We knew, and yet we didn’t know.
We’ve been preparing ourselves since early fall for the passing of my husband’s mom.
We knew she was likely in her final months, and yet, when the end came on Monday night, we still felt the shock of disbelief.
It’s still too tender a thing to write about much except to say that grief and joy co-mingle in a thousand moments. That it’s nearly Christmas adds both sweetness and pain.
You’ve been there, too, perhaps? When the exuberance of Joy to the World and Go Tell It on the Mountain are too much to handle, like sunlight forced through migraine-squinted eyes?
Thank God for other songs, the ones we can still bear to hear.
I’m finding in the minor keys of O Come, O Come Emmanuel and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen the Christmas-carol equivalent of the blues.
But for me, they are blues tinged with hope, a call to “Rest, ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay” because I do indeed have tidings of comfort and joy. For the most part, our family is blessed to find a certain rightness to our grief: our tears flow, but we have a profound gratefulness for a life well-lived despite years of disability and illness so that death looks more like God’s gentle mercy, His gathering of a beloved daughter into His arms.
Again, thank God for the songs that come along like lullabies for the soul.
But not every soul in grief needs a lullaby just yet. Not every loss carries with it a sense of rightness, and not all souls are ready for songs meant to soothe.
I carry an ache this Christmas for friends who grapple with dark things that happened for seemingly no reason and with no forewarning. Some cannot bear to have their heartstrings tugged by melody just yet. The wounds are still too raw and the time to rage and weep is not over yet.
And so my job, our job, is not to sing them a tune, but to stand with them in support and love. To trust that God is big enough to handle the full measure of anger, doubt, fear, and disappointment they need to express. To stand firm in our faith on their behalf, praying for and at the right time, with them for comfort and joy to enter into their souls but not trying to force it on them in our own strength.
I will close with this, then, as I make preparations for saying goodbye to my loved one: I am at a place where the simpleness of Silent Night is a beautiful balm for my soul, but I am asking a double-measure of Holy Spirit comfort for other friends who are grieving this season, believing this on your behalf:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning
Great is Thy faithfulness