I’ve read a ton about death and loss. Sometimes it’s been prose, sometimes poetry.
I think of Emily Dickinson, and “Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me…”
That’s pretty freaking dark. She’s talking about herself, of course, but it’s hard to say it doesn’t reflect what a person may be thinking who’s circling the drain in one way or another.
What must it be like to think of death as a kindness? I hope I don’t have to find out anytime soon.
Equally hard, I think dealing with the death or even potential death of a loved one can be just as bad.
I think the two most apt descriptions of that sort of grief come from a couple of places you wouldn’t necessarily expect: a long deceased Christian apologist and a modern heavy metal band.
Clive Staples Lewis said “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
He’s very right, and he wrote an entire book about it–about the loss of his wife–called A Grief Observed.
He wrote a bit over a hundred pages about his personal journey through loss. It’s riveting and packed with truth. He sugarcoats nothing.
Grieving isn’t easy, it’s a bitch. The Kubler-Ross 5 stages are true enough as well. Although sometimes it seems they never end. You can look that one up on your own.
So far as the heavy metal band I mentioned goes, I was talking about the band Parkway Drive. I’ve not read the complete lyrics to their song “Wishing Wells,” and don’t even know if it’s about grieving or death, but one single sentence practically leaps out at me:
You ask me how I’m coping, and I smile and tell you I’m just fine. But down inside I’m drowning in the f-ing rain…
I get that, and I wish I didn’t. But it is very much what the pain of loss feels like, or it can. It doesn’t have to. It may sound cliche, but talking about things instead of burying them inside does help. It’s ok to not be fine.
You don’t have to drown. I wish I’d realized that sooner, but that wasn’t how my personal journey played out.
Singer Matisyahu puts it like this: ask Ha-Shem for mercy and he’ll throw you a rope.
He might not have been talking about Jesus but the principle is the same. My period of grieving was like the clenched fist of a decades-long heart attack.
I was drowning, and I didn’t realize it.
Yet over those decades, the sometimes subtle and sometimes not subtle hand of Christ reached out for me, just like he reached out for Peter when he stepped out of the boat.
I’m so glad that he touched the lives of so many people so they could touch mine.
I’m so blessed.
And once I reached out for that saving hand–that life preserver–nothing was ever the same.
This is not to say that I stopped struggling to swim. I haven’t. Struggles happen, and always will.
It’s just that now, when I reach for a hand, there’s one to grasp. When I reach for a rope, there’s someone to haul me back in.
This is something you need to realize. You can reach out for that hand or that rope as well.
You don’t have to drown, even when it feels inevitable.
Ask Ha-Shem (messiah) for mercy and he’ll throw you a rope.
Reach out your hand and grasp it. Wrap it around your arm, your whole body.