to live thousands of them, in all of our days and in all of our years. But we cannot control who we share them with. Like time, we cannot control them at all.
Are you listening friend?
Hear me please, gently but sincerely. I am so grateful you have moved on. I am so grateful that time has kept spinning, that it’s passage has brought you more joy and abundance, firsts that you had never dreamed of. But for me, the year mark was not some trophy to be achieved, some banner to hang that says “You did it! You have walked the road of grief!” While the sweet privilege of time has dulled grief’s painful edges and removed some of the darkness that covers its pages, there are a thousands firsts in front of me, each of them equal parts joy and pain in her absence. So, please, don’t exclaim that it’ll be “easier” now.
I may be relieved, I may be surprised I made it, but none of this is easy. It never was. And I’m not sure it ever will be.
Because your heart is good and kind, you are likely still asking “What can I do?” And we’re not so different, you and I. We see something broken and want to fix it so badly. I’d like to think that’s Jesus in us, in you, stirring up an overwhelming desire to restore, to bring joy back to the weary places. Damaged hearts, they’re painful to look at. To watch. To walk beside. There must be something we can do, something we can say.
Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:13
I am so grateful you showed up in year one. We all are. But I think I’ll still need you in this, year two. And three. And four. And seven. Like Job, I think I may need you to sit with me through a lot of firsts, for a really long time.
But I think that’s all. Just the sitting.
I throw the covers back and wander down the hallway to my sweet girl. She’ll greet me with a grin, as she usually does, and I will choose to be grateful on day #365. The realities of today will slowly erase the dreams from my night, always reminding me first that she is still gone. And it’ll hurt, that reminder. Sometimes quietly, sometimes boldly, but always, each day, each first, it’ll hurt.
So on this, this first day of year two, I think I know what I need.
Would you sit with me? Be still awhile?
It’s small, I know, but I think it’s all I need.