There was vomit on the carpet…and my face was so very close to it. Something was wrong. Very wrong.
It was all I could manage. Pushing myself up from the wet carpet and back to lean against the bed.
Jake is gone. He’s gone.
I know that Jason was in the room but for the life of me I still can’t remember where he was standing. I have no recollection of where he was but I knew he was there.
“We have to call Dad.”
I knew that he needed to know but the thought of telling my father that his only son was dead felt like a punch in the gut and I began to gag again, down on all fours like an infant who didn’t have the ability to stand and run to the bathroom.
Everything was and still is a messy, inaccurate blur. From the moment I heard my mom sobbing at the other end of the line and then my aunt’s voice trying to find the right words to explain to me why…I recall very little but the feeling of complete chaos and devastation.
Jake is gone. He’s gone.
We have to go. My mom needs me. I don’t know what to pack. I don’t know what to do. What is happening? Why is this happening? We have to tell the kids. Where are my shoes? Please, don’t touch me. Why is there vomit on the carpet? We have to get plane tickets. What about the pets? Who’s going to watch the kids? Where are my shoes?! Who is going to clean up the puke on the carpet? I don’t know what to pack. This can’t be happening.
Of all of the things I do remember about those first shocking, intrusive, horrific, and gut-wrenching moments after being smacked in the face with a loss, it is the chaos that stands out the most. I’ve grieved grandparents who helped raise me, my larger-than-life baby brother, two children that would never take their first breath, and the father of two of my children. Chaos was the constant in every experience: chaos and the cruel requirement to keep moving.
Death is never the end. It would be simpler and I think maybe even less painful if it were, but grieving is busy work that requires us to get up and keep moving. There are questions to be answered—so many questions and a great majority of them don’t originate with you. And most of them feel torturous and cruel when we are already standing in the midst of hell.
- How did it happen?
- What can we do to help?
- Who else do we need to call?
- What funeral home will you be using?
- Did the deceased want to be buried or cremated?
- What day and time is the service?
- Can we come by later to bring you food?
- What kind of music will be played?
- Who will write the eulogy?
- Who will officiate the service?
- Can I have something to remember them by?
- What’s the address for the vital statistics office?
- Is there anything you need?
- Who is going to take all the flowers? What about the food?
- How would you like to pay for this?
And these are just the questions.
Sprinkled among them are the statements from well-meaning friends and strangers, the flood of texts and voicemails and Facebook messages from people you barely know. The countless cards and gift baskets sent to comfort in some small way. The beyond-the-grave messages from people who just “thought that you should know.”
Let me very clear here…I am INCREDIBLY grateful for every outpouring of love and compassion and kindness that my family and I have received with every loss. I fully understand that these small things are the only things a person can do to help in a helpless situation. But in that moment, they are difficult to accept and process. If for no other reason than the fact that they remind us again and again that something has gone horribly wrong. Especially when the loss was unexpected.
The business of living in a world without the one we love, the process of releasing assumptions and dreams of what we always thought would be, takes priority in our hearts and minds. It is all we can do to get up and keep moving. Yet, somehow we find ourselves tapping into a source that firmly reminds us every day to “GET UP” and do the next thing, whatever the next thing may be.
Anytime I get the privilege of sharing my story or connecting with someone who has experienced loss or grief, I get asked the same thing…
How did you get through it?
And every time, my answer is the same…
I didn’t do it alone.
It is that simple. Not once did I do it alone. I’m not just talking about the amazing family & friends that held me upright and fed my family and ensured that I had wine and prayers to spare or the strangers that offered up compassion and encouragement along the way.
I am referring to the inexplicable peace and strength that comes from my relationship with God. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to consider the business of grief in my own life and the anchor that has kept me secure when all hell is breaking loose around me is the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Now – if you are not a Christian, or if you are only “Christian-ish,” this may not sit well with you. I get it. There have certainly been moments in my life where I’ve been in the middle of incredible pain and loss where the very idea of God was bitter and unpalatable. Moments when “a God who could let something like this happen is no God I want to know.”
It’s always easy to make such a bold statement when we don’t know Him.
For those of us who do know Him, or who spend their lives seeking to know Him more, we have a different perspective. We understand that the will of God is never death or loss or pain or separation, but life and hope and love and joy. And when we know the desires of His heart and have faith in our place and purpose in this world, we see things differently. Our awareness of our own humanity is amplified in the presence of God’s divinity. And, for myself, I have discovered that my grief often pales in comparison to God’s promises.
“Hear, O Lord, be gracious and show favor to me;
O Lord, be my helper.
You have turned my mourning into dancing for me;
You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”
-Psalm 30:10-12 (AMP)
That small voice in my head and heart that prodded me to Get Up was not my own. It was not some sort of superhuman strength or feat of will that enabled me to muscle through the business of grief. It was the Holy Spirit of God reminding me that while the business of grief was my immediate reality, the business of living was my eternal purpose. I was made for life, even when death tried its damnedest to convince me otherwise. I was created to get up and move forward into the promises and purpose for my life, even when it gets difficult and painful and seemingly impossible to do so.
I wish I could end this post with some deep wisdom that would wrap this up neatly and reconcile the gap between loss & life, but I can’t. And I refuse to even try. It’s insulting to both of us. The only thing that I am confident in is that the only way I have been able to put one foot in front of the other and get up and on with the business of living is by the grace and mercy of God. It is a process: a painful and intentional process but it is a possible process.