Grieving Our Losses
Day 3- The Loss of a Loved One
Christine Franklin Courson
I was grieving Dad again this morning.
Mom was frustrated about something and I wished he were here to bear the brunt of that frustration and to calm her. She didn’t speak ugly words or direct any anger at me. It wasn’t personal, and it wasn’t bad, but her stroke was four months ago now, and he’s still not here to help us navigate this new season.
I touched his name on the memorial wall I visited last week. “I’m doing my best, Dad,” I whispered with tears in my eyes. I want to take good care of Mom. It’s a profound privilege, and almost always a pleasure. But it’s not without cost—to me, my family, my pets, my friends, and the groups in which I have been active in the past. My siblings and the team of people who love and care for Mom are all affected by Dad’s absence.
I grieved Dad’s absence when my son got married in December, as I had when my older son married, and my older daughter before them. I grieve him when my grandchildren play with fire trucks and don’t know their Poppie, the firefighter.
I grieved when he wasn’t there to see my oldest son ordained as a deacon in our church. Dad would have been so proud! And there was the college graduation Dad missed, and the many ways my children reflect him without even realizing it.
I grieved Dad’s loss when I heard that the man who was at fault in the traffic accident passed away, many years after Dad’s death. I grieved for that man’s family, who are friends of ours.
There are times when I’m thankful that he doesn’t have to live through a heartache or some new political turmoil. I’m thankful when I watch a strong man growing frail and know Dad will never suffer through that—and I will never suffer through watching him. I’m thankful when I think of the redemption purchased dearly through his loss: my son’s time of reckoning with God, and the beginning of my own journey of recovery from codependency.
Fewer people remember my father these days. When someone does speak to me about the difference he made in their lives, or when Mom unearths a memory I have not previously heard, those are particular treasures, water from a deep well and good news from a distant land.
I remember a few vivid instances when longing jumped from my mind or heart to my body itself. Early on, during visitation at my sister’s house, a neighbor came to offer his condolences on the loss of our father. A cursory hug suddenly brought forth wrenching sobs as I recognized the scents of automobile repair on him that were so commonly a part of my father’s hugs. Months or years later, I was part of a circle of acquaintances holding hands to pray. With my eyes closed, I completed the circle with the man beside me. It was suddenly, shockingly like holding my father’s hand again; the strong hands and thick fingers were a tactile reminder of an acute loss. Watching a grieving friend receive a fatherly hug from a Christian brother, I was overwhelmed with the desire for a hug from my own Daddy. Looking at Dad’s wedding ring recently, the longing ache was there to just hold his strong hands again.
I desperately miss the reassurance of his hugs—loyal, encompassing, uncomplicated, secure, and unconditional. On those days when my husband does not delight in me, or my children are too much, or life is bewildering, or I just want someone to come fix things, I’m pushed into my need for Jesus. On one of those times recently, “He Will Hold Me Fast” by Keith and Kristyn Getty spoke deeply to this longing in my daughterly heart. Always, always God has been faithful to hold me in the midst of my pain.
Worship becomes sweeter and deeper as my grip on the things of this life slowly loosens. More and more, even as I enjoy adult children and grandchildren and dear friends and the chance to explore life and develop myself here, my longing for heaven increases. It’s where my dearest treasures are!
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, ESV)
Grieving Our Losses