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Good Grief

I slept until noon or after. Me! The one who never sets an alarm, not even on Sundays.

My resistance was way down! I had no immune system – I didn’t eat right, didn’t drink enough water; I took antidepressants and antianxiety drugs. I finally asked my doctor if we could just set up a standing appointment, and I would always be there. He laughed out loud but didn’t realize that I was truly serious.

I didn’t clean house, I let dishes stack up for days at a time in the kitchen sink. I didn’t wash my hair, didn’t put on my makeup – well, I guess I have to confess that I didn’t do anything of any consequence. I sat and stared into space – pretty much all day, every day.

Nothing motivated me. Friends called to check on me, asking, “How are you doing?” And my answer was always the same: “Oh, I’m OK”. They asked, “Would you like to go out to lunch? Dinner? Shopping? To a movie?” My answer was, “No, no, no, and no”.

I felt tired all the time, even after long periods of sleep. I cried if anybody looked at me. I cried every morning, and every night, and sometimes, several times in between.

It was very difficult for me to realize that I was already “grieving”. You see, my husband was bedbound. This disease was involved with every system of his body. He was nearing death, a little each day. I, his caregiver, watched him slowly, slowly passing away. He was a Hospice patient, and I was nervous around the clock that I would do something wrong – give him too much of this, or not enough of that.

You can imagine that at the beginning of this journey, I was scared and sad beyond words. I knew in my heart that he was heading for his passage out of this world. And believe me, I didn’t have to wait until he died to start grieving. No, I started grieving on that Sunday evening when the Hospice representative came to our home. He, after trying to take vital signs, came back to our kitchen table to tell me that he could barely find a pulse. What? I mean, I knew he was sick, but not THAT sick! No way could I process the fact that he was near death.

The nurse who came to see him two days later told me that he had between two 2 and 5 weeks to live. And yet, over 3 YEARS later, I was still posing as a nurse’s aide. And then, on a glorious Saturday evening, without any pain, he finally slipped peacefully into a coma, and shortly after, passed away.

What I’m describing to you is my bereavement journey – my time of mourning. It didn’t dawn on me until the day he died. This debilitating disease had finally won. No, my constant acknowledgement of the facts continued to wash over me from the day he went to bed until he finally left that bed – forever! It’s been over a year and a half now since he threw off those bedclothes, and stepped into the arms of the Lord.

I was afraid, in shock, felt disbelief, and fear, while my husband on the other hand, during his illness, became a blessing to all who came to visit. It was supposed to be the other way around, wasn’t it? The visitor was supposed to be the blessing. I heard from people who left our home saying “I can’t believe it– what a wonderfully positive attitude! What a blessing he is!” I asked myself, “Who taught him how to die”?

Am I still in a state of bereavement? You bet. Four and a half years later, I continue to cry, to mourn the death of that person I held so dear. However, I am better – and that truly is what my story is about. My wonderful life partner was always “up”, he cherished each visit from a friend, and his positive attitude was a blessing to me. But, I was confused – in other other words, what did he know that I didn’t? (Hint: could this have to do with going to heaven? Seriously? Could it be?)

And so, you see, today, I realize that the sorrow I feel will be well worth it in the long term. This hole in my heart is not going away. But now, every time I think about him and my impulse is to cry again, I remember where he is. What a wonderful gift of “grief grace” we’ve been given. God allows us to mourn and to participate not only in grief, but in “Good Grief”!

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