I have run from pain as if I could escape its reach. I have avoided pain, tried to block it from surfacing. I have engrossed myself in books and TV and games. I have hung onto, but repressed my pain so I don’t have to feel it. This I have always done. But over the years since my husband died, I have learned to go straight into the pain and let it wash over me and cleanse me and rinse away the awfulness of it. I cry, I sob, I die. As I have come out of the grief for my husband, I have become a friend of pain.
Fortunately, I was already leading a life surrendered to God, when Hank’s cancer came back. It had only been three months since he had been declared cancer free and there he was in the hospital again with lymphoma raging once again. During his week in the hospital I was struggling to stay with what was happening. By three o’clock in the afternoon I was wishing it were bedtime, so I could go to bed, pull the covers over my head and forget this horror in my life. I don’t think it was any surprise to Hank who could feel it happening in his body, but I had carefully ignored any signs of symptoms returning. All I wanted was for him to live and to be healthy once again.
One day I hear God’s voice, that soft whisper, saying, “If you can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well, then…..” That was all He said, but I had already spent 20 years listening for that voice and doing what it suggested, and I knew from experience that it was always said in my best interests. So, I worked at holding all possible outcomes equally. And, with God’s help, I could. And I discovered that not only were there more than two possible outcomes–his living and his dying, there were thousands! I relaxed.
A few days later I was given the gift of faith that went so wide and deep that I knew that I was the house built on rock, that nothing, NOTHING, could pull me off that rock of faith. Every day I held all possible outcomes equally and I experienced both joy and sorrow, one not polluting the other. I felt such joy at being alive and such sorrow at what was happening with Hank. I was able to support him, our children, our friends because I felt so fully supported.
It was only about two months later we were calling in hospice, although it took us both a couple of days to absorb this truth. We called our three adult children who came home from Boston and Florida and Southern California within two days. The doctor, after recommending that we call in hospice, had called me to say that she thought it was going to go really fast, but I had no idea what fast meant. But it was two weeks to the day that she told us to call in hospice that he died.
Even at the end, I was thinking that the possible outcomes were smaller in number, but that still didn’t mean he would die. I held those possibilities until he died. After the memorial service and the kids went home, I dropped into the grief.
It was two years before I finished, I thought, crying my eyes out, but I have learned that the grief can come anytime, like the time that my daughter reminded me about our anniversary coming up—that it would have been our 50—thirteen years later! I hadn’t even known that I cared about celebrating our 50th until I cried all the way home.
Now that it has been almost 17 years, I have come to the conclusion that death is the most natural thing on earth. Everything is born, grows and matures and dies. We have no idea when that will happen to any of us. The more we fight that reality, the harder it is to let go of our loved ones. And the harder it is to ask them when they are in the throes of death what they would want, how they would want to live to the end, because we haven’t yet been able to let them go. If we loosen our grip on their living—for us, we can help them die as they will. And we can sink into deep gratitude we feel for their part in our lives.
Next week I’ll be continuing this theme: Running from pain.2.
Questions to ponder over the week: Have I accepted that the death of my loved ones, of myself, is the natural outcome of life? Or do I hang on to my loved ones with all my might? Could I let them go to God with blessings and gratitude? Will I be able to remember them with love or only with pain?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who lightly hold on to our loved ones, to our own lives. May we be able to surrender to God anything or anyone He ask of us. May we be at peace with the whole content of our lives.
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My book, “Exodus: Our Story, Too!” is available on amazon.com under my full name, Patricia Said Adams. Read there how your life can be transformed by encountering God in the wilderness.