- My father
- My mother
- My last living grandmother
- Two grandfather-in-laws
- And a grandmother-in-law
- Two first cousins
- An aunt
- And a best friend
This doesn't include the passing of an elder, and friend, from my church recently and a beloved college professor -- both dying this summer.
When you experience grief in all its fury, you think -- or at least I did -- that you understand all there is to know about it, mainly because the first months of grief feel all over the place. Surely I've experienced every emotion, every thought grief could produce. Yet, a dozen funerals later -- and, no doubt, dozens more to go -- I confess I know little about grief, except that it is unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Grief goes from being a stranger who will not leave you be, forcing weird emotions on a whim, to something you tolerate, hoping he will take the hint. Grief is in one instance an enormous sense of comfort and closeness and the container of deep loss and regret the next. Grief enters as a stranger but settles in to be a constant companion. You get used to his smells and habits and intrusion. Dare I say: Grief becomes a friend.
Eight years seems like a massive amount of time. I've welcomed two daughters my dad never knew. I've lived a lot of life. I'm due for a conversation with my mom, now nearly five years since her death. And for sure I yearn to catch up with my Bethany, nearly three years gone.
Saying the years out loud stirs me, reminding me of all that has been lost, all the years "without." However, it also means I am one year closer to these losses being redeemed -- eight years closer to all things being made new and right and good. My good buddy grief keeps reminding me of that. And for that, I'm thankful.