C. S. Lewis wrote a book titled, Surprised by Joy. I must admit, I’ve never read it. Only excerpts. I’m sure it’s great. I mean, it’s Lewis, right? I know I should read it…but the thing is, I’m an optimist. Joy never really surprises me; I expect it.
What surprises me is this grief.
I mean, okay, my mom died. I’m supposed to grieve. It’s okay. It’s normal. It would be bad to not grieve. On several levels. But what I wasn’t ready for is this “hit-me-out-of-the-blue” grief. The concept is not new to me, that of grief hitting at unexpected moments. But the reality is rough.
I’ll be going along, doing my own thing, and suddenly there it is: tears, welling up in my eyes. Maybe I saw a reference to Mother’s Day. Or a recipe she would have clipped. Or heard a song she loved.
Or, as the last time this happened, simply being in church.
Thank goodness it was the Maundy Thursday service — always a favorite of mine — and the lighting was dim. Thank goodness I was in the back row. Thank goodness it was acceptable to have our eyes closed.
My grief built up as the service progressed. I mean, it was Easter week – so that’s emotional right there. It’s Jesus forgiving, dying, rising. How can I not get emotional about that?
Says the girl who cries at the drop of a hat.
But usually when I cry in church it’s subtle. It’s silent. It’s perhaps even expected. Of me, anyway.
But this was different. As the service progressed, the emotions were building but still within acceptable levels and then there we were, singing My Jesus, I Love Thee and the dam that kept the waters at bay burst.
“My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine / for three all the follies of sin I resign; / My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou: / I ever I loved three, my Jesus ’tis now. / I love thee because thou hast first loved me…”
CUE THE FIRST TEARS.
“and purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; / I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;”
CUE MORE TEARS
“If ever I loved three, my Jesus ’tis now.”
CUE THROAT CLOSING UP AND TEARS STREAMING DOWN CHEEKS. I WON’T BE SINGING THIS SONG OUTLOUD ANY LONGER. I KEPT SINGING IT IN MY HEAD, THOUGH.
“I’ll love thee in life, I will love three in death,”
CUE VISIONS OF MY MOM. IN DEATH.
“and praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath;”
CUE AGONIZED, DESPERATE WIPING OF EYES. COULDN’T YOU HAVE LENT HER BREATH A LITTLE WHILE LONGER, GOD?
“And say when the deathdew lies cold on my brow:”
CUE WONDERING WHAT DEATHDEW LOOKS LIKE. CUE WONDERING IF I WILL BE ABLE TO STOP THESE TEARS OR IF I’LL BURST INTO AUDIBLE SOBS AND VISIBLE SHAKING. CUE SPECTACULAR SELF CONTROL. CUE WONDERING IF I SHOULD GET UP AND WALK OUT. OR IF I SHOULD TAKE MY DAUGHTER’S HAND OR IF THAT WILL ONLY MAKE IT WORSE. CUE WISHING I COULD JUST LET GO AND WAIL. CUE THINKING THAT I NEVER THOUGHT I’D WANT TO WAIL IN PUBLIC BUT THIS MAY BE THE TIME. NOT SURE I CAN STOP IT. CUE WONDERING WHAT PEOPLE WOULD THINK IF I DID.
CUE NOT CARING.
“If ever I loved thee, my Jesus ’tis now.”
CUE WIPING MY EYES A FEW MORE TIMES. CUE HAVING NO IDEA WHAT THE PASTOR SAID NEXT. OR NEXT. OR NEXT.
CUE DEEP BREATHS. CUE REALIZING THAT I’VE SURVIVED.
CUE WONDERING, BRIEFLY, IF I WOULD HAVE BEEN HEALTHIER IF I’D JUST LET GO AND WAILED?
I was surprised by the extent, the moment, the depth of my grief. Cue wondering, now, in this moment, how long this will continue? If I haven’t yet wept as I ought. If I will be like my mom herself, who, in the stress of Christmas Eve preparations 11 months and three weeks after her father died and approximately nine months after her mother died, when she fled the house in tears and wept to the heavens on the absent neighbor’s deck because she’d kept the emotions in check for all those months. Being strong. Being brave. Behaving as a Christian ought, she thought, who knows that her parents are in heaven, who believes that worldly grief is wrong, who must set a good example for her girls, who does what’s right. Always.
Oh, my dear mother.
Cue realizing that I’m more like my mother than I ever realized.
I think Micah 7:7 came as a gift to me today. I’d forgotten about this verse, but suddenly there it was, as I was looking for a photo. “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”
God hears me. When I sob in public places. When I cry in the reaches of the night. When I contemplate the thought of Mother’s Day. As I watch in hope for the Lord.
As I wait for God my Savior.
He hears his cue. And he never comes in late.