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Mourning and Heaven


“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

I find my eyes are fixed on and my heart longing for heaven these days.

I am sure this is no surprise, yet I find I am surprised.

No, I am not saying I am ready to give up my beautiful place on this Earth until thy Will Be done. I still have a beautiful and precious life to live, a garden of hearts to tend and help mend, mouths to feed, gifts to share, rebuilding to begin, joy to uncover, and a mission to love others well that brings glory to God for as long as He will allow.

But I am living in a liminal space.

When Jon left this Earth and entered Eternal Life, he took a piece of me with him; part of me died too. That I know for sure.

What I cannot explain is that He feels closer than ever, and God does, too—liminal space.

I long for heaven. I long for Jon to be here too.

“Our parting will not be for long, we shall see each other again in Heaven.”

St. Aloysius gonzaga

I am surprised by the state of grace as I walk in the uncertain place of mourning and grieving an unimaginable loss. I still can’t imagine it, and yet I am living it.

In many ways, I was preparing for this the entire time Jon lived his brain cancer diagnosis and journey.

But I wonder if we can ever really prepare for it. I don’t think we will ever be prepared for such a loss. I suppose we lived in anticipatory grief and the trauma of all the medical circumstances and other unnecessary heartaches we encountered while on this journey.

I am surprised by grief in ways I have yet to process and cannot articulate. Surprised feels like a very nuanced word, as are the answers to questions like How are you doing? How are the kids, etc?

So much profundity and challenge in the answers to these questions. The responses cause a need for explanation, given their ambiguity, ambivalence, and curiosity, especially if someone attempts to overanalyze or interpret an answer I can hardly offer.

Just Okay

Simply put, it’s best to say I am just okay—such a loaded answer.

I hear it’s not uncommon for those who experience the loss of a spouse, or any loved one, for that matter, to be unable to articulate “how they are doing” after a loss. I have experienced my share of significant loss—parents and a few friends—in the last several years. The walk of grief is unpredictable, so very personal and different for everyone.

So given the surprises of grief—the nuances and the circumstances—that you confront, it seems best to remain silent as we ride these waves. I am finding the battles that rage are often once again provoked by a snake who wants to steal our peace and rock our boat until we are under those waves. We don’t have to let the liar and thief steal our peace or the abundant space necessary to grieve while attempting to stay wrapped in a mantle of grace and hope.

Without a doubt, losing my husband is the hardest thing I have ever faced.

And I just encountered a few years of the hardest thing I ever faced.

I still could not predict how the suffering from the grief of the going home, “gone forever” part would and will continue to manifest in the daily moments and places in my life.

With that said, I am doing okay—there’s that nuanced answer to a well-meaning, loving, and loaded question.

Grief is not an isolated thing.

Loss isn’t either.

This loss that causes us to grieve isn’t just about the person we lost. It’s also about all the things, the events, and the connections attached to that person that we lost too, like our future, seeing dreams come to life, while empty-nesting together, the celebrations with cake to name a few, never mind the milestones my children will never get to experience with their dad by their side. We have already experienced our first college graduation without him. Yes, we know he’s with us in spirit. We know that is true; it just doesn’t make them/us feel better or change the fact of the enormity of our loss.

From the moment of diagnosis in July 2020, we knew we were living on borrowed time. The only question, the only uncertainty, was how much time we had. By the way, this is true of all of us. We don’t need a diagnosis to remind us of that.

We all have a choice for how to live in such a sacred, tender time. We all have a choice for how we live our everyday. May we choose today to live in the present holy moment so there’s no regret.

Jon decided to live in the moment as best as he could. I love him all the more for all have gave. He knew what was most important to him and how he wanted to live in his finite time while living with as much intention as possible within the confines of what brain cancer was doing to his body, mind, and soul.

The brain cancer journey gave us eyes to see that the soul mattered most. After all, this was a journey to sanctification. We knew brain cancer would be the path to heaven for Jon. Verso l’alto…To the heights we traveled many times.

We squeezed as many memories and “as much life” into our limited time. We have no guilt or regret. We did our best to live our days as if they were our last. Knowing his last days would eventually come at the hand of an aggressive, recurring, incurable brain cancer showing consistent progression in the last several months, Jon decided how he wanted to live this time, we supported his decision, and we never left his side.

When I emerge from this season, this non-linear state of brand new grief with no timeline, I may write/share more about grief and what it means to be asked how we are doing. It doesn’t make much sense to throw out a bunch of words that resemble an answer to how we are truly doing and wonder if they are clouded by grief. I ponder if this reflection is even clouded by grief.

