Learning the New Dance Steps

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp” (Anne Lamott).

Man, is that ever true. I’ve known a lot of people lately who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, grieving the passing of a loved one.

No matter how young or old, how healthy or sick, however near or far they are, you’re never quite ready to say that final earthly goodbye. In the end, you’re always greedy for a little more time.

But you know that in Christ that death is not forever and the grave is not final. Hope has the final say. Jesus will have the final word. Just as He called 4-day old smelly Lazarus, wrapped up like a mummy from head to toe, from the tomb, so will He one day speak the name of that loved one to rise forevermore from the grave. One day, He will call you by your own name.

That won’t be the end. That will be the real and true beginning.

 

Happy 18th Birthday, Lucy

Today, I carried a pang of sadness in my heart. You see, my old cat Lucy would have turned 18 today.

It even seems a little silly to me to carry on grieving for a common ordinary cat who passed away back in June. But Lucy was no common ordinary cat. At least not to me.

She was one of the few constants in my life in a time that saw geographical and career upheaval in which I relocated to Nashville from Memphis.

She was a quiet presence in my life through those good and bad days. She always ended up in my lap, curled up and either asleep or very near asleep. She usually wound up sleeping on the pillow next to mine, comforting me with her quaint little snore.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day, June 21, when she crossed the rainbow bridge.

I honestly don’t know if our pets will wind up in heaven, but I like to believe that she’ll be there on the other side of the rainbow bridge, waiting for me when it’s my turn to cross over.

In the meantime, I find that the sadness continues to give way to happy memories. I feel blessed for every day of the 17 years she was with me, even those painful last six days.

When she got sick that last time, I kept hoping that she could somehow manage to pull through one more time, but this time, it was not to be.

I know in my heart she tried her very best to stay, but in the end her furry little body finally failed her and she was just too weak to go on.

I have a rambunctious new kitten named Peanut, who is a tortie and full of curiosity and life. She could never take the place of Lucy, but she’s a channel through which my love for Lucy can flow.

So happy 18th birthday in heaven, my little Lucy. I’ll always love you can carry you in my heart forever.

 

Thoughts on Grief

“I don’t believe grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story” (W. Berry).

Don’t worry. No one I know has died lately.

I was just missing my old cat Lucy a bit today after seeing an old video of her and ran across this memory on Facebook.

How true it is.

Grief never passes away. You never completely get over the sadness.

I heard that grief and loss is somewhat like losing an arm or a leg. You don’t go back to the way you were before, but you can learn to live with a new normal.

Even though I haven’t been touched by grief lately, I know several who have. I also know that this life is fleeting, so grief is inevitable for any of us who haven’t completely closed off their hearts to love.

I also know that we serve a God who in Jesus is completely acquainted with grief. Isaiah called Him a Man of sorrows.

This same Jesus also took the sting out of grief and death when He burst out of the tomb on that Easter Sunday morning. Now those of us who belong to Jesus don’t have to grieve as those who have no hope. We have hope.

I still don’t know how it works with animals. I’d like to think there’s that rainbow bridge and I’ll see Lucy again one day. I do know that all the best parts of what we had will live on in my memory and what awaits in heaven will be far better than anything I could ever possibly imagine.

In the meantime, grief and loss are a part of life. Right now, I wish they were not. One day, I know for certain that they won’t be.

 

More Lucy Memories

Lost in all the hoopla about the solar eclipse, Monday, August 21, marked two months since my Lucy crossed the rainbow bridge. While I have Peanut, my lovable and playful kitten to heal my heart, I still find myself at times missing the old gal fiercely.

Tonight, I stood at the railing overlooking the stairs. I remembered how Lucy used to look up from the bottom, see me, and come running up the stairs to me. Every single time. Even when she was older and couldn’t run as well, she still willed herself to run to me, greeting me with her friendly chatter.

I remember how when I got home and found her in one of her usual napping spots, the first thing she did when she saw me was let out the hugest yawn ever. I believe it wasn’t because she found me incredibly boring but rather because she was completely relaxed and at ease with me.

I’m finding out these days that it’s possible to carry around two conflicting and completely opposite emotions at the same time. For me, it’s joy and grief, peace and longing. Sometimes, it’s hard to know where the one ends and the other begins.

It’s another reminder of the “now and not yet.” Sure, there’s good to be found here and we can have the peace of Christ, but we wait the perfect consummation of all our hopes and joys. We know that we were made for another and better world — heaven– and we have a longing and a desire that nothing earthly can satisfy.

