It's been awhile since I have written anything here. Some of that is because I've been busy. Some is that I have so many thoughts in my head that I haven't been able to organize them into words. Now seemed like as good a time as any to actually purge some thoughts from my brain.
My grandmother passed away just a few days ago. I am profoundly sad. I'm fairly certain that this is the most significant experience of death that I have had. Definitely the most significant since my grandfather died 16 years ago. I actually feel a heaviness in my chest. In some ways, I'm glad that sadness is all I feel. I'm not angry. I've had flashes of guilt, but I don't feel guilty about anything. I'm just sad.
Of course, part of the challenge in dealing with a death in the family is balancing the sadness you feel with the sadness of others in the family. There's a selfish part of me that just wants to hoard all of the grief for myself, but that's not realistic. I guess there's enough sad to go around. Still, there's a tug of war going on between the little boy who just lost his Granny and the pastor who helps people through their grief. It's kind of a messy tug of war. Both sides are fairly stubborn. I feel compelled to keep my pastor hat on, but honestly don't think I can keep that up. In fact, I'm probably not doing nearly as good of a job of being a pastoral presence as I imagine that I am.
Theology is really important to me right now. I've realized that one's true theology becomes very apparent at times of crisis. I very much believe in an "afterlife". I believe that my grandparents are reunited right now and that makes me happy. I believe that the lives they lead were purposeful and not simply to keep the species going. I believe that I will see them again.
I also believe that God is sad too. God is able to take a long view of things and realize that things all work out, but God is also able to enter into time and realize that right now I am hurting. If I am capable of being empathetic with hurting people then God is even more so. Many have reminded me that God is with me in the midst of my suffering and I have been grateful for that reminder.
I realize that to an atheist or an agnostic (and even some Christians) that much of what I wrote above seems naive, like a weak-minded crutch. I hope that you will forgive me for needing a crutch. Grief makes you feel incredibly vulnerable. It reminds you of certain inevitabilities. It reminds me that though this may be my most significant experience of death to date, it won't be my last significant one. There will most likely be my parents, possibly siblings, good friends, maybe my wife, God forbid my children. There will be my own personal encounter with death to deal with. While I don't dwell on those things, they are real. Each will be accompanied with a significant feeling of loss.
All of that said, I am very grateful. I am grateful that my grandmother was as much a part of my life as she was. I am grateful that she showered me with unearned, unconditional love. I am grateful that she taught me to strive for excellent things. I am grateful for her finicky voice echoing in my head. I am grateful for her E.T. like ability to resurrect dying plants, which I think I may have inherited in some small quantity. I am grateful for her Steelers fanaticism which I inherited almost in its fullness. I am grateful for her wunderlust, which I think I have more of than I let on. I am grateful that she expressed her love through physical gifts that let you know that I was never far from her thoughts. I am grateful for her love expressed in gleeful hugs that communicated how glad she was to see me. I always felt like she was glad to see me...
At some point in the next couple of weeks, things will go back to "normal". I will be busy at work. My son will continue to grow and laugh and learn new things and I will be totally captivated by it. I will continue to share my life with a beautiful, funny, intelligent woman who makes me feel like life couldn't be any better. There will be continue to be good food, and good drinks, and good movies, and good music and all of things will fill me with joy. I look forward to that time, but I shouldn't rush through this time even though I'd like to. It's hard to feel sad, which is why we have so many ways to numb ourselves from sadness. Difficult as it is, I am grateful for the full range of emotions. This moment of sadness will form me if I let it. It will help me to be more available to others in the midst of their sadness. All of that will happen in time.
Right now, I'm sad.