Our last good-bye to Graham wasn’t on his death bed, it was 9 months and 2 days earlier – the early morning of March 14th at which time he left our home and went north to Minnesota. The memory sits like yesterday. US Airways flight #1822 out of Atlanta at 8:59 a.m., connecting in Charlotte, arriving in Minneapolis just after one o’clock in the afternoon, central time.
You saw this snapshot earlier, but I’ll post it again. It’s a grainy, shadowy reminder of that morning, the ‘didn’t-know-at-the-time’ appendix to our story with this fabulous young man to our right and your left. Say hello to the Mitchell family.
For the last time.
As I post this exactly a year later, this morning marks the first anniversary of that semi-sweet occasion.
An empathic friend sent this to Sandy and me yesterday, a Facebook post from Kay Warren. She and her husband, Rick, buried their son almost a year ago, also under horrifically tragic and unexpected circumstances. Obviously, being vastly more public figures, their grief has been exposed and commented on more openly. For the record, thankfully, we’ve not endured even a smidgen of what they’ve faced – not even close – but, then again, our season of mourning is not over.
Closure? Is there ever such a thing?
Healing. Yes. Certainly.
In Jesus’ burden-bearing Name.
I share it, in part, not the whole (the entire post is difficult, at times biting, especially for those who haven’t ‘been there’) because it’s a reminder of those who’ve gone before us on this same stubbly road and who are coming through it, not perfectly, not according to some script or calendar, not even suitably, but are coming…
Kay has to see a mountain before her, we a foothill. Her pain is blistering, ours a soft injury. We don’t voice her same complaints, don’t feel the depths of her sadness, haven’t felt her sense of betrayal. But a few of the miles she’s traveled are vaguely familiar to us.
Read, beloved, and pray for our sister and brother, the Warrens.
And for us. Yes. We’re still not through it.
As the one-year anniversary of Matthew’s death approaches, I have been shocked by some subtle and not-so-subtle comments indicating that perhaps I should be ready to “move on.”
The soft, compassionate cocoon that has enveloped us for the last 11 1/2 months had lulled me into believing others would be patient with us on our grief journey, and while I’m sure many will read this and quickly say “Take all the time you need,” I’m increasingly aware that the cocoon may be in the process of collapsing…for most, life never stopped – their world didn’t grind to a horrific, catastrophic halt on April 5, 2013.
In fact, their lives have kept moving steadily forward with tasks, routines, work, kids, leisure, plans, dreams, goals etc. LIFE GOES ON. And some of them are ready for us to go on too. They want the old Rick and Kay back. They secretly wonder when things will get back to normal for us – when we’ll be ourselves, when the tragedy of April 5, 2013 will cease to be the grid that we pass everything across. And I have to tell you – the old Rick and Kay are gone. They’re never coming back. We will never be the same again. There is a new “normal.” April 5, 2013 has permanently marked us. It will remain the grid we pass everything across for an indeterminate amount of time….maybe forever.
You know, it wasn’t all that long ago that it was standard in our culture for people to officially be in mourning for a full year. They wore black. They didn’t go to parties. They didn’t smile a whole lot. And everybody accepted their period of mourning; no one ridiculed a mother in black or asked her stupid questions about why she was STILL so sad.
I can be callous with the grief of another and rush through the conversation without really listening, blithely spouting the platitudes I hate when offered to me…We’re not good grievers, and when I judge you, I judge myself as well…True friends…love at all times, and brothers and sisters are born to help in time of need (Prov. 17:17 LB).
The truest friends and “helpers” are those who wait for the griever to emerge from the darkness that swallowed them alive without growing afraid, anxious or impatient…They’re ok with messy and slow and few answers….and they never say “Move on.”
Thank you, Kay. You have eloquently expressed the heart of a griever’s innermost vocabulary, when they are honest with themselves. Thankfully though, because Christ is a Healer and His compassions never fail, we need never sorrow hopelessly.
The day following our son’s passing, this was my own post on Facebook:
God blessed Sandy and me with the gift of a lifetime, our son Graham. We were blessed to have our baby boy (our only) for twenty-four fun-filled, amazing, tragic, adventurous, never-a-dull-moment, heart-wrenching, miraculous, painful, sweet, cuddly, hard, eye-opening, jaw-dropping, hand-clapping, sweet-as-pie, soft-as-silk, abrasive-as-sandpaper, thrilling, magical, wonderful years.
Yesterday, he went Home. He’s with Jesus. The war is over. The struggle has ended. Devil, you scoundrel, you wanted to destroy him but God promoted him. You can’t touch him anymore. Can’t. You lose. Gra-Gra is with God now. Praise Jesus, his chains are gone. Amazing, amazing grace.
All THAT makes all THIS worth it.
Remind me to tell you about my recent dream. It’s bona-fide Graham.