12 months. 6 funerals. New stage of life for me. However, it’s not just death that is assaulting my heart with grief. Close friends moved far away. An intimate friend disowned me. We changed karate schools. Switched neighborhoods. COVID – need I say more? The list goes on. So much upheaval in such a short span of time. So many goodbyes. So many moments of letting go and never having again.
Grief keeps banging on my door. Accepting the intrusion isn’t natural. I want to keep him out. Make him go away. Never let him back in. Just leave me alone. But grief is persistent. This cursed world keeps him constantly at the doorstep of my heart eager to bang on the door again.
My most recent goodbye was to Kim. For over three years, I daily texted her KOKO, which stands for Keep On Keeping On. This godly woman faced health issues from her youth, and especially during the last four years when she was mostly homebound. When I had asked one of her adult children at church how I could encourage her, he responded, “Text her.” And so I did. Short and sweet. Over and over and over. At least 1,000 KOKOs were sent her way.
Death. Grief. It shakes our world making the mere attempt to write about it confusing. I keep changing the tenses of my writing in my rough draft. Past tense and present tense keep intertwining. Yet I should use the present tense. Her name is Kim. Not was. She means a lot to me. Not meant. Grief is relentless.
Prior to the past four years, I can recall only one interaction with Kim. It was at a church baby shower; we talked about homeschooling. She had survived it, and I was at the beginning. I liked her. She was happy. Smiling. A good memory. But that’s the only recollection I have of her before I began the texting.
Occasionally, she’d text back. Now and then we’d say more than KOKO. There was also a long stretch where every day I’d choose a different emoji for the Os to make it a little more fun. She would too. At some point, our church did a meal train for her and her family. When I dropped off food for them, her husband unexpectedly hugged me and thanked me for my daily KOKO, which took me by surprise because my texting felt like such a small, meaningless, repetitive gesture. But he said it reminded them that many people were praying for them and supporting them. That definitely encouraged me to continue communicating. What I didn’t realize yet is our texting, minimal as it was, was tightly knitting my heart to hers.
When my husband and I had COVID this past August (I assume the Delta variant because it was rough!), Kim was instrumental in getting us connected with a doctor, which led to us getting Iver**** and, thankfully, defeating COVID. Ryan was especially bad off, and I hate to think what might have happened without Kim’s intervention.
My last text from her was about two months ago. Since she’d go for stretches without communicating, I didn’t think much of that. Since I never see her, I didn’t know exactly how she was doing. The day I sent my last KOKO, a church email went out asking for prayer for Kim. She was weak and sleeping a lot it said. Though I was concerned, I had been concerned before. She had always pulled through. Not this time.
My nightly routine for well over three years ended abruptly. No goodbye. Just gone. The saint who was running this hard race of life next to me has now crossed the finish line leaving me in the dust to press on without her and incredibly jealous of her state. Yet I’m so thankful she is no longer suffering. But her passing has ushered in pain for me. Her children. Her husband. And so many others.
Grief. How do we accept it? How do we accept living in a cursed world? How do we accept the reality that one grief can stir up the other griefs we haven’t finished processing? How do we endure wave after wave after wave of various griefs battering our heart simultaneously? How do we face another day knowing pain and grief await us around the corner?
I’m trying to learn. Maybe when I figure it out, I can write an amazing blog post about my discovery and it will go viral and all of us will never have to struggle with grief again. Right…
Accepting grief isn’t coming natural to me, y’all. I’m fine some moments. And really hurting at others. More unsettling to me currently is the knowledge that I could experience grief at significantly deeper levels than I’ve ever come close to. My husband is still alive. All four of my kids that I’m raising are still alive (yes, I’ve had five miscarriages, but that grief does not come close in my mind to the thought of losing a child I have actually held and tangibly loved). Additionally, my parents are alive. My husband’s parents are alive. Yet I know with absolutely certainty that I must let them go. It is impossible for them to tarry indefinitely. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that more grief will meet me. I don’t want that. I don’t want to do my mom’s funeral. My dad’s. Yet I know that unless I myself am called home first or Christ returns nothing can stop the inevitable grief that will demand entry into my heart sooner or later and has already intruded upon a growing number of my peers.
So here I am. Just past 40. And feeling weighed down by grief like never before.
Jesus “was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) His mission was to come face death (Luke 22:42). I must fix my eyes on Him (Hebrews 12:1-3). I must accept that grief is necessary (I Peter 1:6-7). And in accepting its necessity it helps me accept the grief itself. The pain inflicted upon me is necessary. Essential. No substitute. We cannot get to heaven without going through the excruciating path of grief (John 16:33). Sin does not permit an easy passage. And, so l press on. Trying not to fear tomorrow and the grief that will arrive (Matthew 6:34) . But instead infusing my mind with His promises for the grief I already bear. Only what is necessary will bang on my door. All other grief will bypass me. This is light and momentary in comparison (II Corinthians 4:17). Eternity must be my focus (Colossians 3:1-2).
I thought I needed to learn to accept grief. But it seems the real thing I need to learn is to trust God and not lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Could it be that the secret of accepting grief is really a trust issue? We want to be God. We want to call the shots. Yet God has clearly stated that He calls the shots and our responsibility is to completely trust Him. Trust. Trust. Trust. Will I accept that I must trust God? Will you?
Jeremiah 17:7-8, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”
Lamentations 3:32-33, “For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness. For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men.”
In closing, if you are a fellow saint treading through this cursed world, as I told Kim over and over, let me tell you, KOKO. KOKO. And again I say, KOKO. Kim now knows every hard thing she ever faced here on earth was worth it. One day soon, we will as well (Revelation 22:20). KOKO (I Timothy 6:12-19).