Passing Through

I passed the first apartment we shared
I slowed down to see our old balcony
Two lifetimes ago
I barely remember the young bride
Fresh off the boat from the great white north
Who called that place home
Whatever happened to her?
Now it feels foreign, like it was all a dream

But things keep passing through this world

And then there’s hospice
The immense sadness seeps into its walls
A constant reminder that death is unfair
The process is unfair
The tsunami of emotion
Left wallowing in the unfillable hole it leaves in its wake
Is also unfair
An essay said our culture doesn’t acknowledge death for what it is:
A part of life
We view it as a complete failure of medical intervention
My medical training causes me to struggle with this
Nothing is spared from death
Even the hopes for the future dashed against the jagged rocks of reality

Death and grief come passing through in many forms

“I have some bad news,” he said. “She died and it was suicide”
It took awhile register
There wasn’t a dry eye when it was announced
We commiserated through tears
The fallout hit swiftly

And so, we sit in grief
It’s uncomfortable to us Americans
We pull ourselves up by the bootstraps
And manifest destiny our way through the wearying times
“Because Jesus, you guys!”
And somehow
We’re suppose to smile through our tears and give glory to God
Avoiding the uncomfortable bit that is processing our loss
Because it gets ugly
It is completely burdensome
Without any order
And logic? There is none
It Instagrams terribly
A direct hit to the happy, clappy Christendom we built here
Where they want to look past your pain because it is uncomfortable
It clashes with their happy, clappy way of life
As if being healthy, wealthy, and wise were fruits of the Spirit

But grieving is needed
So needed
To heal mind, body, and soul
In its own time
In its own way
In its own place

I grieved for two years
I did not know what I was experiencing was grief
Until a therapist told me that’s what it was

The scar tissue will form
Someday
In its own time

Grief, like death
Is just passing through
It is not the final say, yet it remains

But grieve
Grieve
Until your heart falls out
Your Father in Heaven will catch it with His loving hands.

The Prequel to Heaven

“Grandma Beth died,” my husband informed me. She was the widowed mother of a relative – I had never met her – but one of her cookie recipes was a staple in my kitchen.

“Oh no, what happened?”

“It was all very unexpected. The crazy part is when her daughter found her, they say she had been dead on the kitchen floor for almost four days.”

I blinked. Holy cow. That’s how I’m supposed to go. Statisticlly, someday I’ll be a childless widow who will be found when the neighbors complain about the smell of my decomposing corpse. But this woman? I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. She lived in the same town her entire life, birthed five kids (one of which still lived in town), had a score of grandchildren, friendships, and connections – and yet she died alone and no one knew for days. Not to say having someone there could have prevented her death – but I wish her story didn’t end like that. I thought those things only happened to us introverts without kids type.

Sometimes death comes without warning and you don’t have time to assemble your nearest and dearest around you as you cross over to the other side. 

Since getting our living will and last testament notarized earlier this year, I’m much more aware of death – perhaps more so than when I worked in the ER. It’s personal now and not just something that happens to other people or something to worry about someday. It could happen tomorrow. It could happen 65 years from now. I’m prepared either way.

My friend Ruth and I joked that we’d move in together when we were old ladies, á la Golden Girls. With my older husband and her single status, who would care for us and watch out for us in our twilight years? Neither of us have children.

It’s no longer a joke. It’s a jump plan. 

When the days come where living alone is too difficult to navigate, we’re becoming the Golden Girls and taking care of each other by living under the same roof. Even if Ruth marries and has kids and my husband lives to see 100, there will be room in my home and life to care for friends. All the Golden Girls had kids, yet they still needed each other in the day to day. The ability to live in community is so important and I don’t think that changes as we age. If anything, it exacerbates the need for connection. The ability to check in and and care for friends is paramount. Who knows what kind of world we’ll be living in when our hair is silver; I’ve already decided how I am going to live, come what may.

A lot of it will probably consist of sitting on the back porch sipping tea, musing over a Bible verse that has been read 1,000 times over the course of our lives, but today it has a new meaning. We’ll celebrate holidays and birthdays – we’ll be that house that is always open to anyone who needs a family.

I’ve already started living into these rhythms. We’ve hosted all sorts of people throughout the years – from a wayward Kiwi making her way back home to a sweet German tourist to a gay pastor to hurricane refugees without shelter – not to mention last year, my house seemed to be the spot for friends to process a divorce; I was happy to share my space for healing.

My guest room is always ready. You never know who the Lord will send your way in a moment’s notice.

Someday, my doors will propped open for friends who are recast as family when our lives wane into the sunset years. Instead of coming over for the afternoon, they may become permanent fixtures as we figure out this growing older thing together.

God willing, no one in my circle will die alone.

I won’t have kids, grandkids, or great-grandkids. I’ll have to rely on my friends to support me as well. We’re all in this together: might as well set out another chair and deal you in when you’re ready.