No stranger to grief.

I am no stranger to mourning and its effect on us. Grief affects everything.

I AM a stranger to this new club of navigating grief as a widow, so I will guard my words and heart and only offer them when I know my heart has been on the mend by the threads of grace stitched by the hand of God.

Maybe someday, I can expound on the process of discernment about our choice to live as peacefully and intentionally as possible while Jon was living with (and dying from) brain cancer. Our faith was instrumental in all of it, especially in surrendering and trusting God and searching for and maintaining peace.

It depends on if, when, and how the Holy Spirit guides the pen. Not all parts of the story are meant to be shared nor understood by others, no matter how often or much the inquiries are made. Some details of our stories are far too intimate to be shared in a space like this or even beyond our walls.

For now, I will share I am missing Jon like crazy, and without a doubt, I will for the rest of my life. The kids are missing him, too.

I continue to be very thankful for the life and legacy we built together, the incredible children we raised, and the loving community surrounding our family.

I’m grateful for the gift of these kids and that we can openly navigate this indescribable time together. The kids are the very best of our marriage and the life Jon and I worked so hard to build together, especially these last several years. Ora et Labora.

We often talk about how strange, it is to feel peaceful, but we know Jon went through a lot and isn’t going through a lot anymore. That seems simple, but it is shrouded in both trauma and treasured memories. We have a lot to process. We are grateful Jon is no longer suffering AND we miss him all the same.

Both are true.

We have been through a lot together as we supported and cared for Jon with all he gave during those 33 months.

From the moment of diagnosis, our lives were forever changed as we accepted the cross we were asked to carry and ALWAYS faced the prospect of losing him. It was only a matter of time we just took it one day at a time.

We will be “okay/good” no matter what because that’s how we choose to live, how Jon lived, and how he would want us to continue living—with joy and peace, love and laughter in our hearts with our eyes fixed on Heaven’s Glory.

We are grieving and navigating big, tender emotions, traumatic experiences, and precious memories of the journey and crisis of brain cancer.

Mending, restoring, and rebuilding a new identity as a family in this life without Jon, our anchor, our captain, and all of the other things he was to us, will take time, likely a lifetime. We will not rush it and hope no one will expect us to.

We are resting a lot and craving solitude while also finding comfort in lingering over long conversations with one another and utter silence as we trek down memory lane.

We are thankful we visited our beloved city by the ocean again for a short respite. There is nothing like the sand and sea, salt and light, to start the healing process. Nothing like ice cream for that matter, too.

We feed our bellies and souls—probably eating too much or not nearly enough, but we still get up on Sunday and make it to church to feed our souls.

We continually search for peace and joy while mending our hearts, clearing the layers of dust, and growing in this new soil that was amended with the richness of faith.

We listen to music, and we continue to dance. We are just a bit out of step. I miss how my lifetime dance partner held me in his arms and kept in time with me even though I sometimes had to slow him down.

We cry on demand, but then we laugh until tears flow from the corners of our eyes once again. Laughter turns to tears, and we start all over again.

This is grief.

We have had many signs from heaven which bring so much consolation and appreciation for the gift of our faith. I cannot imagine walking this journey without a deep-abiding faith.

Speaking of abiding faith, I wish I could convey how I sometimes see Jon’s face and how it subtly blends with the countenance of Jesus. I ponder the depth of this agape love and how it gives me the courage, strength, and will to move forward.

“When husband and wife are united in marriage they no longer seem like something earthly, but rather like the image of God Himself.”

St. John Chrysostom

It eases the pain just a little, sometimes a slight bit more than that.

It still stinks to the high heavens.

It’s unfair, but we trust God’s plan for us and this new chapter of our lives even when we don’t understand.

I definitely would not have chosen this desert road. Yet, we continue to see the hand of God in all of it—the loss, the mourning, the small miracles, the tears, the laughter, the challenging moments, and even the harsh realities that simply don’t make sense.

We appreciate the continued outpouring of love and support and the many prayers, gifts, and comfort that continue to be sent our way by so many. There are no words to adequately express our gratitude for those who always show up without condition or explanation.

Thank you for checking in, lifting us up, and offering comfort whenever the spirit moves you.

Another surprise in this mourning and grief is the level of exhaustion we are experiencing. We are catching up on a lot of lost sleep and necessary rest. I keep saying I owe my sleep some sleep. so I sleep.

It’s no wonder why I long for heaven…

“Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure.”

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