Yesterday, I shared some often solicited advice for loving the grieving well.
I don't have any advice today.
Today is the day on the calendar I dread most of all. Today is June 28. When I sit and create a pretty little family calendar for the grandparents in December, this is the month I struggle most to find pictures to adequately illustrate. You know those months when there's just one too many big events and you don't know how to vacillate between them all? That's June. We have birthdays, an anniversary, Father's Day, and a little girl's Heaven Day all on one page.
That Heaven Day is today. Today, June 28, is the day my daughter died. No matter where I choose to spend it each year, a part of me will forever be in that little room with the blue windows holding my diapered baby tight, with her soft dark hair tickling my chin, as I am watching the brand new intern with tear-filled eyes look up at the clock on the wall and breathe out, "Time of death: 9:36 a.m.."
Miller Grace's shackles were broken and she was made forever free and whole at 9:36 a.m.
My heart soared for her. Then it shattered in a million pieces on the ground.
I don't have advice today, but I am far enough out that I can finally tell you how a tragic story like that feels from the mother's side. It's not a story everybody can handle. It's too heavy for a whole lot of shoulders; I have learned that many times over. And you know what? That's okay? Everybody doesn't need to know. PRAISE GOD - everybody doesn't have to know. Solicited advice is plenty for them.
But if you're one of those people who needs a little more than advice, if you're one of those folks like me who just needs to "feel the pain" of the people you love for a minute, I think I've got a word for you. If you aren't afraid to surrender your comfort long enough to enter into someone else's present hell to feel it just long enough to let it equip you to love them better? If you're willing to pay that price to offer a tiny bit of relief or comfort for the ones you love in their season of sorrow? I think I've got a word for you today, friend.
When the unspeakable comes and invades the ordinary lives of people, they don't need platitudes or pretty words of comfort. They just need permission to pause.
When we drove away from the hospital empty-handed that June morning, I remember staring at the traffic lights in disbelief. How were they still moving? Why on earth were those cars still turning like there was anywhere worth going anymore? Those people on the sidewalks were smiling! How? The whole world just kept right on moving... like mine had not stopped. Everybody just kept on living... like she never would again.
I just needed to pause.
I needed a moment to process what had just happened. I needed the world to acknowledge the value of my daughter's life just long enough to take notice that it had ended. I trusted God. He was holding me as I was having those very thoughts, and somewhere deep, down inside, I knew it even then. I didn't need strangers to tell me how God must have needed her more or I had other children to be thankful for or how time would help heal my wounds. I didn't need them to say anything. I really didn't need them to bring me anything either. I just needed to pause.
Every year when these dates roll around, that's exactly what I need: permission to pause. Without even being aware, I retreat a little. By nature, the more I hurt, the quieter I am, and the higher my walls go up. It's just my way. I've tried to figure out why and this is the best explanation I have.
When a person endures a loss of any kind, it rocks their world a little. When a loss is so great it shakes everything, folks just need a minute. When everything stops shaking and the dust has settled, life looks very black and white for a little while. That clarity might be the sweetest part of the most sour pill life has to offer. What really matters in life becomes abundantly clear in the wake of death and what never truly mattered is also suddenly, glaringly obvious. There is no tolerance for the trivial, no ability to pay any mind to the mundane when the sacred is torn from your life.
When the anniversaries of those sacred losses come around again, that same clarity almost always accompanies them. There is no way to carry on with status quo, maybe on the surface, but not in the marrow of our bones. We tell ourselves we've been sad long enough. We see the scoffs of the ones who can't understand. We put on our faces and go about our ordinary routines of buying groceries and handling business deals, but friend? We remember. You may never know it, but while we are looking at you, we may very well be seeing traffic lights changing colors without permission. While we are pressing the gas pedals of our cars beside you, our hearts have likely slammed on the brakes. We just need to pause a minute.
We may now be the very people the newly grieving are looking at and wondering how we could possibly smiling on the outside... but inside, all of life is on pause.
It happens to us all.
So, I guess that's my whole word for you: be patient with the hurting today, friends.
They may not need your advice or your casseroles or even your incredible insight.
They may just need permission to pause.
I know I do.