I do wish that rainbow bridge had visiting hours. I’d go see my Lucy every chance I got. I bet she’d come running up to me and greet me with that ginormous yawn of hers. I would expect nothing less.

Grieving a Pet

“I will never laugh at anyone for grieving over a loved beast. I think God wants us to love Him more, not to love creatures (even animals) less. We love everything in one way too much (i.e., at the expense of our love for Him), but in another way we love everything too little.

No person, animal, flower, or even pebble has ever been loved too much—i.e., more than every one of God’s works deserves” (C. S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III).

I’m seeing a lot of people grieving over having to say a final goodbye to their beloved pets. Maybe it’s because I went through the same experience on June 21 when my Lucy crossed the rainbow bridge and took that piece of my heart with her.

Part of me still feels a little stupid for grieving over a cat when people have lost parents, siblings, and children. I don’t pretend to say that my losing a cat is anywhere close to the same as a parent having to bury a child. Still, a loss is a loss.

My heart goes out to all those who come home to silence. My prayers are with all of those who are missing the quiet presence of a pet who always seemed to be there when needed.

My own heart still hurts a little when I see videos of Lucy. I still wish that I could reach through the screen and grab her and pull her back to me, but I know that’s not really her. It’s only an image on a flat screen.

I do know that the present world is broken and that nothing works quite like it should. People die. Pets die. So much sadness and pain seem to be everywhere.

I also know that we who suffer loss and pain can better comfort others who go through the same. No one knows grief better than the grieving.

I further know that one day God will restore all creation to what it was originally designed to be. The last book of the Bible says He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and that there will be no more sorrow or pain or sickness or death or grief.

Until then, my prayers and thoughts are with you.

A Little More Heartache

I was doing just fine tonight. I’d celebrated my sister’s birthday earlier and we’d all had a grand time (except for a food allergy scare with my nephew, but even that turned out fine in the end).

Then I saw a short video of my recently deceased cat Lucy kneading the pillow next to mine, getting ready for one of her patented naps. I wanted so badly to reach through my computer screen and pull her out if only for one more night beside me. My heart still aches for moments like these that I know will never come again.

I know that you can’t short-cut the grieving process, whether it’s for a pet or for a brother or sister, husband or wife, son or daughter. It’s not a process that you ever get through, but a process where you learn to live with a new normal, like an amputee learns to live without an arm or a leg.

I’m also learning how very deep the grace of God is. I’m learning that His arms are indeed strong enough to carry and long enough to save those who feel they are drowning in sorrow and grief.

I know that faith in God doesn’t always make the road easy, but it makes it possible. I’ve learned when you’ve exhausted all your own strength and peace and joy, God becomes your strength and your peace and your joy.

Strength doesn’t mean the absence of weakness but persistence in the presence of it. Peace doesn’t mean that there’s no conflict or storms, but the knowledge that God can still calm the waves and winds of your soul. Joy doesn’t mean the absence of sorrow and pain but the ultimate belief that God can transform those griefs into gold and work even the worst possible circumstances into something far more beautiful than you could ever have dreamed.

I’m resting in the strength of God tonight. Soon, I’ll go to the shelter and bring home a cat who won’t replace my Lucy but will honor her memory with all the love that’s still left to give.

God is still good, so I am still good.

 

Grief and Sadness


It sounds weird, but I feel like I’m grieving over my terminally ill cat, even though she’s still alive. The knowledge that she’ll soon be gone can sometimes be overwhelming and brings me to tears, and the sadness of it is always present.

Grief and sadness are exhausting. It seems that it takes almost superhuman energy to function on a normal level when you’re especially sad.

Also, I’ve noticed that grief makes me feel weak and small. I don’t want to adult. I just want someone to hold me and tell me that everything will magically be alright, like I’m still 9-years old.

I know everything will not be alright. I still pray for a miracle for my Lucy and will up until the last possible moment, but I’m also prepared (as much as you can be) for the worst when I have to say my final goodbyes.

Even in the midst of all the sorrow, there have still been some beautiful moments that I will cling to after the sadness passes. I will remember the way she still got in my lap, even though she was weak and sick. I will remember how she still wanted to be near me.

I cling to the promise of God that grief lasts for just a night, but joy comes in the morning. Joy is always on the other side of grief for those who see with eyes of faith.

