It has been 10 months and 27 days since my great-grandma passed away. I’ve been waiting for the day to come when I don’t think about her or the pain ends, and it has not come. Each night I sleep under a blanket she made me, Timehop brings up her picture weekly, and I drive by her house when I go to Vermont on weekends. This grief is suffocating and unrelenting. But in this grief, I am able to cling to hope.
Grief Should Not Be Ignored
“That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” This is one of my favorite quotes from John Green’s novel “A Fault in Our Stars.” The main character, Hazel, is dying from complications of cancer and has fallen in love with another cancer-stricken teen. People try to tiptoe around their grief, around their impending death. But that pain that they’re feeling and living demands to be felt. So does mine, so does yours.
I wrote in an earlier blog post about the frustrations of tip-toeing around grief. People fear pain, I get it, and so instead of validating the pain they attempt to offer comfort, “She lived a great life,” “at least you had someone to love you that much.” These are both true, but they make me feel as if my pain is invalid. That I should feel guilty for not “getting over it” by now, 10 months and 27 days later. If you have ever experienced a deep loss, I’m sure you feel the same way. Grief should be embraced. You should yell. And cry. And break mugs. Yes, you must pick up the pieces and continue living the next day, but pain. Must. Be. Felt. Not ignored. And this is tough.
Hope Amongst Grief
I’ve been very open about my ups, downs, and doubts with my Christian faith. I left church for about a year when I was 18 due to deep pains I had suffered at the hands of fellow Christians that made me seriously wonder if I wanted to worship the same God they claimed to worship. I never stopped believing in God but I had serious doubts. I then got involved in a home church and came back to my faith. Then, during my junior year of college, I had doubts about the goodness of God. Maybe one day I’ll share that story here. Once again, I got involved with a pretty incredible prayer group, who listened to my pain, and, get this, told me it was okay to question God and His goodness because there is no question too big for God. God proved himself faithful. But, in both of these situations, I was pretty dependent upon the Church and not God alone.
When Jon-Jont died I clung to my faith, specifically the promises of my faith, in a way I had never had to before. After Jon-Jont’s death I woke up crying and went to be crying. But it was different. Despite my grief I had hope. I miss her deeply. I miss her smile, her witty humor, her laugh, and the safety and confidence in her love that I felt when I was with her. But after her death I never wished she was back here, because if being with the Creator of the Universe, the lover of my soul, is so awesome as I believe it to be, I could never want her to come back to this broken, faded world.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”~Jesus, John 14:2-4
In the above passage, Jesus is attempting to comfort his friends before he dies. The KJV text and other’s use the word “mansion” instead of rooms. However, scholarship suggests that this does not mean a literal mansion, but was instead used to indicate the availability of room and space available where God is, commonly referred to people as “Heaven.” The chapter goes on to explain that to know Jesus is to know God, and that God’s Holy Spirit is with believers here on Earth.
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 2 Cor. 5:1-8
If you believe Christ Jesus is the Son of God and his death served as the atonement for our sins, when we die our soul is with God. What exactly does this look like, I’m not sure. Since God is outside of time and space do we go there immediately? Or does it just feel like we go there immediately? I don’t know. There are so many questions. But, as Christians, we can be confident that if we know Christ we will be with him, in a perfect place. And this gives us hope.
These deep pains we feel, this brokenness, this weight of sin and evil that we carry around, will dissolve. When I get to where I’m going, I’ll be honest, will I even seek out Jon-Jont? I kind of hope not. Here me out! I hope being with the Creator of the universe is so perfect, so complete, that I don’t see out anything other than Him. Will we recognize each other? Yes. Will we rejoice together? Yes. But reconnecting with loved ones will not be our main focus when we’re with God. In an odd way, the hope that this grief that I’m feeling will be so resolved, and I will be so completely satisfied, that I won’t seek out my love ones, but instead will bask in the glory and worship of God, brings me hope. Because this is what Jon-Jont is doing now. And, if she is doing this, how could I want her to come back here? To this broken place, where age was rotting her body and Alzheimer’s stealing her mind? I can’t. Instead, I can look forward with hope and expectation to the place where “everything sad becomes untrue.”