In The Long Run

I have a friend who told me the sad story of how she lost her husband many years ago. She kissed him good-bye as he left that morning and he was killed at work. She never saw him again. She didn’t know she was saying good-bye.

Grief came upon her completely by surprise and she was cast into the long run of sadness alone.

My experience was different. Grief crashed into our lives when a kind person in a white coat said very sadly the word “cancer.” Death and grief don’t always make their entrances together in the first chapter of these life stories.

The first year or so of my grief experience was already happening as cancer slowly took Kathy away. We approached holidays wondering, knowing, that it would be the last. One of us noticed the impact of chemo and the disease process. We heard the sad but unintended double meanings behind normal conversations. “Let me get the lunch check while I still can.”

I don’t think one way is better. I don’t think one is easier. I don’t think one takes longer – although it might look that way to others. It’s just different. It’s all grief.

Either way, grief is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be days that remind us of events, even though we have not marked them as such. Without permission they placed themselves on our calendars.

During this run there will be times of refreshment, surprising beauty, calm meadows, even welcomed rain. But there will also be steep and surprising hills that seem never to end, unpredictable storms, days we can’t figure out the route, and days we must run alone – even if you’re still together.

I love Psalm 42 where the desperate need of the Lord’s help is described as being thirsty. Extending this picture reminds us the unique refreshment of communion with Him. I also love how the poet sees himself going through an experience and gives counsel to himself. A sort of heart to heart from the same heart, a pep-talk.

I found self-talk to be powerful through the process of grief. Not always helpful, depending on the sorts of things I would tell myself. Psalm 42 reminds me how to talk to myself – especially to tell myself to remember God. Even though I can’t feel Him, see Him, or let’s face it – understand things.

When life becomes like watching yourself in a movie, take the director’s chair and coach yourself to turn to God and remember His love. Feed yourself some good lines, some truth to anchor on. Remind your soul that it will one day be lifted again. Start talking to yourself.

Remember, when you’re running alone, you’re still there, and so is the Lord. (Psalm 34:18)

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