Enjoy is not the word I am looking for, but good might be close.
Back in the 1980s I attended the first funeral I remember. A young man from our church community died unexpectedly in his home. Even though I didn’t know him, I asked my dad if I could go to the funeral. My strongest memories of that service in First CRC are sitting next to my Dad in my favorite yellow dress, and watching Mrs. Boender sing all the verses of My Jesus I Love Thee. I imagined what it would take for my beloved Sunday school teacher to sing this hymn of hope at such a time. I did not understand how she could make it through all those beautiful verses without choking up.
I most remember Diane’s funeral and the weeks that followed by the knee-collapsing, chest-pressing emotions of unexpected death. Those were dark days of crying alone and facing doubts about God that I was too ashamed to admit. I still think of her twenty-five years later, and miss her.
As the millennium turned and Y2K captured world-wide news, I faced the even more private griefs of infertility and miscarriages. My first, long-awaited pregnancy came to a screeching halt as the doctor announced, “I am sorry. There is no longer a heartbeat.” Days of grief turned into months. I grappled for the first time with how poorly most of us “do” grief, how much misunderstanding there is in grief, and how pain in relationships is magnified during the throes of grief. Could we compare grief to war? During that time I discovered the retreat of hunkering down for survival, and often prayed for ceasefire.
Those many griefs in our lives--lost dreams, broken relationships, death itself--do not feel good. Ever. My heart asks the question before my mind can filter, “God, where are you in this?”
A few weeks ago I challenged my students to choose the top ten events of their lives so far and consider where God might show His desire for relationship with them in those events. What courage one student showed to admit, “I am not in a place where I can see God at all.” I gave the student full credit on the assignment. Oh how I have been in those places, but sadly, was too scared and proud to admit it.
Monday, my Grandma Grace died. Her life mattered, and her life mattered to me. Two summers ago when I visited with her she shared, “Jennie, I want you to know I am ready to go. I don’t understand why young people die and I am still here. God must still have a plan for me.” I believe that she was right. I wonder if perhaps God’s timing for her to enter eternity included the students who would walk this journey with me at this particular time. These wonderings do not bring me joy in the bubbly sense of the word. But deeper than the tears and loss and sadness, something within me feels hope in believing that God’s mysterious ways are good. And perhaps the 95 years and 25 days of Grandma’s earthly life ended at just this time not only for the work God is doing in me and my family, but also for my students who are now walking this journey with me. Oh how I will miss her.