We gathered at the farm, bringing baseball gloves and brownies, walking slow to the edge of the pond and watching the lines and lures swim back and forth. We talked about things unimportant, quiet things and loud things, full of memories and teasing.
We all knew why we were there, though none of us mentioned it out loud. On the weekend of what would have been his 38th birthday, my brother-in-law’s presence was strong even a year, more really, after his death. Moving fish from one pond to another, roasting hot dogs over the fire, digging into casseroles fresh from the oven and Pinterest, and smack talking our next round of poker would’ve suited him just fine, I think.
But his dad must have felt differently. At one point he said, abruptly, “Yesterday was his birthday, you know.”
Yes, we knew. We remembered. It’s why we were there. But for my father-in-law it wasn’t enough. He loves having a full house, but it seemed he needed us to say, out loud, why his house was full that weekend in particular.
Everyone grieves differently.
Some of us grieve long, while others grieve shorter but harder perhaps. Some of us grieve every morning when our feet hit the floor, and some of us grieve in those moments when the memories hit us in the gut. Some of us grieve poetic and peaceful, and some of us grieve ugly and angry.
As I’ve said before, death and grief and everything that comes with it – in one way or another, to one person or another, it’s all inappropriate in some ways.
I think of all the ways I’ve grieved “wrong.”
I think of laughing over memories and inside jokes with my cousins during my granny’s visitation, much to my mother-in-law’s dismay. I think of screaming at my mom when she suggested one.more.time. that I get busy and cook some food after my friend’s car accident.
I remember joining my family at a birthday party the day after I lost my job, where I never sat down. I walked, numb and ignoring my family, from one room to the next, picking up empty plates and refilling glasses, afraid to stop, afraid to think, afraid to look anyone in the eye.
I think of the way I returned to my home church the very Sunday after leaving the one we’d help plant, the one that broke our hearts. I think about how I didn’t stop to take a breath, perhaps partly because I was afraid it would hurt too much to breathe. I think about how we all break differently.
And I remember earlier this spring, when I told a friend about our plans to go to the farm on the anniversary of my brother-in-law’s death. She couldn’t understand why we were choosing to commemorate this sad anniversary, why the date was so indelibly marked in our memories.
Sure, she’d lost people. She’d grieved. But she did it differently – and without mentally circling days on the calendar in black permanent marker.
Some of us remember quietly; some of us are a bit louder. Some of us remember every date of every sorrow every time it comes around; some of us mark time not by days but by how much less it hurts this year than the one before.
And it’s okay. It’s all okay. We all hurt in different ways, and we all remember in different ways. And what makes sense to me might be a mystery to you. But that’s okay.
Because, see, no matter how we choose to remember the painful events that shape us, God remembers right along with us.
He remembers when it happened and how you felt and why you cried. He remembers in the quiet of the evening and when you see the date on your phone and when someone mentions her name. He remembers when you walk to his grave and when you drive down that street and when the flags dip low.
Today our nation remembers, and many of us still grieve. No matter how your heart beats today – broken or healed or somewhere in between – take comfort in knowing that He remembers. He is close to the brokenhearted.
Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. . . Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
~ John 16:20, 22
Join us in praying for those remembering sorrows new and old today. Join us in praying for our nation, our sisters, our own hearts as we remember.
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
Beautiful tribute to our country and to the lives lost that we all grieve together. We all grieve our individual pain differently, and, as you said, that’s okay. Thank you for a comforting reminder that God does not judge us on how we grieve. Instead, He opens His arms of comfort to us in all our grieving moments. He intimately shares and feels our pain with us. Remembering, today, the lives that were lost and thinking also of my beloved dad.
My dad passed away this day two years after the terrorist attacks so this day is a double whammy although the grieving gets easier we never forget those lost and the memories shared together as a family or nation.
kellee lehman says
I thank about all those who were in the towers that day. Some survived like my brother Randy and others did not. I know that God took them up with him beyond the clouds to an amazing beautiful place called heaven.That is where those of you who lost a love one will unite at the pearly gates.
Grieving a whole mess of life this morning-it’s loud and lonely and I thank you for the reminder that my broken heart is seen.
Kerith Stull says
Is there really a wrong way to grieve? It’s an individual process. At the same time, we really need others to walk through the process with us. I think there are times when we need professional help, but that doesn’t mean we are grieving “wrong.” We are never alone. He truly does walk with the brokenhearted.
Well written! Thank you for your gentleness and love. We lost our sweet 13 yr. old daughter back in March. She was disabled but very able in Christ! She blessed so many lights, shinning for Jesus. Although she could not walk, talk etc. her smile and spirit lit up a room. Our family is still grieving and I am good with it. It takes time but we will never forget and God is close to the brokenhearted! Praise and glory to Christ, the healer and lover of our souls!
This was lovely and right on! THANKS
Lulu James says
I describe grief as coming in waves like the ocean–you never know the depth or the severity—but they roll over you–sometimes expected other times not–it takes a long time for the ocean to finally come in only sweet soft waves-etched in sunshine–but finally you are left with just that- those cherished soft rolling memories-rolling in with the tide and covering you with warmth.
Maxine Gonzalez says
Thanks for reminding us about grief and how it is different for all of us….. I know so many that are grieving right now. It is a comfort for sure to know that HE grieves with us and is close to the brokenhearted.
