The thing about grief . . . Part 9
This will be the final installment, at least for a while, in the grief series. I have shared that, indeed, you will laugh again even as you encounter the “firsts” without your loved one as well as some of the ugly sides of grief. But today’s thoughts come from a happier place known only by select handful.
Throughout this journey even though some days it feels contrary to reality, we have never been alone. The obvious reason is that our precious boy, Reed, didn’t die alone. He was one of four beautiful children killed that frigid February day. But that isn’t the isolation about which I am referring. While existing, exhausted with a big hole in your heart, you feel as if there is no one who cares or understands what you are going through. Definitely, not true!
So many came alongside our family and reached out in big and small ways. They gave gifts of forgotten stories, meals, and hugs. Family, friends, and strangers have come to our home and served us, offering help when the tasks were just too much for us. There have been e-mails, texts, letters, cards, and posts of encouragement. All of these have become precious pearls of memories for each of us.
Each token was worth more the item itself as it was the embodiment of hope. Too many to enumerate have become some of my most loved things. Of all the gifts that given, there is one that sticks out as quite possible the most unique. A stranger, whom we have never met, gave sacrificially every day for two years, in what has become one of the greatest gifts of my life.
Shortly after arriving home from the hospital there was a small notecard outlining her covenant with our family. In the handwritten card, she explained, years before, she had lost several family members in a tragic accident. She knew the isolation, despair, and challenges of grief intimately. Our earthly angel also knew the power of prayer – as that had pulled her through the darkest days. (I have to imagine that she too had a wonderfully supportive community.) Her covenant with our family was to pray for us every day for two years. She also must have experienced the same phenomena that the first year was hard, but that the second year was harder. I don’t really know her reasoning but she prayed us right on through that second year as well.
We didn’t hear from her daily, but every once in a while came a letter with a reminder that she was living up to her end of the arrangement. Her notes would arrive, and once again, we were bolstered by the devotion and commitment of a complete stranger. Because she gave this gift without the need for recognition, I am choosing to keep her identity private.
Her love and random daily act of kindness have been in my heart ever since the first note arrived. Her thoughtfulness was the first thing that popped into my mind when I first learned of the #26acts movement started by newswoman, Ann Curry as a way to honor the victims of the Newtown tragedy. It took me a long time to be able to even look at those sweet babies and brave adults, but when I did I knew Ann was right. One great way to help a community heal from such evil was to be purposeful in being kind and thoughtful.
My family continues our philosophy of service by quietly completing our own 26 acts. In a strange turn of events, we were, once again, the recipients of someone’s kindness when I received a glitter-filled handwritten Bible verse from an anonymous encourager. It made my day! While I have been thinking of others, someone was thinking of us.
It was at that moment that I knew how God wanted me to end this series of writings. The truth is that there are many people who tell you in the early days of grief that if you need anything just call. Well intentioned, yes. Practical, not really! Honestly, I didn’t even know my own name in those mind-numbing first moments. Yet, I still had to be a mom and a wife, running a grieving household while taking care of injured children. At that point, we could have eaten pocket lint, and it would have been fine by me. I literally had no energy left to think of calling anyone, let alone to ask for help.
To truly help someone who is grieving, don’t wait for them to call you. Call them and ask if you can watch the kids, get the groceries, walk the dog. Get creative! It is like the old Nike ads. Do Something! Anything that is a gift of time and service is usually helpful. But if you can’t, for whatever reason, give chunks of your time, can you send a note of encouragement? Can you pray? Even better, can you send those notes timed to first events the grieving family might be experiencing? Can you make a long term commitment to loving and encouraging someone who really needs your help? If experience is any teacher, the giver is the one far more blessed than the receiver -even when it comes to grieving folks.
What an incredible world it would be if every grieving family had an earthly angel just like us! I, for one, will be following her example, and that alone will be a blessing.