We were moving my sister into her dorm room for her first year of college after moving me into my first ever apartment, when my parents got the call that my Papa was in the hospital after a fall. It was the first of many calls over the next few months as his health steadily declined until his passing just before Thanksgiving. It’s been a year and a half but sometimes I wonder if I ever really processed his death. He is the first family member I have lost and while I have lost other people before this kind of grief was new to me.
I became numb. Honestly, I am still numb.
Five year old Leah could probably explain to you why death happens. I had a pretty good grasp and understanding of sin and death from a young age. That often happens when you grow up in Church and at a Christian school. People die because of sin. There it is, matter of fact, but devoid of emotion. Tucked in a nice little package to be worried about another time. Except my emotions are bursting at the seams. Death hurts. I miss my Papa. I wish I had let myself grieve when he passed but I didn’t know how to. It was easier to just say “Well death happens because of sin, he was old, and now he is with Jesus,” than it was to unpack the layers of emotions that come with death. And somehow I have stayed stuck like that for the last year and a half. Surface level. Matter of fact. Don’t feel too much or you’ll burst.
As I get closer to my wedding, my fear of death has steadily increased. Not necessarily fear of myself dying, but fear of family dying. I don’t know what to do with my thoughts about death, but they are overwhelming. Both Brandon (my fiance) and I have family members with cancer diagnoses that are less than promising. I’ve found myself saying things like “All of my people just need to live X more days and I’ll be okay.” And yet, death never comes at opportune times — well in our plans that is. There is always something to look forward to, something planned, that gets interrupted by the loss of life. Death is never convenient. I can’t control what happens next, how much time our family members have, or who will or won’t make it to my wedding, or my siblings graduation, or the next milestone whatever that may be. I can only cling to the truth of knowing that Jesus conquered sin and death and that one day death will be no more.
Until then I pray.
Dear Jesus, death…overwhelms me. It hurts. I am afraid. I don’t know how to walk through the gray space and uncertainty of the next few months. Help me. Hold me. Be my strength and my guide.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” – Revelation 21:4 NLT
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. – Psalm 73:26
If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. – Romans 14:8 NLT