On Loss

The last week has been a blur.

Between the boys fighting “the crud” all week, trying to work from home (while playing nurse to my boys), attending a 2 day conference for work, and then giving a big presentation at work on Friday, my week already felt like it was flying by. Plus, we had plans to go to Virginia Friday evening to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and then go to the Virginia Tech football game on Saturday.

My alarm went off at 4:45am Friday morning, I spent some time talking to Jesus, and then went to the gym for a pretty killer workout. I rushed home like usual, and began the morning flurry of activity – you know, making lunches, cooking breakfast, showering, getting ready, picking out clothes, checking the bookbags, etc – then, curling iron poised over my head, my phone rang. I glanced down and then my heart skipped a beat because I saw Mom’s picture flashing on the screen. Phone calls before a certain time in the morning and after a certain time in the evening are never a good thing. You don’t casually call someone at 7:29am to shoot the breeze.

My mom delivered the news that my uncle had passed away in his sleep, very unexpectedly, at the age of 56. Before we go any further, let me tell you that my uncle knows the Lord and is singing praises to Him on the streets of gold right now, so while we are heartbroken that his family here gets no more earthly time with him, we are rejoicing that we will get to see him again.

It’s odd. I’ve experienced loss before, but it’s been different. My first experience with death was when a next-door neighbor passed away  during my childhood. We went to his funeral and my parents did a great job of explaining things to us and making sure we weren’t scarred from the whole ordeal. The next time I experienced loss, I was much older, and it was much closer. My best friend’s dad died after an extensive battle with cirrhosis of the liver. He had had a liver transplant and we thought maybe that would be the turning point, away from hospitals and sickness, but instead, one cold December day, I got a phone call from my mom. I remember it so vividly.

I was walking back to my dorm in the cutting Blacksburg wind, and had several textbooks in my arms. I heard her say something like “Bethany, Mr. Scott didn’t make it.” I hadn’t quite made it to the door of my room yet, and remember dropping the textbooks and papers in the middle of the hall, and crumbling to my knees. Then, gasping and crying and screaming, I sat there until my best friend came running around the corner to wrap me in her arms.

I remember thinking “Not him, not now! It’s too soon! This can’t be real. What will they do? How will they go on?” This man was like a second father to me. A man I had memories with, who was the one who seated me every Sunday morning at church when I was painfully shy when I was younger, and who more Sundays than not, sat with me instead of having someone else come be “my friend.” This man took me on multiple vacations with his family – even Disney World! How loved I felt by this man, that he would think enough of me to include me in his family’s vacation plans to the happiest place on earth.

And the worst part… the worst part was that he was madly, deeply in love with his wife, and she with him. There’s not a lot that seems more cruel than to have the one you love taken from you, far too soon. My heart ached. My heart literally hurt for her, and for my best friend and his sister. I remember being held up at the elbows by my parents at his funeral. I remember struggling to breathe and feeling as though my insides were imploding.

I remember thinking, “How will they go on after the loss of their husband/father?”

Now, more than a decade later, I’m sitting here thinking about my aunt and cousins who just lost their husband/father and I’m thinking about my own loss. Not just about my uncle, but about my own father. I’ve realized that in a very unconventional way, I have spent the last 12 years grieving the loss of my dad. I grieved him when Mr. Scott died, I’ve grieved him in every little girl holding her daddy’s hand, and I’m grieving him again now, with the loss of my uncle. My dad isn’t dead, but I have mourned the loss of our relationship. It’s taken over 12 years, but I think I’m finally able to recognize this.

As I have prayed for my aunt over the last few days, I have practically begged God for His supernatural comfort and peace to overtake her. I have realized that grief is a long, slow, and very painful process. You can drown in the “why’s” and “how is this real?”s and the despair can suffocate you. I hope you’ll join me in covering my aunt and my cousins in prayer. Tomorrow, when we bury him, it will be a difficult day, but not the most difficult, because then Tuesday will come, and then Wednesday, and each day after.

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