Right now, I’m hanging on and believing in spite of everything I’m feeling. It’s been a beautiful and wonderful 17 years that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I still believe with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Sorrow will not have the last word in this or any other story.

Sadness and Joy

“Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life).

It seems like lately there is so much sadness. So many people I know are grieving over loved ones who have passed away. So many are heartsick over those they love who have received bad news from the doctor in the form of a cancer diagnosis. So many who see those close to them slipping away from Alzheimer’s or some other kind of dementia.

The sadness can feel overwhelming at times.

But there’s joy, too.

It can be hard to find, like trying to catch a glimpse of the sun on a cloudy, rainy day, but it’s there.

Joy is knowing that God can take the worst imaginable circumstances and transform them into the best possible outcome. He can truly work all things together for good, including grief and loss.

Jesus endured willingly all the shame and sorrow of the cross for the joy set before Him. So you and I can endure the seemingly unendurable because we know that in the end, death and sadness and loss and pain will not have the last word.

Joy will. Love will. God will.

 

What to Do in Light of Recent Events

Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Brent Thompson. Patrick Zamarripa. Michael Krol.  Lorne Ahrens. Mike Smith.

These are the names of the men who died recently. They were all human beings, created in the image of God. They were all people that Jesus bled and died for. That gives each one of them great worth and should merit our grief at their passing.

Based on what I heard in a sermon today, this is what I believe we should do in light of these recent tragic events.

  1. Pray. Pray a lot. I don’t mean the polite and genteel kind of praying that you do before meals or in Sunday School. I mean the kind where you come boldly before the throne of grace with sighs and groans and tears of intercession. Pray like the life of the nation depended on it, because it very well may.
  2. Don’t jump to conclusions without knowing all the facts. It’s typical to assume that a) anyone shot by a police officer must automatically be a criminal and a thug in the very act of committing a heinous crime or b) that any police officer who shots anyone of color must automatically be a racist. The mistake Job’s friends made was trying to figure out who to blame instead of trying to ease the pain of Job’s suffering.
  3. The best thing Job’s friends did throughout the story was what they did first. They sat down in silence with their friend in his grief and pain. They didn’t offer words. They offered their presence. Maybe more than all our explanations or arguments what people need from us is our comforting presence, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
  4. Confess that while we may not be racists, that’s not enough. Too many of us watch in silence and do nothing in the face of great evil. Our silence often equates to our consent of the evil. We must repent of a long history of impeding the quest for racial equality and harmony. We must do better to love our neighbors who don’t look and speak and act like us.

I must confess that I have too often rushed to hasty judgment instead of rushing to my knees in prayer. I confess that I have harbored prejudicial thoughts toward those different than I. I confess that I was one of the ones who gave consent to evil by my silence rather than speaking out against the wrong.

Lord, forgive us all. Lord, make us one as you are One. Lord, help us to love our neighbors and ourselves as you have loved us.

Amen.

 

Grief

  
I know recently we’ve had several celebrities pass away. I personally know of several friends (mostly of my parents’ age) who have lost loved ones.

Conventional wisdom says that you should grieve for an appropriate time then move on with your life.

I say (and I can’t say that I can speak from firsthand experience) that you don’t get over a loss like that. How can you go back to functioning normally with half of your heart missing?

I’ve heard adjusting to the loss of a spouse is like learning to live without one of your limbs. It requires adapting to a new normal. Nothing will ever be like it was. You will never be like you were when you were two. The hurt will never completely go away. But neither will the memories.

I also know some people who have had to bury their children. I can’t even begin to imagine how you go on after experiencing a loss like that. I suppose that only the strength God gives and that peace that passes understanding are the only things that sustain people though the death of a son or a daughter.

I can say with certainty that Jesus was well acquainted with the pain of loss. Isaiah 53 describes Him as a Man Acquainted with Sorrow and Familiar with Grief.

Above all, God knows about loss. He was the one who sacrificed His only Son so that you and I might have forgiveness and healing and life. So that death would no longer have the final say ever again.

So don’t let anybody tell you that you have to stop grieving after a certain point. If you grieve, it’s only because you had something beautiful, if only for a little while, and that’s not easy to part with. Goodbyes should never be easy.

I know in the end that nothing good and true is ever really lost. Because of Jesus and Easter, we know that death and grief and loss are only temporary. It’s love and hope and joy that are eternal.