Thank you for this email. I still remember where I was on Sept. 11. I still brings tears to my eyes. I also lost my father this year on Aug 30. I needed this to remind me that we, all, grieve different. God always sends what you need to lift you up.
Jenny Barker says
Very well said… with love, strength, gentleness, and permission. Permission to grieve in our own unique ways the enormous variety of things that break and weigh on every one of our hearts. I’m so grateful that God is “near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” May Jesus come for all of heart as we lean into him for comfort and peace. Thank you for your words…
Kendra Roehl says
Beautiful Mary. Thank you for sharing from your heart and reminding us its okay, no matter how we grieve or remember today…we are never alone.
Lu Wings says
Thank you for the reminder that, however we each grieve, it is right for our own personal process/journey…………and that our way, can accidentally rub someone else a tad the wrong way when it’s not matching how they handle things.
In the midst of our own grief, may He make it possible for us to be aware of and make room for others and theirs. Incredibly hard when in the midst of a grief shared, yet imperative if we (and relationships) aren’t to be torn asunder.
Thank you, for sharing your heart and offering a forum, for us to share ours.
Susan G says
Thank you Mary. These words were very compassionate, and perfect for today. I’m in Oregon, so far from NY, Wash. DC, and Pennsylvania, but my heart has grieved every year since 2001. It is something I will never forget. And since that day, on any ordinary day…the reality of ‘that day’ can suddenly pop into my mind. My daughter and I flew, then drove to NY just before the 1st Anniversary of 9/11. It made all the photos and videos and news reports I had seen, sadly come to life. Hudreds of days since then, I pause and pray for all those who lost loved ones, those who were maimed physically and emotionally. I pray for them and for all of us, that we will never have another day like ‘that day’. I pray we will all come to know His Peace and Comfort and learn to trust in Him completely. Jesus is the only answer for ‘that day’.
My grandma passed away late last May. The day of her funeral, my daughter asked if we could still celebrate G’ma’s birthday in August. Of course!!!!! My husband was against it because that’s not how his family deals with grief. If this is what was going to make the kids…..my sister…..my mom feel good, then that’s what we would do. Little did we know that my dad would pass away at the end of July. 2 months after my grandma. That made it all the more important to be together.
Thank you for such a beautiful reminder that no two of us are the same. We can understand how a person feels but we never KNOW how a person feels. Only he or she knows. And Jesus.
My son Vinny passed away on December 29, 2012 – 29 days short of his 30th birthday. He wasn’t sick. He died peacefully (I hope) in his sleep. He lost his father when he was 13. I don’t know how he grieved since he never let anyone in.
When Vinny died I showed very little outward emotion. For me grieving is a very personal experience. For some reason I didn’t want others to feel uncomfortable in my presence. What do you say to a widowed mother who has lost her only child?
For a few months I wondered if there was something wrong with me. Why wasn’t I as sad as people expected me to be? I don’t know why but I do know that my faith in the strength Jesus gives me carries me. It was Vinny’s time to go home.
I’m not “in shock” as some thought. I’m facing the reality of God’s Will.
May you all have a Blessed day.
Thank you Mary for your kind, compassionate words & then allowing all of us to open our hearts. Today I too remember & pray for everyone. It will be 2 years the 27 th of September my Mom went home to be with Jesus & like Lulu put into words grief is like the waves of oceans. Very well said. My Mom was my best friend, we did everything together. I miss her soo much. take it 1 day at a time. Keep your eyes on Jesus❤ God Bless each & everyone of you ladies❤
Kristen Strong says
Gorgeous writing, m’friend. You say it so well.
Thank you, Mary.
Marinalva Sickler says
Paul loved his country with the devotion of the veterans. I remember now alone all our holidays. He went to his other country in heaven on February of 2012.
Thank you for reminding me that God remembers all.
Thank-you Mary….your post was very beautifully written .
Love and prayers to everyone that is grieving today.
Glenda Powell says
What a beautiful post—written with such insight and wisdom! Thank you.
Jann Patterson says
My sister-in-law shared this link on FB and I am so glad I read it…my husband passed away last Nov.16…this past yr (almost) has been a roller coaster ride of emotions, and I am still on the ride. Your words were so meaningful to me. Thank you, and God bless everyone today who has grieved for their loved ones from the Terrorist attack of 9/11/01, and also the ones grieving their loved ones from last yr’s attack at Bengazi(sp?), 9/11/12
Thank you for your very intuitive words today. I was just thinking yesterday and today – feeling that God just doesn’t understand how much I still absolutely ache for my late husband. I sometimes still feel so devastated, even after 5 years, that I think that God just couldn’t understand. I needed to read this TODAY and know that he really does. Thank you.
Bless you, dear Mary. Praying for you now.
Ashley Larkin says
Thank you for giving honor and dignity to those who mourn in all forms. Yes, we remember. Lord of all comfort, thank you for your presence.
What a beautiful post, Mary. Prayers for you and yours.
Beth Williams says
Beautifully & poetically written. Yes–all grieve in different ways. God is always there for the broken-hearted. It has been 4 years since mom died–literally, but 7 years since I lost her to dementia and sundowners. I miss her terribly & I know my dad misses her also. He grieves by remembering the good times they had together.
I lost a beloved 4-legged pet just a year ago. I truly miss him. I grieve by looking at pictures and remembering the good times we had together.
Grieving is a good healing process. A way to let out emotions and and try to be ok with the death of a friend or loved one!