Chapter 23: Allow Time for Grief
Allow Time for Grief
They told me Mama wouldn’t die. They were wrong.
She did. Mama died. I was nineteen years old and needed her alive.
Since her death, I have faced much grief. Through your own life, you have faced much grief. The sad stories, the funeral services, the dreaded reports, the depressing realities.
I write about Mama and talk about Mama. Often. I miss her. Deeply. I wanted her here—to see me, to see my wife, to see my children, to see my grandchildren.
I wish I had been better prepared for her death. I wish more people had convinced me that my faith might not get her healed, but it might be the therapy I need for survival after her passing. Maybe they tried to. Maybe I am still learning. Maybe decades later I am still grieving.
But I’ve learned to be okay with not always being okay or feeling okay or expecting everything to fit my definition of okay. I’ve learned to welcome grief. I’m continuing to learn to grieve well.
You’ve noticed the stories of death in this book. Narratives in the past tense surface in the present tense. Finding equilibrium in the storms of grief isn’t a simple process. I can’t offer a few steps to take which remove the hurt. Ideas and suggestions, yes. But no magic formula. No quick fix. Just stories of my own life when taking jagged steps through this twisted life.
To me, those stories resemble photo albums. They’re doing that for me now as I read journal entries from my past and rewrite them for this chapter. Let them do that for you as you read my stories and think about your own.
I am remembering the day when DaddyO—my father-in-law, Stan Oliver, Sr.—was in the hospital. After a surprising stroke, he spent five days there before he died. In my original journal I wrote, “when he entered his new home.” For now and for this, I wanted to write differently. Yes, he entered a new home. For this, I want to say he died. He did. Though we believe in eternal life, we also know death is real.
We spent those five days there with him—watching and praying and talking and waiting.
We aren’t spending any days with him now—just remembering, while thankfulness and sadness merge together like notes in the same key.
My mind’s movie clips dash from hearing DaddyO struggle to communicate in his final days to hearing the way his voice would previously sing, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” When he drove his vehicle very fast to when he drove very slowly. When he firmly disagreed with umpires’ strike zones to hearing his voice answer the phone with his unique, “Hello.” Listening to his laugh that made everyone else laugh. My brain turns pages rapidly, revealing a variety of moods—family together for Christmas, gatherings when our sons were so young, a swimming pool keeping us cool in the Florida heat, more meals, more ball games, more songs.
Death doesn’t give an advance warning. The final five days with DaddyO weren’t originally on our calendars. Hearing his voice struggle to state his desire for onion rings when we told our plans to pick up food at the Varsity. Seeing, and feeling, his battle to breathe. Remembering a funeral, revisiting a life, reflecting on a deluge of memories shifting suddenly in my mind as I originally wrote these thoughts for a blog, and now rewriting them for a book.
This day? I miss DaddyO. Occasionally I listen to his messages and read his texts still on my phone. They aren’t deleted. I saved them, just as I am saving the mental scenes I’m seeing in today’s cinema in my mind.
I’m also staring at scenery of the life and death of Pops—my dad. I’m recalling the Saturday morning when I woke early with plans as I always do. With a schedule. With an agenda. Not included on my agenda was to find that Pops had passed away during the night.
This day? I miss Pops. I also listen to his messages and read his texts still on my phone. They aren’t deleted either. I saved them, just as I am saving the mental scenes I’m seeing in today’s cinema in my mind.
- What situations have caused you grief?
- What is your initial response?
- If you often hold too tightly to those who have left, what do you think is the reason?
- What steps would you recommend to yourself about moving forward?
- What might be holding you back?
- What can you do to no longer stay in an unhealthy place?
- Where is Jesus in your story?