Today marks one year since we got the news that Mom had an “abnormality” on her MRI. I now consider that perhaps the biggest understatement I’ve ever heard. It’s so surreal to think back over that time. We didn’t yet know it was cancer. We didn’t yet know it was even really a tumor. We just knew it was serious enough that the doctors thought she needed surgery. There are so many things that seem weird in retrospect. Jenn and I had a half second debate in deciding whether we’d fly in. We quickly agreed we would, but Mom and Dad were both telling us we didn’t need to. I’m so grateful we made the right choice. Three days after the call, and after Jenn and I were with them in Plano, we told the surgeon that her last tumor (26 years ago) had been the size of a man’s fist. He was looking at the “abnormality” on the MRI, and I remember his exact words: “This looks pretty fisty, too.” Um, what? That was realization #1. Then realization #2 came on September 14th when we learned it was, in fact, cancer. Then more realization came a few weeks later when it came to light how serious the cancer was. Of course we had no way to fathom on August 26th last year that we’d be saying goodbye in a mere 10 months and 1 week.Grief is such an abstract beast. Click To Tweet The way for me to walk through it is different than the way you will, or that my dad will, or that my sister will. It’s still so early that I wouldn’t pretend to have any idea whether I’m processing well or not. I know three things for sure.
First, I’m trying really hard to feel the feelings when I feel them. No pushing them away or stuffing for this girl. I’m not super emotional – I’ve never cried at all the times when the other girls do. I do cry, but it’s fairly rare. But I’ve noticed a huge difference in my sleep. I’ve had a few vivid dreams (also rare) and lots of days where I wake up feeling completely unrested. I’m told this is normal, and it’s beginning to get better. And sometimes I cry at something else that isn’t the grief, but then really it is.
Second, there is complexity when you lose someone you didn’t live with. I was chatting with one of mom’s childhood friends this week, and she remarked about how much she missed Mom even though she didn’t see her that often when she was here. I can relate. A twelve hour drive and two states separate me from Mom and Dad’s house in Plano, so we typically saw her 2-3 times a year. She wasn’t big about talking to me on the phone in recent years, so most of the phone calls were with Dad. But it’s amazing what a void her being gone still is. Then there are so many layers to grief, too. There’s the part of me missing her, which is a lot on its own. But there’s the part where I’m sad and concerned for Dad being alone in their house and having to face this on a day to day basis. I know it’s harder for him, and, while I miss her every single day, the daily missing is so significantly amplified for him.
Third, I know that God is compassionate. He cares, and he uses community in such a key part of grief. I know people don’t always feel like they know what to say. I’ve been there. But let me say this: It’s so important to ask. To show you care. To share a verse. I got a pile of cards from my work friends and felt so cared for. And of course I got meals, cards, flowers, gifts, and texts from many other friends. Each one means so much and helps me move forward in the grief. And I truly have no idea how people go through grief without a faith and hope in God. I’ve grown in my faith through this, and I continue to see his mercy and love for me in the grief.
There are so many little things that cause the grief to surface. Some of them are an equivalent of a small slap or punch in the arm. And some of them punch you in the gut and take your breath away. And the kicker is that predicting which it’s going to be is impossible. Some examples: That I still have her email account on my phone. That I haven’t removed her from my “favorites” list in my phone. Her comments on so many of my Facebook posts/memories. The stack of postcards she wrote me in college in my desk drawer. Being in their house for the first time since I left in July. That I still call it “their” house. Wearing some of her clothes I selected from her closet. Wearing her jewelry.
And then sometimes I’m just sad because I am. No reason needed.
Grief is often compared to an ocean. The waves come. Some are small; some crash and drag you under. I’m in the ocean. The waves are coming. This is just the beginning, and I know many have gone before me. My prayer is that my my writing might help others that come behind me.
God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked. Psalm 9:9-10 (MSG)