There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone the light remains. —unknown
Grief is unpredictable and incredibly uneven. I’m functioning, working, accountable, meeting needs, living up to my obligations, and mostly happy, but even on my best days, I have to admit that I’m operating with very little margin. This means that the space between “okay” and “not okay” is razor-thin. This is new to me and if I’m honest, really strange and uncomfortable. I am the one who is unfazed, unfrazzled, composed, and in control. I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve but lately, I’ve been walking around with the emotional weight of a boulder, the inescapable heaviness of grief. It’s exhausting.
I’m not sure if grief has a sidekick, but if it does, it has to be memories. This is a tricky, little sidekick because it brings great joy and stinging pain. I have such great memories of my Mom! And while these memories remind me of her loss, it’s these same memories that are currently carrying me through my grief. So many wonderful memories that bring smiles and lots of laughter. Memories that produce happiness, and true light…both literally and figuratively.
In February, Kansas and much of the Midwest experienced record-breaking cold. In fact, there was one day where the temperature in my town was colder than the temps in all of Alaska! Forecasters had been predicting the cold spell complete with negative wind chills and harsh conditions, but things got serious with talk of losing electricity…not just for hours but for possibly days. The predictions became reality late one night. The power outage brought our household scrambling to the dining room table. In true survivalist mode, we each set out to retrieve flashlights and a weather radio. It was in that dark moment that there was not only a light but several lights as we each recovered light sources that had all been gifted to us over the years by my Mom. Camping lanterns, push lights, industrial flashlights, and even a battery-operated light switch—all from Mom!
At first, we laughed. Why had she given us so many lights over the years? Then we remembered Christmas 2017 when everyone received the light switches as gifts and how funny it was to watch each other get blinded by those lights! So much laughter! Thanks to Mom, on that record-breaking cold night in February, we had enough lights for every bedroom, every bathroom, and the kitchen. This was so my Mother—always looking out for us, prepared at every turn, giving us things she knew we would someday need. I am so grateful.
This scene reminded me of a dream I had just before Thanksgiving. It was a dream that I’ve had many times over the years, a dream about trying to get home. It always begins the same. I’m trying to walk home from the zoo in my hometown. It’s dark (I hate the dark) and I’m alone. I know exactly where I’m at, I know exactly where I’m going, and I know exactly how to get there, but I’m paralyzed by fear because I can’t see where I’m going. There’s just not enough light. In the dream, I start and stop often and I never make it home. When I dreamt this dream in November, it was exactly the same except when I stopped in a neighborhood near the courthouse I saw a light turn on in a nearby house. Then another light turned on at the next house followed by another at a house down the street. On the second floor of an older home, the light turned on and I could see my Mother standing in the window, smiling.
I didn’t make it home in that dream. Although I was asleep I was incredibly stunned to see her. The reality of her loss could be felt even in my dreams as I started to cry and tried to get to her. Those tears eventually woke me up. I wouldn’t call it a bad dream, how could I? My Mother was in it! She was whole and well, she was looking out for me as she always did. She was lighting my way…literally and figuratively the light I needed just when I needed it.
There’s a reason we equate grief with darkness. Most of us hate the dark, It’s unnerving, disorienting, scary, and uncomfortable. It causes fear, worry, stress, sadness, and even anger. It can be paralyzing, but we are not helpless. It’s important to note that in darkness AND grief it takes time for our senses to adjust. During this season, one must look for landmarks (familiar people, places, and things) to help navigate the journey. Remember, have faith as each step forward builds confidence and trust. And most importantly, on hard days, when surrounded by darkness, always move toward the light…it is love’s glow.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
“A Life Interrupted” is an ongoing series of blog posts dealing with the loss of my mother to COVID-19.