It’s been half a decade since my husband of 27.5 years died suddenly of a brain bleed. My life turned upside down that weekend, and nothing will ever be the same. Someone commented to me that I had moved-on. It was meant to be a compliment, and I totally get the affirmation that was intended. The truth is I have not moved-on, nor do I ever expect that I will. I love this quote sent to me in a sympathy card and have shared it over and over with others. St Bernard of Clairvaux wrote: “I can never lose one whom I have loved unto the end; one to whom my soul cleaves so firmly that it can never be separated does not go away but only goes before.”
Grief should have a beginning, middle and end; that is true. That first year or two I would have done anything to diminish my pain. I was in so much pain that I wasn’t even a person. It’s hard to believe that we humans will naturally grow more comfortable existing in our pit of despair of grief than to let it go. So many times, we are afraid that if we don’t think about our loved one, or heaven forbid, we stop crying for him it means that his life meant nothing to us. That is a lie straight from the pits of hell. Satan wants to drown us in grief so we cannot move forward. We don’t have to move-on, nor should we. We are forever changed by the absence of anyone we love, especially a spouse with whom we have become one flesh.
I have moved forward. In the last five years my life has totally turned upside-down and everything about it is preparing me for my own departure from this universe. I am moving forward to my forever. Along the way, I changed my job and began working full-time. I gained a son-in-law and I married a man I have loved since we first met when he was 18-years-old. I have sold my home, become a grandmother, and continued to write, minister and teach. I have endured the intense pain of my son’s addiction and experienced the deepening joy of his utter restoration to the God he committed his life to as a young child. I have witnessed first-hand that God never left him or abandoned him.
Moving forward includes moving forward to my own death. I have a renewed purpose to be found ready to meet Jesus at the end of my life. I do not have control of when that day will be, but the most important focus of my life is to use the time I have here on earth to do the things that He has purposed for me to do. I know my death would be devastating to my children and my husband. I don’t want them to face that kind of pain. As I look into the eyes of every person who is forced to face the excruciating hurt of grief, I wish they didn’t have to walk the path that is set before them. I know Jesus feels that same way too. John 11:32-37 provides a picture of Jesus grieving with people He loves.
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?’”
Can Jesus keep us from facing the devastation of death? The rest of this passage demonstrates that He can (their brother did not remain in the grave), not to mention the others He had raised from the dead, the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 11:7-17), the daughter of the Minister (Luke 8:40-46). Yes, He can; but why would He? After Lazarus was raised from the dead, he died a second time. Once is enough for me. Death is what saves us. If God has allowed us access to the Tree of Life, we would live eternally in our fallen world that seems to get worse every generation. No, death is what saves us. We need to move forward by living each day until we die doing the good deeds He has purposed for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Along the way, make sure you enjoy what is enjoyable about your life and endure what is only endurable. That is moving forward.