I’ll never forget the look on Daniel’s face as I wrapped the towel around me after having taken a shower on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, 2012. You never forget the moment you hear words that brutally shake the world as you have known it. Or when you get “that” call, or have a conversation that pulls the rug completely out from under you.
Daniel wrapped my bathrobe around me as I backed away, knowing from the tears in his eyes that I didn’t want to hear whatever he was about to tell me. And then he said, “There’s been an accident on the farm. It’s your Daddy. They don’t know if he’s going to make it.”
I crumpled to the floor in shock, not fully understanding what I had just heard. The next call came within minutes, confirming the worst. My sixty-two-year-old, completely healthy Daddy was killed while cutting down a massive tree on our family farm. And there was absolutely nothing I could do to change it. He was just gone.
Death is an unavoidable part of life. We know that it is coming for all of us and those we love, but we’re still devastated when it touches our lives. Anyone who has lived much life at all has experienced loss to some degree or another. The loss of health, a relationship, a job, home, dream, pet, or a baby, or a loved one can leave us devastated and emotionally vulnerable in the relationship that is closest to us… our marriage. Since no one processes grief the same, it’s so important to have grace on each other as we navigate our loss together. We have to strike the delicate balance of giving each other space to mourn in our own way, while continuing to press into, rather than alienating ourselves from our spouse.
When we walk through tragedy, our illusion of control is shattered. In that season, we are left with only a couple of options. We can either withdraw from the Lord and our spouse, encasing ourselves in pain. Or, we can draw strength and life from God’s promised presence. He tells us in Psalm 34:18 that He is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” This is a truth that I was enveloped in while grieving the loss of my Daddy. An old hymn I learned in childhood had been rearranged and made popular again during that season of my life. One particular portion of “Cornerstone” ministered to me during my darkest hours.
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
I was profoundly impacted by the foundation of faith that had been built before I ever knew how much I would need it. When the storm assailed, my anchor truly held. His presence was real. He bent close and tenderly carried me through my brokenness. I pressed in and found that the Comforter IS who He says He is. His Spirit is always near, but sometimes we need tangible proof that God’s arms are around us. I experienced that through my husband.
When there are simply no words to match the pain, don’t underestimate the power of the simple gift of presence. Daniel showed me immeasurable compassion by allowing me to grieve Daddy’s loss in my own way and at my own pace. He let me talk when I needed to talk, cry when the dam burst, and sit in silence when the words ran dry. At the end of his long workdays, he cooked meals, cleaned our home, fed, bathed, and entertained our toddlers, as life motion-blurred around me. I never heard one complaint. I never felt contempt. Just grace. No matter how a person processes loss, they need the gifts of presence and grace.
Heartache, loss, and grief inevitably find each of us. We can allow ourselves to be swallowed up, turning our hearts stone-cold toward God and those around us. Or we can vulnerably pour out our sorrow, granting our tears permission to water and deepen our roots and relationships. Our prayer for you and ourselves is that we are somehow able to choose the latter.
To you, Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Enjoying the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie