/ / Ramblings on Grief, the Holy Ground of a Hospital Bed, Love Casts out Fear

Ramblings on Grief, the Holy Ground of a Hospital Bed, Love Casts out Fear

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A year ago this week, a hospital bed was rolled into our home of 18 years.

It’s where I learned the ordinary spaces of a hospital bed and our family room could become so profoundly sacred and tender. That bed and our home became holy ground. Jon was giving all he had to give.

Ordinary moments of grief have given me eyes to see the sacredness and sanctity of this journey of life into death, death into life and the significance of the grieving process.

It was one of the many moments from my husband’s cancer journey when I knew there was no going back. We were on the precipice; We were in the valley of tears while entering the valley of the shadow of death.

Even when I knew it was coming, I still wasn’t prepared for its impact on my kids or me.

We still handled it with grace and found peace in the ache of the unknown. We still do.

It reminds us that even in the depths of sorrow, there is a profound beauty in the shared experience of being human and the universal truths that bind us together.

We still opened the door to the truth that life was limited. This is a truth for all of us. 

A brain cancer diagnosis took someone we loved from us. It took so many parts of Jon from us long before that hospital bed rolled across our room. Our journey with grief has been long, longer than a year since Jon left us.

The bed brought ease to our lives and safety and comfort to Jon’s limited mobility, but it also brought a painful truth. Jon would soon no longer be with us.

Grief and loss were already looming. Only God knew the hour.

Nothing about death is easy. Not even an approaching first anniversary.

Death is a loss that takes time —maybe a lifetime—to heal, even when we know the truth about the eternal reward.

We are Easter People who still mourn.

The passing of a human person is still a loss that leaves behind a gaping hole where some things can no longer be repaired or reconciled.

Death is teaching me how to live.

Grief invites us to embrace the full spectrum of human emotion and experience, recognizing that within the depths of sadness lies the potential for growth, resilience, and ultimately, a deeper appreciation for the preciousness of life itself.

Praying with Jon on the first night in this sacred space.

Touched By Loss

I have been touched by a lot of loss and death. I experienced profound loss as a child and in my 20s with the loss of grandparents, loved ones and beloved furry friends. I lost my dad 6 years ago and walk alongside a friend in the loss of her husband. I have experienced the loss of a friend far too young and a dear friend just this past week. I lived through the loss of my mom while my husband was fighting terminal cancer and experienced the most devastating loss of my precious husband and father to my children almost a year. They have all taught me different lessons, each affect me differently.

Every death is unique and each shapes our perspective.

Some losses and their relationship and proximity to us will inevitably affect us more intimately, dramatically, and painfully than others. You can guess which loss has stung the most.

“Then the Lord God said, ‘it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as a partner’…Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.'”

Genesis 2:18,23

Time in grief does not make things easier; maybe after a while, we simply learn to integrate grief into our lives. It is never easier. Time passing reminds us how long it has been since we parted from the one we lost.

Grief becomes a companion that fills the void of our loss. Hope can, too. But this reflection is about holding space for grief. I share about hope here and here and here and it will always be a thread in my stories.

Maybe we learn where to place our deepest wounds or who is willing to hear the darkest parts of our hearts and begin to recognize those who dismiss the most painful ache. We know with whom and where it is safe to open the door to share all that dwells inside the space of grief. Not everyone is capable of or meant to hold our pain. That’s the problem with pain. I invite you to read C.S. Lewis’s books The Problem with Pain and A Grief Observed.

We learn to keep our circles close; and guard our hearts.

Grief is lonely, even in a crowded room. Grief is nothing short of complex, confusing and often contradictory.

Over-spiritualizing and offering platitudes can cause more grief. Sitting with others in the ache is a true gift and calling.  

Turning away or not showing up when someone you love is grieving is pouring salt in a wound that can’t seem to heal. 

C.S. Lewis wrote a book called A Grief Observed, where he shares his experience with grief after losing his wife. He wrote: “An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well-brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers…To some I am worse than an embarrassment….I am death’s head. Whenever I meet a happily married pair I can feel them both thinking, ‘One or other of us must someday be as he is now.” 

On Grief

Grief is an isolating experience. Nothing truly fills the void—nothing but my faith and God anyway—and it’s okay to still pursue and choose to find ways to live with hope and joy. It takes courage and a lot of work—we have to surrender to God and to His Holy Will for us.

Grief is utterly exhausting, and often, nothing makes sense. It’s bewildering and lonely.

Sometimes, lingering in bed or leaving laundry behind or dishes in the sink is all we can do.

A widow friend told me this week that sometimes getting up, dressed daily, and showing up for work is a big win.

Giving more than that sometimes is hard and necessary, but it brings light and hope. Still, it doesn’t mean the grief is gone. Still we can find hope, peace, and a meaning in the new life we are rebuilding.

No matter the work, whether a nurse, a teacher, a business owner, someone who drives a bus, or a mom who is raising her kids, homeschooling them, too and writing to keep things afloat, showing up takes more work than most people know. It’s easier to hide under the covers. Three days of bereavement is hardly enough. 

Grieving and healing and finding a new rhythm takes time and take an enormous of work.

In The Sunshine Principle, Melody Lyons suggests, “Healing does not exclude suffering, and suffering doesn’t exclude healing.” The is a truth I have found in my journey of suffering silently through grief. Silent because it is easier grievers are so often misunderstood and misjudged.

