It’s been two days since I received the phone call about the death of my brother. I haven’t cried yet.
I’m wavering between wondering if I’ve arrived at the place of assurance in the mystery, of knowing that life doesn’t come with answers to every question, or if I’m holding pain at a distance so far away I can’t recognize it.
I pull myself up on my elbows, lean into the mattress and reach for my phone. The flashing green dot alerts me to a full inbox of comments from Monday’s blog post. Condolences from the faithful, pleading heaven’s throne on my behalf and instead of consolation, I’m guilt-ridden.
Because when you sit at the card table in the other room for family meals long past your childhood, it feels wrong to be joining the family table in death, bringing friends along.
But the way you’ve offered your bare feet to walk through my grief, filling up the empty seats at the table, it’s an unexpected gift. We’ve gone out to the garage to get more chairs.
And just when I start worrying if I’ll have enough food for everyone, a friend seated around the table that I haven’t seen in years, she scoops a spoonful of casserole on her plate and leans in. She writes, “Shelly, I’m praying for you and your family, but somehow I feel led to pray for you concerning the loss of what could have been.”
Warm tears trickle down my chin and neck, drip pools into my pajama’d lap in the reading. Because when you recognize the truth, the Spirit doesn’t need you to think about it.
My brother and I woke up in separate states during childhood. We leaned into life from different angles trying to build a relationship on shared genes a few days harnessed from years of summers. I left the home of an alcoholic to enjoy a week of harmony. Wishing I could trade his life for mine. I never dreamt he would choose the lifestyle I wanted to escape.
Grief is the loss of what is.
Grief is the loss of what could have been.
Grief is the loss of what should have been.
Grief is the loss of what will never be.
Grief is loss.
I remember how You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. ~Psalm 56:8 NLT
Those tears of brokenness sliding down my face, they represent the way of awful grace. How He carries us through fragments of loss, into the hills of redemption to makes all things new. His love endures forever, even when we take our last breath.
In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. ~Aeschylus