Saturday, April 18, 2009


1: to perform (a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites <celebrate the mass>
2 a
: to honor (as a holiday) especially by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business b: to mark (as an anniversary) by festivities or other deviation from routine

A sweet woman (T, for our purposes) passed away a few weeks ago. In about an hour, we will gather to celebrate her life. I have mixed emotions about calling this ceremony a celebration, but I'll admit that reading celebrate as "honoring by solemn ceremony" changes my thoughts on that a bit. It's been difficult in the days since T's passing to find an acceptable way to express sorrow in losing her and joy that her prayers were answered and she was able to lead a normal life right up until she died.

I am not sad for T. It was a blessing that she was spared more pain from cancer and that her family was spared seeing her become not herself, but a vessel for a raging disease. Throughout her illness, T had a sweet spirit and peace about her. So I am not sad for her.

I am sad for her daughters, her husband and the rest of us left here without her. I am sad that when her daughters experience joyful times later in their lives like graduations, marriages, the births of children, these events will be tinged with sadness. Because at the highest points in their life, there will be a missing shadow that is not their mother watching them with glowing eyes. I know these sweet girls are secure in their mother's love for them, but I do not feel ashamed to cry for them and their loss.

Yet I have felt a quickness to move past grief to acceptance and celebration from many, many people at our church, especially those close to this family. And while I am thankful to have known T, I am sad for myself that she is gone. Her daughters are older than mine and she is someone whose parenting style I respected and admired. I would have asked her for advice on how to live life with daughters. I would have had her family over for dinner to let my girls see that whatever stage they are in, it will pass. I would have sought her wisdom and learned from her experience. But she is gone, so I can't do these things. And while I will go publicly honor her in a short while, I will also mourn her loss.

Grief is hard for me because I do not like to feel things intensely and I can not think about this and not feel. A part of me wants to be like the others in my community who are moving past (or just skipping over) the pain of loss, but when I think about who T was, I think she would want me to go ahead and feel what I am feeling in remembering her. I remember a friend saying on the Sunday after T's passing, "Why am I so sad?" And I thought to myself, "Because it is sad." It is a tragedy that T is gone, that a disease took her from us and that we have to go on without her.

So I'll close now and go get dressed to solemnly celebrate T's life. But I am left with questions that will go unanswered, many of them that start with the word "why."


RBM said...

I have a lot of "why" questions also after the recent experience with my dad. Also while I was home last week, I visited Silas' grave with his mother and grandmother. Some of my questions are: Why are some tumors benign and others malignant? Why did my dear friends lose their 3-year-old child and grandchild and others never have to experience such tragedy? I think of these as more ‘heart’ questions, because my head knows there are not answers. I believe that coming to terms with the randomness of life is a part of life (and grief) itself. Our society doesn’t encourage healthy expressions of grief, rather we all tend to be encouraged to put on a brave face, move on, and not mention our grief. But it is important to remember our departed loved ones and honor our feelings. Our church here in Louisiana lists deaths under the heading “The Church Triumphant.” I love this reminder that we rejoice that they are now with the host of saints, but are saddened by our own loss of their beautiful presence in our lives.

WordGirl said...

After writing this post, I went to T's celebration. For me, it struck just the right note between celebrating her life and mourning our loss. The pastor talked about grieving with hope, which was a great way to encapsulate my feelings in just three words.

I was pleased to hear him affirm the need to grieve our loss of T, while not losing sight of the hope that we still cling to.

I also agree with RBM that many (if not all) of my "Why" questions are heart questions because I will not ever know the answers. I think the important thing for me is to find a safe place to go ahead and ask the questions out loud, not expecting answers.

RBM said...

I completely agree with you. It's so important to feel safe to go ahead and ask our "why" questions, even though we may know there are no answers. Also, what a wonderful phrase your pastor used at the memorial celebration. It sounds as if it was very meaningful and hopeful for your whole congregations.

Chris and Tiana said...

I'm struggling with a lot of "why" questions right now also, and I think I'm at a place now where I feel like maybe there is no answer other than the fact that we just live in a fallen world and life is sometimes very hard. I still believe that God can work every situation, even our suffering, for our good and for His glory, but maybe there is no "reason" why bad things happen except that it's just a consequence of sin (not any sin in particular, just sin in general- a consequence of the fall). Basically it just sucks, but if nothing else it makes me hope in the knowledge that heaven will be so much greater than this life.

Variations On A Theme said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm baffled by grief and very grateful I haven't had much of it to experience in the way of loved ones dying. Peace to you.