It’s becoming more clear how uncomfortable the world is with death and loss. It’s uncomfortable and dismissive of the pain others carry in their devastating loss. We need to learn to be better with those who are grieving, giving them more grace while judging and expecting less of them.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” .

James 1:27
A Meaningful Gift from friends

Death and dying are both a brutal and tender, holy and painful circumstance we ALL will experience at some point. Death was never part of the plan thanks to a fall in garden, but death will touch all of us at some point, we ought to learn to build better, more compassionate and gentle skills for grieving.

Death can be both beautiful and scary. The reality that we’ll never see our loved one again is a hard truth. Knowing our loved one who has gone before us was healed and made whole is a sacred truth that brings comfort and consolation. But death still stings, and grief is complex.

May we be mindful of how we “celebrate” death in the face of loss. Cheering for heaven is appropriate; in the Christian life, the goal IS to walk one another home to heaven. But cheering for heaven too soon after death can pierce hearts, distort the truth, and dismiss the need to weep and mourn.

I’ll always hold close to my heart Jesus wept at the loss of a friend, and He hurried to console those He knew were mourning Him on the cross.

We can believe there in peace, joy and redemption for our loved ones’ healing on the other side of the veil, and still know it comes at a significant cost to those left behind.

This is the complexity of grief. This is why grief and loss can be so personal and unique.

It is a both and.

May we take time to honor and acknowledge that cost. 

May we show mercy and compassion to those who mourn for however long needed. 

May we be gentle to and supportive of those who mourn.

May we be patient with the sorrow.

May we not turn away in their hour of need—even if that hour is 365 days beyond loss.

In The Problem with Pain, CS Lewis writes, “About human pain, we know; about animal pain, we can only speculate. But even within the human race, we draw our evidence from instances that have come under our own observation…Indignation at others’ sufferings, though a generous passion, needs to be well managed lest it steal away patience and humanity from those who suffer and plant anger and cynicism in their stead.” 

We can’t know what another carries in their grief, we can be willing to acknowledge their pain and loss.

Trying to imagine the loss a person experienced—and apply it to your life— is nearly impossible. And I wouldn’t want anyone to know this pain. Don’t try to imagine. 

Trying to imagine is more than erasing a person from an image in your mind. I tried to imagine when I knew it would someday be my reality, and erasing that face in an image in my mind can never compare to having a loved one permanently removed in the flesh from your life. 

I didn’t want to waste time imaging; I wanted to spend time living. So, I chose to stop trying to imagine. Instead, I decided to love well in the dwindling time.

What Death Teaches

Death has taught me a lot.

Staring into the face of death has taught me to love well.

Death has made me even more mindful of the suffering of others. 

Death is teaching me to live.

Death has taught me to be even more tender with others even if my heart is tender to talk.

Death has given me eyes to see the holy ground my children got to walk and the pain my kids suffered in watching their dad take his final breath.

Death has taught me to loosen my grip from trying to control but choosing to grasp only what sows hope and gives life even while we all face death. 

During the weeks, a hospital bed lived in my home while we were in the shadow of the valley; love was never more apparent, and grief was never more thick. 

Time wasn’t on our side, but we felt God was very close.

We were in liminal space.

Love cast out all fear of death and dying. A vision of Mary, clinging to the cross and allowing God to lead the way revealed this salvific grace.

Love and respect for the sanctity and dignity of a human life and death—birth into eternal life—gave way for a hospital bed to become holy ground.

“The tragedy of this world is not so much the pain in it; the tragedy is that so much of it is wasted. It is only when a log is thrown into the fire that it begins to sing. It is only when the thief was thrown into the fire of a cross that he began to find God. It is only in pain that some begin to discover where love is.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary

It’s in these moments of vulnerability, where life meets its inevitable conclusion, that we often witness the greatest displays of love, compassion, and reverence for the dignity of each individual. In such moments, there’s a recognition that every person’s journey, from birth to eternal life, holds immense value and significance. It’s a testament to the deep interconnectedness of humanity and the enduring power of empathy and understanding.

This reflection is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend (and friend to so many), Jessica Hanna who held my hand, was a faithful prayer warrior, a confidante about marriage, caregiving and loss and an immense support in more ways than I can count for us, all while she was fighting and being blessed by (as Jess called herself) her own cancer journey. Please remember Jess, and her husband Lamar and 4 beautiful children and all of her loved ones she leaves behind. Her funeral services will be this Sunday and Monday.

Jessica’s one yes to life changed her entire life and many others through her witness, surrender and walk in faith. You showed us how to live as though heaven was always within reach. You gave God all the Glory

Please go here to see the beautiful prayers Jess offered on April 28 for Jon after she learned he died, before she opened the results of her PET Scan she had earlier that day. Jess, I love you and already miss you so much. I pray Jon greeted you at the gate with arms open wide and you gave him that hug from me. Thank you for all you did for the Lord.

And I will always remember hearing you say with such humility, joy and a beaming smile, “I don’t know, I just wanted to do it for Jesus.”

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3 Comments

  1. This was your most poignant writing, Heather!
    Thank you for each word! Jon must have been a remarkable husband, father and person. Your grief is deep and you are walking a rough path, yet you share with such generosity and grace. You and your family are always in my prayers.
    I love the dedication to Jessica! A beautiful way honor “our” saint and a perfect gift to Lamar and the family.
    Jon and Jessica, pray for us.
    Teri (Materdolorosactk)

    1. Thank you Teri for your beautiful messages, prayer and love. And for supporting and encouraging my work! It means so much!!

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