By SHAUNA WEIL
Grief provides passages in life that can as easily steal your breath as give you breath.
Either way it exposes your soul in the midst of the tumultuous ways of this world. It brings vulnerability to the surface and that is something we so don’t want to allow ourselves to feel.
I am coming close to the first year anniversary of the death of my mother, Barbara Crumm, and grief has bowled me over again. In my experience, I have discovered that most people do not want to talk about grief and all the many things beyond death that cause us to cycle through grief again and again.
We shutter it away; some even lock the shutters.
I say blow them wide open!
Let yourself experience it; let yourself talk about it; let yourself listen with ultimate compassion to those who are going through it. We’re often afraid to share. Perhaps you didn’t share when you grieved. If so, I am sorry you didn’t or couldn’t share. I am sorry if you didn’t find a compassionate listener to hear, really hear, your grief.
I had a very thought-provoking conversation yesterday with someone I really respect. So this morning, with my eyes brimming as I drove to Grand Blanc for something as mundane as a grocery pickup, I thought about my mom who spent her final years living in Grand Blanc. I thought about her breath span on earth. She had some very traumatic things happen in her life. I spent a little bit of time being sad over those hardships she endured that affected who she was her whole life. Then I spent a bit of time trying to be glad that she was free of some of those weights now, even though I keenly feel her absence.
But as surely as I hurt, I also just as surely want to know joy. Oddly, they are not an impossible juxtaposition.
I wanted to think about the joy my mom knows now. As I drove, two memories of mom’s life which she had shared with me came to my mind. Her eyes were an unusual shade of blue, striking, for they held both depth and an intensity. As she aged almost to her 96th year, her smile became even more gentle, lovingly conveying messages without even the need for her to speak. (That’s kind of a joke because we always teased mom about how much she loved to speak.)
Memory One: Mom especially loved her grandfather on her dad’s side of the family. He had a wonderful big car and her grandpa liked to go driving. Even more, Grandpa liked to pick up little Barbara and take her along. She loved to ride along through the Indiana countryside, standing on the wide floorboards so she could look out the windshield. Coming from a family of six children loving as it was, this was a treat for little Barbara to be the pick of Grandpa for these excursions. Mom could still remember the feel of the car and the freedom she felt in being with Grandpa zooming along; she could also remember the delicious taste of ice cream that always seemed to be part of the journey. (I come by my penchant for ice cream honestly! Genetic, who knew?)
Memory Two: Mom moved to San Antonio during WWII to live with her big sister Helen, who owned and operated Breckinridge Stables right in town near a large park where they often rode. Helen’s husband was at some points gone as he served overseas during the war. Mom learned to ride there and her voice would become different when she spoke about riding horses. Mom joined in some of the Moonlight Rides the stables offered to the many servicemen who came through nearby Fort Sam. She enjoyed riding with friends or her sister. Anytime she rode, her world felt different to her. Even in her 90’s, no longer able to walk, if someone talked about riding or a fear of horses, mom would always say something joyous about riding like, “Oh, don’t be afraid, you can never feel as free as when you are riding a horse!”
I heard these two memories in particular come up many times. I recognize now, that, for my mom, these were two earthly experiences she had that maybe reached what she could possibly conceive divine joy might be like. Her voice always changed on these two memories. They were important to her and expressed a freedom and joy she might not have been able to always feel in her daily life.
Even if she couldn’t always feel it, she was one to always seek out joy and one to choose it. Well, I am still here on earth with, God willing, miles to go on my spiritual journey before I sleep. But with eyes still brimming, I couldn’t help but whisper a prayer of praise to God for the glimpses of joy God showed my mom here on earth, which she held in her heart for a very long time and praise for the joy she now knows.
I pray today that our grief journeys and our joy journeys intermix as they are likely to do and we are able to realize God in all of it.
God is our most mindful of gifters. He knows the grief journey can’t be done without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and raw nor without the gift of joy peeping through now and again. I could even see it with eyes full of tears today. I know you can, too, whichever you are: a griever or a gift to a griever.
Walk on whether you are breathing or breathless. God knows your pain and provides your joy. No wonder they are intermixed.
It’s a Goddity.
Care to see more?
This column originally was shared through the Devotion Ministry of Goodrich United Methodist Church. At the close of the column, Shauna shared the following video with the comment: Need some company in your walk? Listen to the popular musical number from the movie Carousel, You’ll Never Walk Alone.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Shauna Weil, at is, at heart, a giver of care, a musician, an author and a seeker of joy. She and her family own and operate a multi-generational dairy farm and run a summer sweet corn stand in southeast Michigan.