Grief — the Love That Lets Me Stand

belovedPsalm 118

This is one of my favorite psalms, in its simplicity. That refrain: the steadfast love of the Lord has carried us through. But for God’s steadfast love, where would we be? This says it all.

I can feel that right now in a strong, poignant way.

When I walked in to find my wife, my beautiful wife, laying there still as a stone, contentment on her face but empty of all life, I entered a few days where it all was a blur. Moments I didn’t know where I was. Where I had to have people sit me down, make me eat, take me by the hand and lead me through where I needed to be.

I tried to pray and even that would not come. I would gasp. I would weep. I would cry. But words could not come.

beloved (1)There is a prayer I pray as a chaplain with the dying and with those who love them.   I ask God to guide them as a shepherd, never leaving their side and when they cannot walk, to lift them in God’s arms and carry them.

I feel this has happened to me this month into the beginning of my grief. God has carried me.

You know I don’t know that I would have said I saw God at all in those first few days. All I say was pain, darkness, unimaginable loss. My world, my life untethered and falling apart like a woven sheet unravelling into loose strands. I remember saying to someone “these 12 years – no 13, even before we married – home has been wherever she is. I cannot go where she is, nor can she come to me. I feel not only that I have lost my dearest and greatest love, but I have no home. I am wondering, lost in the woods.   I am not at home in my world. I do not know how I can be. I must learn to live out these things we say but do not do, these words that feel like lies right now: to make my home somehow in God. In life itself. And I do not know how without her”.

love wendell berryIn those moments the Love that beats like the rhythm of a heart at the center of this great dance that moves in all things embraced me in love. Embraced me in my dogs who, when I got off the phone with the crematory wailing, tears dripping down my face, jumped up on me, wrapping me in their fur, washing my tears away with their kisses. God embraced me in the deer that greeted me, reminding me that life goes on in its beauty. God embraced me in family who made sure I ate, I dressed, I got done what needed doing. God embraced in friends who laughed and cried with me. Who did not leave me alone in that dark night.   God continues to embrace me.

I am not yet at home in my world.   I am still a bit of a stranger to myself. But I’m not adrift. I’m not lost in the woods.   And it is through this love that springs up as certain as greening bud in the springtime, as near as the air in my lungs. It is through this love I’ve found in all these places and in some of you.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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