Well, I might as well call it what it is: a grief report. No apologies. If you don’t want to read about it, stop right here.
I hate it. I hate this process. I hate this grief thing. I’m tired of the word “grief.” I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to have it, I don’t want to go through it. I want it to just go away.
But it won’t.
Somebody said grief is like a tunnel that you have to go through. It’s dark inside, but once you go in, you’re on your way out. That sounds nice, I just don’t know what it means right now.
I went to the grave site today, for the first time since the funeral over four months ago. You might think that’s weird or unnatural or cold-hearted. I haven’t been mainly because I don’t see that as being the place Emily resides. She’s not there. She’s in Heaven, and she’s happy, and she’s whole. The grave is where she left her earthly body.
Maybe I was avoiding what I knew would hurt pretty bad.
Because if you think it doesn’t hurt a mama’s heart to see her baby’s date of birth and date of death on a headstone, you’re mistaken.
I never use the word “death” in conjunction with her name.
What I know in my heart is that she’s not there. What I know in my heart is that she is with Jesus. What I know in my heart is that I will see her again. But my earthly heart still hurts and misses her oh so terribly.
And I see her face reflected in the one she left behind, her beautiful daughter Brooklyn. And my heart hurts again that Brooklyn will never in this life know her mommy. Her mommy who loved her so much. Her mommy who was planning her first birthday party, a party she didn’t get to attend. Her mommy who would make funny faces at her to make her giggle. A mommy she will not remember.
While I was there, I remembered how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And I wondered if it was too late for me to call Emily up out of that grave. I really did. Don’t feel sorry for me. Jesus said, “Heal the sick! Raise the dead! You’ll do the things I do and greater things!” (If you don’t believe me, look it up. It’s there. Dig for it. Go to biblegateway.com or just google it. Pretend it’s treasure. Put as much passion into searching out the Word of God as you do finding information about the latest movie or music or entertainer or insert-hobby-here.)
I opened the Bible app on my phone and read the story of Lazarus out loud, from the Amplified Bible, in John 11. I was going to put the whole story here in this blog, but it’s at least 45 verses long. Read the whole thing here or just keep reading for my summary.
I read it, because I was curious about the logistics of the thing. And at one point, I was even amused. See, Jesus loved Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. When Lazarus got sick, his sisters sent word to Jesus. However, He stayed where he was two more days before heading toward Bethany where Lazarus was. The disciples advised him against going, because the Jews had tried to kill him there. But,
11 He said these things, and then added, Our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep.
12 The disciples answered, Lord, if he is sleeping, he will recover.
13 However, Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He referred to falling into a refreshing and natural sleep.
14 So then Jesus told them plainly, Lazarus is dead,
15 And for your sake I am glad that I was not there; it will help you to believe (to trust and rely on Me). However, let us go to him.
The part that amused me is that Jesus had to plainly tell them, “Lazarus is dead.” But it also pierced my heart, because I don’t ever say, “Emily is dead” or “Emily died.” I say she “left” or “departed.”
But Jesus had a plan. It had to be the Father’s plan, because Jesus never did anything unless the Father told him to.
When he got there, everyone was crying over Lazarus’ death. Mary and Martha said, Oh, Jesus, if you’d only been here! And when Jesus saw everyone crying, he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” He asked where they’d laid him; they showed him, and he wept.
The shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” John 11:35.
Why did he weep if he knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead? Maybe he was just feeling the pain of his dear friends Mary and Martha.
And before I go on, let me take a side journey here. Because this particular post is me just letting stuff flow out of me in whatever form and fashion it wants. I’m not trying to write a nice paper here. I’m working through this crappy grief thing.
Dear friends. That’s what I want to talk about for a minute. Dear friends. My heart swells at the thought of my dear friends. I am so blessed with dear friends. What would I do without my dear friends? I literally thank my God daily for my dear friends, upon every remembrance of them. Oh, how He has blessed me with dear friends. Oh, how I need them. Oh, how they have been and continue to be there for me. Thank you, dear friends. Thank You, Father, for these dear friends You have placed in my life for such a time as this!
So, to continue with the story, because I’m getting to a point here, I read this story aloud at Emily’s grave site because I wanted to see how Jesus did this thing. How did He raise Lazarus? And could I, maybe, call Emily forth?
I know, you’re feeling really sorry for me about now. Maybe even a little concerned. You think I’m crazy.
But I read that Jesus approached the tomb, which was a cave with a boulder at the entrance to close it off. And He said, “Take away the stone.” And Martha (the practical one) said Lazarus has been dead four days and probably stinks.
I love what Jesus says next:
“Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God?”
Let me take another side journey here. That one sentence from Jesus has been one of my cornerstone verses for standing firm on His Word during tough times. Put another way: “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” If you believe, you will see. If you believe, you will see the glory of God.
Then: Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.
42 Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger].
43 When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out!
44 And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.
He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” But first he had them move that stone away.
I make that point, because I was thinking what if I shouted, “Emily, come forth!” What if her spirit entered again into that earthly decayed body and brought it back to life. How would she get out of that closed casket, and up through all that dirt?
So, sadly, I stopped thinking about that. But just so you know, that wasn’t the first time I thought of it. I called her back when I first saw her body on her bed, and I could plainly see that her spirit had already left her body. I called her back as the paramedics worked on her. I called her back after the emergency room team pronounced her dead and let me go to her. I crawled into the bed with her and, as my tears fell upon her hair, I spoke the words in her ear: “Come back! Come back!” And after they moved her body into another room, I called her back. And after the funeral, before they closed the casket for the last time, I called her back.
She didn’t come back. I don’t know why. I don’t know why. I would imagine Heaven’s a better place than this. I would imagine she didn’t know a person could feel so free and so good and so alive. I would imagine she didn’t want to come back. Or maybe I just didn’t do it right.
So, we who knew her and loved her and enjoyed her for nearly 21 years are left behind. We feel a great loss.
At different times I feel anger, guilt, regret, sorrow. Much of the time it doesn’t even feel like it really happened. But when it does, it hurts pretty dang bad. The kind of bad that makes you want to swear.
But in the end, I hear two verses. I hear them loud and clear in my spirit.
The first is this: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:11, and Psalm 43:5)
The second is this, and it’s the clincher: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55)
It stings right now, but who will have the last laugh? We will. We will be laughing in Heaven together one day. Once again I will be able to wrap my arms around her and kiss her sweet face and see the twinkle in her blue eyes. And she’ll probably say, “Mom, you’ve gotta come see this!” And off we’ll go.