I find myself praying in questions lately.
"Lord, what just happened here?"
(This time last month, we were walking a sandy beach in Florida, calling it our "last anniversary vacation.")
"Did you REALLY take my Norman ALREADY?"
(I spent way too much time on Google, and all the articles said that Norman had a chance of surviving at least a year.)
"LORD, are you SURE I can endure all this excruciating pain?"
(I'm certain that I cannot bear this, but obviously, if I'm typing, I'm still bearing this somehow. Only God.)
|The last anniversary vacation|
Now here's what I do not want after you've read this: platitudes.
Absolutely no platitudes.
(Platitude: Overused statement applied liberally and repeatedly in an attempt to comfort or instruct. Paraphrased definition.)
Example: "Heaven is getting sweeter."
I understand that this is a phrase from a song, and it is not offensive in any way. It just doesn't help a heart that is processing tremendous, aching loss. Or perhaps I'll narrow that: it does not help my heart.
My Norman is at home with the Lord, free from the cancerous prison his body had become. I am grateful for his new life. I am mourning his absence from our lives here.
I know it's a temporary separation. I know that I'll see him again someday. And I know that God's merciful decision to take Norman so quickly literally cancelled the tremendous suffering caused by the rapid growth of two aggressive forms of cancer. But for now, my Beloved One-Flesh soulmate of almost 35 years is no longer here. All his shoes and clothes are in their usual spot. His car is in the garage. His cologne is in the bathroom. The evidence of his existence is here, and his fingerprints are everywhere, but my Norman is not here. That reality is not sweet.
Some of the helpful things I've heard have been very short sentences such as, "I'm so sorry" or "I'm still praying." When all else fails, try the silent, brief hug (not the long look into the eyes while clutching the shoulders of the grieving person). I'm only speaking for myself, but if you clutch me and look deeply into my grieving eyes long enough, you will succeed in making me cry. I'm sure that's not the goal.
Many times, grief reactions will not make sense to those on the observation deck of life. We who are grieving went to bed with a loved one on this side of Heaven and woke up with them on the other side. We may be numb at times, followed by feeling way too much pain. If you've ever had surgery with general anesthesia, you know what it's like to be blissfully unaware that the surgeon is cutting you open, or resetting a bone, or removing an organ. And you also may recall what you felt like as the anesthesia wore off and the pain roared in.
The loss of a loved one has a form of numbness that acts as an anesthesia, allowing the shocked and stunned family members to make it through planning a funeral, selecting a casket from the "casket showroom" (who came up with that idea?), choosing a burial plot, and then getting dressed and showing up for the funeral.
After hugging countless people during the visitation, many of whom are weeping, the exhaustion transforms the numbness into a fog.
I liked the fog.
When you see a grieving person at a funeral and they are not crying, it doesn't mean that they're fine. In my case, there was a protective, grace-filled cocoon provided by God. In that "secret place" of grace, God cradled me from the tempest of fresh grief. Without the Lord's protective provision, many would not survive the incredibly searing pain of a newly-broken heart. You may not see tears, but that doesn't mean there are no tears.
Eventually, the numbness, like anesthesia, wears off and the healing begins. Healing hurts.
I was never able to tell Norman, "Honey, it's okay to go now." Norman would have known I was just mouthing the words without really meaning it. So I asked the Lord to give me something to say that would put Norman's mind at ease and that would also be genuine. God gave me this: "Norman, I can't say it's okay for you to go, but I can say that I know that God will take care of me." Norman nodded, satisfied that I at least understood that truth.
I know that God will take care of me. He has promised this multiple times. I have already experienced His tender mercies at times when I felt like I was suffocating in grief.
"Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old." (Psalm 25:6)
And I know that God will bring me through this, and that I'll eventually be reconciled to this reality. Just don't tell a grieving person to cry, and likewise don't demand a smile. Grief is labor. In fact, it reminds me of the birthing process, and most people know that if you say the wrong thing to a woman in labor, it will not go well. Don't make demands on the grieving soul. We have enough to do just learning how to breathe again.
"The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses." (Psalm 25:17)
In due season, the Lord will "bring me out of my distresses."
On another note, if you've visited the Shop at Keep the Heart recently, you may have noticed a "closed for maintenance" sign. For those who may be wondering, the future of Keep the Heart is being carefully examined as I learn how to be a widow and a solo ministry-business owner. My Norman H ran everything on the technical and shipping side of Keep the Heart, and he greatly enjoyed it. I have been in charge of the marketing and writing side for all these years, which was my favorite spot in this humble little company. Now that Norman is at home with the Lord, we would appreciate your prayers as we try to figure out what to do next, at home and at Keep the Heart.
|Norman H: August 21, 1951-September 15, 2017|
I would like to resume writing and publishing as soon as possible, after allowing for a season of healing. In the meantime, the Shop at Keep the Heart will be closed temporarily until the November issue of the eMagazine is published on December 1st. The eMag will be delayed due to the passing of our Norman. We hope you'll understand, and that you'll pardon the delay.
Finally, if you've placed an order at Keep the Heart before the Shop was temporarily closed, your order will still be processed by the end of this month (September 2017). We will include a gift for the delay in processing, as we have always strived to be incredibly prompt in processing orders. Again, please pardon the delay.
I know that thousands of you are praying, and I thank you for your continued prayers.
"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
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|Francie Taylor, Editor in Chief|