For the last year, life has felt like a constant trial by fire.
A year ago today, we were packing out of our home after it was sold unexpectedly out from under us. As a military family, there are few houses that had the time and magic to feel truly like home. But that house was one of them. It felt stable and settled, rooted and comfortable. And then we were forced out.
We lived in seven homes between June and December of last year. We packed out of one home in the dark with no power. We quite literally ran out of another home that was infested with bed bugs and then were not allowed back in; we had no place to go. We spent two weeks in another place and packed out in the pouring rain. We spent a month in the country over half an hour from necessary appointments. We grew weary and finally signed a lease until we could catch our breath.
Just as we were catching our breath, my husband and son came down with Covid. While my son was hardly sick, it knocked my husband flat for days. The timing forced us to cancel a much anticipated visit from my husband’s family, including his mother. Food, drink, and games had been bought and then were shelved in hopes of hosting after my surgery.
At the end of January, I had surgeries on both my arms. The recovery was hard physically, but also emotionally. I had not been expecting the emotional toll to be quite that intense. As the pain woke me from sleep and ratcheted quickly, my mental health took quite the toll. It was weeks of really tough recovery.
Just as I was coming out of that, my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. She was not ill. We have all said to others, “It was simply her time to go.” But it was not my time to be ready to let her go. She loved her grandchildren immensely. And, after losing my father who similarly loved his grandchildren a couple years ago, this loss struck a deep nerve. I am still clinging to memories, old texts and voicemails, and little notes from her I keep finding around my house from the fifteen years I knew her. I feel anger that last year sucked time away from being with her and that Covid robbed what would have been our last visit with her.
I wish I could say we were free to grieve her and take the time to honor her memory, but other sources of deep suffering surfaced during that time that sucked the peace out of my home. Between that and the grief, we are still firmly entrenched in survival mode.
I know this is a depressing post, after such a long hiatus. I think, sometimes, when life is gutting us, we lack the words to speak. The pain is too sacred, the grief too profound to be constrained by earthly words. Instead, we go silent, letting our hearts and souls wrap themselves in the loss and suffering. The groanings of our spirit are more of an honor to the loss than mere words ever could be.
I don’t believe, anymore, in tying up the dark or painful side of life in a pretty bow or with a trite moral lesson. I think grief is sacred and there is honor in acknowledging our pain and giving it a place at the proverbial table. I know the pain of death, severed relationships, lost homes, and constant survival mode. No group of words strung together will ease the pain.
But prayer and friendship can sustain us.
In this time of complex loss and suffering, I have seen some deeply loving people step up and simply listen. Listening has such power. As I reached out vulnerably for a hand to hold, I was given so much more. I’m grateful for the friends that have held space for me the last year as I grieved, processed (sometimes without much grace but always with honesty), and attempted to make sense of the pain.
And prayer. Back when my father was terminally ill and died from septic shock, I truly learned what prayer is. It is not begging God to change His mind and grant your requests. It is not God listening to your well-articulated argument on why He should do what you want. Believe me, I’ve tried that. Prayer is conversation. Simply that. Telling Him what you want without the expectation to change His holy and irrefutable mind. Prayer is telling him how you feel, the good and the bad, and knowing that in all His merciful love, He is holding space right there with you. It is simply that. And that can be profoundly beautiful and incredibly frustrating. Last year taught me that.
I have a dear friend who recently said something deeply profound to me. Life is very rarely (if ever) an Either/Or; it is always a Both/And. You can be grateful and grieving. You can be thankful and frustrated. You can be joyful and angry. With one blessing in this imperfect and broken world, there is always a loss or change. It is good, holy, beautiful, and necessary to acknowledge both.
So, dear reader, if you are still here, still checking on this corner of my world–thank you. And if you are still reading this manifesto of learned deep thoughts from the last year of pain, loss, and hurt, thank you. I am grateful you are still here and saddened I did not write here for so long. I am joyful to be back, and frustrated to have had to be gone so long.
Welcome and Welcome back.