It’s been a season of grief for many of my friends and coworkers. I have seen people that I care about experience loss and had conversations with them about the idiosyncracies of the grieving process and trying to start life without their loved one. Being the sensitive person that I am, I try to be supportive and empathetic in the moment and then promptly direct my thoughts elsewhere and avoid thinking too much about it. If I do, then I’ll think of my loved ones and how it could have been me and how one day it will be…and then I won’t be able to stop the tears from falling. When I think about how I would respond if someone in my life died suddenly or received a life-threatening diagnosis, it’s hard to imagine being able to function–continue working and attending church and interacting with people. I don’t know how I could be strong enough, and I hope I never find out.
I have, perhaps, never been more aware of how blessed I’ve been than in these past few months. At age 28, I still have all four of my grandparents, and I’m close with them. I have lost beloved great aunts, a boy from my youth group and a precious college friend who died in a car accident just three months after we returned from a semester abroad together. I’m sure I could list a few more, but the truth is that I haven’t been to many funerals. I’ve never lost someone really close to me–someone that I think about or see on a daily basis. This loss all around me recently makes me feel incredibly vulnerable, as though God has a list somewhere that he is balancing and my name is working its way to the top. I feel like it’s almost my turn. I know, of course, that this is silly, and life doesn’t work that way. I only realized a couple of weeks ago while talking with a coworker about the emotional intensity of caring for her aging parents that I have been feeling this sense of dread under the surface for months. Ever since I finally recognized it and said it aloud, I have been working through these feelings and trying to rid my soul of fear. With God’s help, I am gradually reclaiming my peace of mind.
Last Sunday, we went to church with my family after a wonderful Thanksgiving week. The preacher there is an incredibly gifted speaker. After the tragic death of his daughter a couple of years ago when she was in her early thirties, his preaching got even better. He speaks honestly about his family’s struggle with this loss and the ways in which his perspective on life and faith has changed. That morning, he said something that really struck me. He said that death is Satan’s greatest tool to rob us of our joy. At some point he had to decide that he would not have this happen. He chooses joy every day. This applies to my situation as well, and I think we could all benefit from it. To have loved ones is a wonderful gift from God and to fear loosing them is to let Satan win. Yes, eventually I will experience loss, but to feel anxiety over this will not change it for the better or worse. I will choose joy now, and I will pray for the strength to choose joy in times of sorrow as well.