It was the boxes that set me off. Four arrived from Washington state, lovingly packed by my dad and my aunt and filled to the brim with treasured items from my grandparents’ apartment. Both of them passed recently after 75 years of marriage – Grandpa on January 28, and Grandma on March 2. The boxes’ arrival conveyed a finality that words never could.
It had been a tough day already. I’d had to delete the reminder that kept popping up on my phone.
“Call Grandma and Grandpa” hurt me every time I saw it.
That task was a perpetual one. Call every week or two, just to check in. Make a little statement of love to span the distance between my hometown of Annapolis, and theirs – Seattle.
Life around here is probably like yours. Activities to get to, people to care for. My kids were the reason for that reminder. Time spent on homework, sports, music lessons, meals, and sweatpants and socks gone M.I.A. gets frittered away so easily, and my mind unravels bit by bit. I need a ‘ping’ now and then to keep me on track – to help me stay the course for ‘to-dos’ of eternal value.
And besides, I looked forward to our conversations, especially the ones between just Grandma and me.
“Tell me about the children,” Grandma always began, and I’d fill her in on the latest. I know she asked because she wanted to hear, but I also know that she asked because she knew that my kids hold my heart, and talking about them brings me joy. Grandma was savvy; she could see what was important and what wasn’t.
But yesterday, there was no need for the phone reminder anymore. The void in my heart caused by their absence is reminder enough.
How can a void be filled?
You can try to stuff it with meaningless stuff, but that’s not what we learn in Scripture.
“In the beginning…the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss…Then God said, ‘Let there be light,'” (Genesis 1:1-2).
You know the rest of the story.
Voids can only be filled by one thing: the power of the Creator doing what He does best – create.
My faith has been carrying me steadily, but riding the emotions is an important part of grief.
I’m thinking about this when my husband comes home from work to find me crying.
Fear has gripped me. What if something happens to the few recordings I have of their voices? What if I can’t tell their story? The bigger fear is this: What if I forget….the way they spoke to me, the feel of their hugs, the sound of their laughter….And oh my gosh, we laughed so much because they embraced life fully and radiated happiness.
It’s what they wished for me – for all of us – even as Grandma whispered in each of my children’s ears the very last time she hugged them. “Have a happy life,”she said to them, one by one.
How can I create anything of meaning and joy when fear and sadness press in?
Look again at the picture in this post. See my daughter playing piano in the background? She’s using her God-given gifts to compose a piece that tumbles like thunder and shakes the floors of our home. She presses into it, telling me that it’s helping her prepare to play a similar song called “Seascape,” that conjures up waves rolling on a sandy shore.
There’s a lesson in this moment.
To cover an abyss we must plod through darkness, leaning into the Source of all power to do the art of creating life in the now. We trust in faith that we will be given what we need, and that promised joy will indeed come.
So play the song, write the book, take the trip, make the call, and see and speak and push through the pain to make something new out of a formless phase.