Sometimes you don’t have an explanation for it. It defies reason. It defies logic. It’s no respecter of time or appointments. It doesn’t take into consideration conversations you’re needing to have, situations you’re needing to save-face for. Grief. Agonizing, gut-wrenching grief.
I was driving out of my neighborhood this Tuesday evening heading to an appointment and it pummeled me. Out of no where. There was no warning, no indicator it was coming. Just a wave of sadness and despair that immediately led to a face-distorting, “I hope no one is watching this,” ugly cry. There wasn’t even a trigger.
I drove from the northwest side of the city to the southeast side, straight through downtown reflecting on why I was hit with such a torrent when I hadn't shed a tear in 3 full weeks.
Maybe it was from spending the Fourth of July weekend without Amanda. All the memories together of the pool, sun-bathing, grilling out, and year after year of sitting on a blanket cheek to cheek as we gazed up at the mesmerizing downtown fireworks display. Those are the moments that make a hopeless romantic want to pause time and make the reality of never sharing them with her again unbearable.
Maybe it was all the pressure of life as I now know it mounting on me. Trying to deal with being a single parent, getting settled into a new home, finding a new routine of life, re-calibrating my leadership wit to point our growing congregation in a new direction, responding to the challenges of our leaders, and finding the strength to continue to carry Amanda’s story and legacy.
Maybe it was the feelings of inadequacy as I think about raising Weston without Amanda. Or the newfound discovery that he’s beginning to understand the void in both of our lives. He kept pressing the home button on my phone Monday night to catch another glimpse of the picture of he and Amanda that I have set as my lock screen. “Mommy!” he squealed. “That’s right buddy! And who is with mommy?” (hoping he’d answer with his own name as he recognized his one year old self). “Jesus! Mommy wit Jesus!”
Maybe it was because Tuesday evenings used to be family night. Amanda was vigilant about keeping them sacred. She would never let us schedule anything on our calendar for Tuesday nights. After long days pouring out to people on Sunday, pushing through the Monday spiritual hang-over coupled with a late-night leadership meeting, and writing all day Tuesdays, Tuesday nights were the first time in 3 days we were able to take a breath. To slow time down and just be a family. On summer nights like tonight we would have put our lawn chairs out at the end of the driveway while Weston would run around the cul-de-sac. We’d wave at neighbors as they walked by with their dogs and strollers, secretly hoping they didn’t stop to talk to us because were were “peopled-out,” but also secretly hoping we could strike up a conversation to invite them to church. Amanda and I would smile at each other because we knew what each other was thinking when someone would stop to talk to us.
So maybe there were some triggers after all.
I arrived at my appointment on the southeast part of the city to visit friends who had just had their first baby. Seeing them embrace the new role of parents made me so proud of them, and yet I couldn’t stop thinking about that same season in our life after having Weston. The gal asked me about all my recent travels and speaking engagements and what exciting things God was doing with Amanda’s story. Then she asked me what I was looking forward to next. In that moment tears flooded my eyes because on a normal Tuesday evening at 6pm the thing I used to look forward to the most were those Tuesday night family nights. In that moment a terrifying feeling came over me. I don't have anything to look forward to next.
Grief. Waves of it. Tsunamis. Torrents. The realization that nothing will ever be the same.
Sometimes when these moments creep up on me I resent them. I should be past this by now. I should be able to handle questions like that. I thought I’d gone through all the mourning a human being could endure. Am I doing something wrong? Am I not healing? Why does the passage of time only remind me more of how much I miss her? Why do I constantly think of all the new memories we’re missing out on?
But when I really sit and reflect, I think moments like this are part of God’s grace in seasons of grief. I’ve had probably a dozen or so moments like this since Amanda went to be with Jesus. They always hit with such unexpected ferocity and intensity that I wonder if God allows them to be spaced out over the passage of time for a reason. If I had experienced the full weight of the grief of losing Amanda from the outset it would have crushed me. No it probably would have literally killed me. There is no way my emotional and physical faculties would have been able to handle that kind of agony.
Waves of grief.
As I drove home suddenly the song on my iPhone changed. A new cadence and brighter more hopeful tone filled my car. At that very moment the sun began to peak out from behind the clouds and I drove past one of the most beautiful fawns I’ve ever seen in my life leaping into the woods. I know it sounds a cheesy, but in a single moment a peace came over me, one that surpasses my understanding. And I felt the same thing that has always followed these waves of grief - a little wave of grace. I do have something to look forward to next. God brought me Amanda Grace when I wasn’t expecting it. Who knows what other waves of Grace he has in store for Weston and me around the corner. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, He knows how much this hurts and He hurts when we hurt. He’ll bring the healing salve of grace as readily and unexpectedly as the grief hits. I just have to brace myself for both and keep running toward the roar.