This morning, I went to the nursing home where my sweet great-grandma spent her final days. I hadn't been there since her death ten years ago. A lot of remodeling had been done, but there was still enough to remind me and make me miss her terribly.
Great-Grandma's home-going was my first acquaintance with death. I had just received the news when I had to leave to help my cousin and aunt host a Bible study's Christmas dinner. My aunt saw my face when I walked in. I told her what had happened, expecting she would send me home. My aunt pulled me into a hug, then gave me instructions for the dinner and whisked off to her guests. I didn't know then that it was my first lesson in dealing with grief. Cry, then move on. I would need to remember that when that same precious aunt died three years later. I still find myself turning down the road to her house, or wanting to call her for design advice.
My grandfather came to live with us under hospice care. He hadn't been a huge part of our lives in recent years, so my main feeling was inconvenience at giving up my bedroom. However, Grandpa's story of his deathbed rebirth, newfound faith and desire to see the face of Jesus, changed me. I wrote the story down and it became my first published work in Focus on the Family's teen girl magazine, Brio. Through Grandpa, I saw death as a golden doorway, a beautiful rest for a tired soul.
The final conversation with my Wyoming uncle centered on my upcoming marriage. He wanted some reassurance about the stability of my relationship. If I had known we would never talk again, or that I wouldn't drive up his sage-covered mountain again, would I have let him end the conversation so quickly? I wasn't even on the same continent when he died.
By the time my paternal grandfather was doing poorly, I had begun to seize this lesson; the people you love will not be here forever. On our visit back to the U.S., Grandpa was unusually talkative, sharing the history of our small town and a particular willow tree in the arboretum. I was once again in France when he passed away, but that final visit was a peaceful parting to remember.
I lived sweet, blessed years before grief knocked again. This time, it hit even closer to home, as I miscarried a tiny baby.
Sometimes I wish I was a psychologist. I am not but let me say what I have learned about grief. You can't escape it nor ignore it. As my aunt would sing, on this bear hunt, you're gonna have to go through it. I hope you find help, friends or family to hold you through it. Time won't stop the grief, but at some point, you'll be able you breathe again. At some point the grief will feel bittersweet as you remember.
That's partly why I write, because seeing the words makes what I'm thinking clearer to me. It also feels like the emotion has overflowed from my heart, helping to even out that unstable organ. Finally, it feels like I am keeping my end of the bargain. I believe that if God gives me an experience, it is so I can use it for someone. If He gives me a story, it is to share it.
My son and I read a story from Cambodia about a boy who heard wonderful stories from an old man. But the boy refused to tell the stories and they were caught in an old bag. Resentful, the stories tried to harm the boy on his wedding day, but the old man intervened. The boy learned that he had to share the stories he was given and began telling them to his bride and later to their children.
This is what I think. My stories will sour inside me if I don't share them with you. And yours might boil inside of you if you too do not share them. If you would like, please share them with me, in the comments or in an email to jenna.vincentquentinATgmail.com. Ultimately, the one to share your griefs and joys with is Jesus. He is the greatest Listener ever, trust me.