Learning Grief

What is grief? I've never been too close to death. I can only begin to imagine the pain of losing someone who is a part of my every day. But I am quickly approaching the age where death is starting to just happen around me. Everywhere. People leave. They leave this world. They leave us here to remember them. We know they will never be back. Somehow the pain of knowing this wells up within us in a flood of memories. The end of who they are on Earth has come. They will no longer add to their story. There is an ending. We are afraid we will forget. We are compelled to celebrate their completed story, all the while feeling the devastation and finality of mortality. We shoulder the weight of what they won't contribute to the world. An abrupt halt of life and yet we saw so much more for them.

I'm slowly becoming acquainted with grief little by little. But I have yet to feel the sledge hammer that comes when someone very close is lost. If I can survive it, it will happen to me. That's the way it works, I believe. Meanwhile, I lose a few loved figures of my identity. A couple of friends' moms and my all-time favorite mainstream singer/songwriter. I was hit unexpectedly hard with grief. It's like the dark reality of death finally busted down my door again and a few brushed-away tears weren't enough. Having no close experience with loss makes me sensitive to it, perhaps.

But death is temporary. Really, people just move on before us but they can't tell us what's there. I strangely float between jealousy and mourning. But mostly, I think, grief is having to let go. All those expectations and hopes vanish. The empty places where they might still have been, make the memories of when they were there painful. It's missing out on the story.

There are many levels of grief. Closing a casket on a loved one is a deep grief I've yet to fully endure. Closing a book after spending weeks with fictional characters is a shallow grief. It's just practice. Walking out of a theatre after intense emotional connection to actors is also a small grief and shallower still. More practice. We take the memories from entertainment with us and pull them out of our back pocket brains as long as they'll hold together. But the memories of real people who knew us and loved us in return, this get engrained.

But what's gone is gone here. Time passes and grass grows over graves. Bodies that were once warm and full of magnificent life are empty and cold, becoming part of the ground around them. It's so wrong. Hands that once gave loving touches become crooked like roots. Bones that no longer move with the grace of a dancer crumble like white clods of earth. The person is long gone from it. They've only left their pieces and headstone behind as a memory of who once dwelt here with us.

It's a clear message from eternity. The message whispers that these bodies are merely instruments used for the glory of their Creator. They were never intended to contain the entire story of their inhabitant. They are merely the introduction to existence. This life is only the preface to the actual Life. It's where God gives us a start and so many chances too fail. This shadow sparks our appetite for something more and something real. So many generations before us believed rightly that there is a world beyond this one. It's the hunger in our souls that is never satisfied here.

There's so much that I don't know about grief. But as I learn in small ways and am prepared for the agony of loss I can remember the greatness we were created for. Death is the ultimate evidence that we need God. It's the flaming sword that keeps us from the Tree of Life. The only way to Him is through the fire. The only way to survive the fire is by going in with Jesus.


My Healer - A Poem

My Healer

Where are you, my healer?
The salve of my wounds
The rest in my breast

These hands, alone
holding each other
while murmurs of grace slide past
ears sunk in memories
muffles in a white tub
me, only breathing

Where are you, my healer?
The bed of warmth
The grip of embrace

A company, myself
to touchstones, go out
with a pair of feet lonely together
eyes, two reaching arms
in the dark of waiting
me again, just hoping

Where are you, my healer?
The ending sweet
The promised balm

No motion but mine
waves still with no moon
hollow echoes from too near walls
vast the empty splayed out
life leaving what fell where
just me, to walk through it

Where are you, my healer?
The balanced act
The stable quiver

The seconds drop away 
piling up on other days
dust rests on the humbled forgotten
content to thrum on, on
beneath calm distractions
lies an unexpected peace

(C)2017 Diana Blackwood


Blessed Defeat

It's like we're in a cold war between God and the devil. God the Father oversees everything that happens in this war and strategically places His obedient children where He feels they need to be. You'd think that He would put the best and brightest in the positions that offer advantage over the enemy. But more often that not, it seems, He makes them sit humbly on the sidelines and watch as the weaker ones head blindly into the fray.

These young and fragile people are sent into the heart of the turmoil almost completely unarmed. But they go in believing they can fight. They march forward feeling proud to have made it to the front lines. It isn't long before they see the carnage and the awful power of the opposing forces. But by then it's too late. Reality hits hard.

From our perspective God doesn't do war very well. He seems to be working with the enemy rather than against him. He sends in a child with a sling to do a warrior's work. We all know how that particular giant went down, but what about Job? God's up in heaven taking bets from the enemy of our souls. Job is down on earth wrestling with incomprehensible pain from loss and disease. His words are recorded in detail as he's abandoned or accused by people he once trusted. He knows it's all God's doing; that God the Father allowed it and led him into it. A once powerful and prosperous man sitting in a heap, scraping his rotting skin.

Prophets, Judges, Kings, Apostles... we have them as examples. They start out thinking they've been bestowed a great earthly honor. Soon they see what they'll have to suffer for His sake. All of the stalwart fighters in God's army are given more than they can handle. Little by little God pushes them further into the impossible realm of adversity. They become spectacles marching, hands tied, at the end of the parade. They are objects of pity to onlookers.

How can it be that these suffering and tortured can continue to believe in a loving God? And they do! Not only is their faith unshaken, it's fortified by the misfortune they endure. Trusting in God has meant more hardship for His children. The initial rush to the front lines with heady recklessness sends us crawling back with a deep knowledge of our inadequacy. Where do we come back to? The open arms of our King and the healing salve of His love.

God's wisdom guides us in a specifically tailored path that is just for us. When we continually trust Him, we find ourselves. We find ourselves broken, lacking, filthy, and in desperate need. God isn't in the business of giving us self-esteem. He's designed our lives to show us the truth about ourselves so that we may esteem Him above all. Once we see how He fulfills each gaping depravity, we are in awe of Him!

Human beings are all soldiers. We all fight for something or for someone. Whatever cause we are for, we become strengthened to endure it. Where does your strength come from? For whom do you fight? Can your cause pull you through the most horrific circumstance you can imagine? God has shown Himself faithful to pull me through hell's atomic flames unscathed. All that is around me may go up in a blast, but who I am will remain intact. Each time I'm overtaken and defeated, trust in my own abilities dies a little more. I'm rescued and in awe of the One who saves me.