I thought I was done writing about death.
Since my father-in-law passed away suddenly last March, I’ve poured the full gamut of feelings out onto these pages.
But last Saturday my Oma passed away. It was a different kind of loss altogether. She was in her eighties, and had suffered at the cruel hand of Alzheimer’s for years. Her memories of my family and I had long dissipated. I imagine she must have felt very lonely as the days crawled on, her world becoming increasingly small and unfamiliar. I was tremendously blessed to be present at the moment she passed; her room was filled with the voices of those she had cherished and loved throughout her long life.
And so I found myself at yet another memorial, yet another graveside service. Another committing of an earthly body to the ground. Another message of hope spoken over the spiritual body.
It was hard to be sad this time. I thought about the darkness that had marked her final years, and I confess to being tremendously grateful that God had finally allowed her to join her husband-my beloved Opa-in heaven.
I didn’t cry.
Upon arriving home after a long, somber day, I flicked on my son’s favorite song: Roar. We pranced and sweated our way around the kitchen, looking quite a bit more ridiculous than you can imagine. I was surprised in my desire to turn on worship music afterwards. The soft rhythms filled the room as Asher continued to bounce about in his little play area. He set about the important work of dumping out each container of toys, pausing only to enthusiastically jump up and down on the back of a yellow inflatable dinosaur.
Despite the crazed toddler circling me, I knelt to sing out the familiar verse:
You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost its sting
Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms.
(Forever Reign, Hillsong Live)
My voice cracked on the words, and I wondered why the tears were bubbling up now. On a foam play mat after dancing with my son to Katy Perry. Not in the hallowed church, where there were no children wreaking havoc. Not when I placed a single rose on my precious Oma’s casket. Not when I shied away from the good intentioned funeral-goers attempting to hug me.
By the time I had worked my way through a handful of songs, I was sobbing all over those cheap play mats.
Asher paused in his destruction to press his face within an inch of mine and ask, “Mommy OK?”.
I haltingly eeked out, “Yes, Mommy’s OK”.
Apparently, I can’t even lie to a two-year-old. He picked up his huge inflatable dinosaur and solemnly handed it to me. And I clung to that ridiculous thing and cried fat tears over the thick plastic.
I can attest to grief having the absolute worst timing. Bawling while clutching a plastic dinosaur doesn’t seem quite right, does it? It doesn’t seem solemn enough. Or reverent enough. But I have learned in these last months that there is no rhyme or reason to grief. The moments it chooses to overtake you are often ill-timed and almost always inappropriate.
But it’s best to let the moments happen. There’s a purpose to it enveloping you when it does.
I have found it best to lean into it, expose all those big scary feelings to the world, and let the tears fall heavy.
And, if need be, let them fall heavy onto a plastic dinosaur.