Arriving at the three year mark has felt different than the previous two years. It has reminded me of the days when our children were babies, and we had to transition from saying they were “weeks old” to “months old” to “years old.” Some of you will know what I am talking about.
Someone would ask you how old your baby was, and you’d pause. You’d realize that it sounded silly to say 17 weeks old. It was time to accept reality. Your baby wasn’t a newborn! It was time to transition to months. And then, years.
That is what has been happening in us. It hasn’t been “just a few months” or “just last year” since John died. We’ve made it through three years. We now have begun our fourth year. We aren’t new to this anymore, but we don’t feel “this old.”
As time drew near our family began to talk about how we were feeling. Our children had some very honest insights. Here are excerpts from conversations with three of our children:
“It’s kind of scary to get further from dad’s death. You don’t want to get further from it (because it means the distance between him & us is growing), but at the same time you want to put as much distance between you and his death as you can.” – third daughter
“Three gets clumped with five. It isn’t 1-2 years anymore, now it has been 3-5 years. And 5 is a really long time.” – second daughter
“It is easier but weird. I can’t believe we’ve made it this long without him.” – middle school son
And our oldest daughter wrote this on her blog:
It is the three year anniversary (is there a better word than anniversary – it seems far too celebratory) since my dad died suddenly of an aneurysm while on a run.
Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Three years since my life (and my family’s life) screeched, halted, restarted, redefined, redesigned, and resumed.
We are not broken or disabled. We are able to live with our scars. Our bruised hearts don’t show through our eyes and our laughter comes genuinely from our hearts.
Psalm 116: The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Death is hard and unfair and awful in every sense. There were days (and probably will be days) where the grief felt too much for me to carry. And The Lord did as he promised.
He came near in ways I don’t have the vernacular to explain. He filled my heart with peace and gave me the ability to find a new identity in him. He preserved me and saved me from the depths of despair.
John 16: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy
Since March 8, 2012, I have been in a time of mourning. With that mourning comes anger, bitterness, confusion, doubt, and moments of forgetting or distracting myself from the reality of my pained heart. And, simultaneously, the fun, terrifying, beautiful, confusing, most wonderful adventure of being 18, 19, now 20 and in college.
Life is not linear or comfortable and death (and grieving) is never convenient.
Lamentations 3:21-25 But this I call to mind,and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him.
I am not screaming in anger and confusion and hurt anymore. Instead, I feel sorrow. Screaming cripples and is all consuming. Sorrow comes and goes and can accompany the good and beautiful in life (and I have plenty of that as well).
I’m learning, slowly, to accept the bitter and the sweet and no longer fight against the reality of hurt. I don’t understand and I never will. And there will be days of confusion and anger, but I know I will survive.
Psalm 68:4-6 Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
And I know I have an awesome dad who wouldn’t want me to scream and fight and argue with God for the rest of my life. So, that’s where I’m at today. And I know that I don’t have to fear tomorrow.
Psalm 34:1-5 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant,and their faces shall never be ashamed.
Looking to the Lord together,
Maria & family