Several months after my mom passed away, I scheduled an appointment with a dear brother who cuts my hair. It was good medicine to see him. Amidst the hustle and bustle of his salon, our conversation drifted from topic to topic carried along by his infectious joy, his tender heart, and his deep compassion.
As we continued to catch up, I so much wanted to talk about my mom. Yet, I just didn't have the strength to initiate what could open a Pandora's Box of emotion. Perhaps it was his relational intuition or a response to a nudge from the Holy Spirit, but out of the blue he asked, “Now, how long has it been?” Knowing that he was much further along the grief-journey of losing a mom, I knew exactly what he was asking.
Relieved that he initiated, I quickly answered, “six months.” He knowingly nodded, smiled warmly, and seemed to pause, perhaps to give me time to lasso the emotions he knew were swirling around my mind and heart. Gathering my thoughts I said, “I want to thank you for all the times you cut my mom’s hair when she was down here with us. She always felt so pampered.” With an appreciative grin, he redirected the conversation back to my mom saying, “It was easy to tell how proud of you she was. She just beamed when she talked about you and your music.” In wisdom, he paused again, allowing me to savor the memories of her visits to Tennessee.
We sat in silence for a few moments, serenaded by the snip of the stainless-steel scissors and the small squeak of the barber’s chair. And then he gently reiterated his original question. “Six months?”
“Yeah... hard to believe,” I said shaking my head.
And then with one simple phrase, he shattered my grief paradigm.
“You’re six months closer,” he said cheerfully.
My furrowed-brow response was stronger than I meant it to be as I blurted out, “What?”
“Six months” he graciously continued, “You’re six months closer to seeing her again.”
Insert mind-blown emoji while I selah, please.
The only way I can describe what happened is that throughout my grief, the camera on my iPhone had been set on the mirrored-selfie mode. And as he spoke, his words became flesh, reached out and pushed the button, and enabled me to see face-forward to all that was ahead of me. A reunion. An amazing, astounding, extraordinary... hand-me-my-thesaurus-because-I-don’t-have-enough-words kind of reunion.
You see, the reality was that I had been living past-present thinking about how long she had been gone. And now, these gracious words invited me to live present-future, anticipating the moment when I see her again... when I see my daughters again... and my dad again... and my sister again.
Perhaps as you are reading this blog, you, too, are grieving. May I encourage you as my dear friend encouraged me? That beloved one, so very precious to you, is not just in your past. They are in your future. [Selah]. And while your pathway of grief may be leading you through what C.S. Lewis describes as “a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape,” know that you walk with Hope as your companion. The Father of Compassion and the God of All Comfort who draws near to the brokenhearted is Emmanuel... God with you.
Oh, beloved. We don’t have to wander in a wasteland of hopelessness, judging our present by the distance from the past. Instead, we are invited to grasp the extended hand of the God of Hope who fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in him [Romans 15:13 NIV].
It struck me as I am writing this blog that another six months have passed. I am now one year closer. One year closer! My steps are lighter... or perhaps better said, less heavy, as I head toward someone rather than further away from something. And when I have come around bends in the "winding valley," I am learning to embrace the new landscapes that are revealed, upheld by Grace, and carried by Love.
As you journey through grief, “I pray that God, the source of all hope, will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit” [Romans 15:13 VOICE]. Amen.
When I have pondered that C.S. Lewis “valley” quote from his raw and transparent testimony, “A Grief Observed,” this hymn often comes to mind. May this song written by George A. Young in 1903 be of deep comfort to you. Here are two different versions of “God Leads Us Along” that have ministered to me. This one is has a folk flavor and really nice visuals that include the text and this one embraces the simple beauty of piano and solo voice.
Another resource I want to share is a video resource called, "Grace to Grieve with Hope." These moments, captured from an interview with the late Rev. John Arnold, remind us that God extends grace to grieve with hope in the face of loss. The journey begins with my sister's cancer diagnosis.
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