Running Towards Grief

I AM A RUNNER. 

When stress overtakes me…I grab my sneakers and hit the pavement. When people hurt me…I desire to seek refuge as far away as possible. When life gets hard…I search for the greener pasture. This is a part of my DNA. My makeup. For as long as I can remember, my propensity has been to run. Flee. Take flight. Escape the uncomfortable.

On the other hand…

MY MOM WAS A FIGHTER. 

When stress overtook her…it motivated her to dig deeper and challenge the obstacle. When people hurt her…she confronted them, desiring reconciliation or at least a chance to be heard. When life got hard…She rose to the occasion, passion pulsing through her veins. This was who she was. Her default. Mode of operation. For the 34 years I knew her, she stood up, faced the hard, and conquered the awkward.

The summer after my senior year in high school, I came home from a month-long camp to find a friend problem waiting at my doorstep. As teenage drama happens, people misunderstood people, circumstances got twisted out of focus, and real feelings got hurt along the way. All the while I was living on the Slovakian mountainside.

Heading off to college, I was content to just let things play out. After all, I’d probably never see these people again, right? Mom couldn’t have disagreed more. Before I could raise my hand to object, the phone dialed a few numbers, and Mom was slamming my car door shut as she drove out of the garage. By the end of the day, I had made four house calls, talked through the disagreement with each friend, and felt a burden lifted. That day allies were restored, relationships salvaged, and wounds forgiven. With Mom behind the wheel, my running days were coming to an end. Quick.

Yesterday would have been the perfect day to just hide away and pretend like it wasn’t happening. Try to stay comfortable and just move on. Staying extra busy, I could have glossed over the hurt, stuffing it a little bit deeper into the corners of my soul. Being the one year anniversary of Mom passing away, I had navigated 365 days without the lady I turned to in my deepest pain and brightest joy. Grief is just plain hard. The hurt cuts to the core. Doing most anything to make it go away, this monumental marker felt like an enormous end-cap to the hardest year of my life.

But just like Mom that summer day in high school, God had other plans for my troubles…

“You have to feel this day, Sarah. REALLY FEEL IT. The pain. The loss. The heartache. The memories. The longing. The emptiness. You can’t run from it. You have to let it come. Trust me…”

“Your tomorrow depends on how you navigate today.”

Crawling out of bed before day break, I yearned to escape back under the covers and sleep the day away. Forcing myself to get up, I threw on a fleece, grabbed my keys and headed to see Mom. It felt more like an act of obedience than it did a desire of my heart. Perched on the hillside, I watched the brilliant, full moon fade behind the clouds to the West as the yellows, pinks, and purples summoned the sun from the East. Sitting cross-legged in the damp grass beside her beautiful headstone,  I reflected on all that transpired that day last year; the sites, the smells, the endless hours of waiting, the raw grief all felt real again. I will never forget holding Mom in my arms, watching her take her final breath, seeing this life I loved come to an end.

As tears spilled down my cheeks,  I was reminded of these verses:

Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

2 Corinthians: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

The day was long and hard. Seeing my child lay prostrate on the grass, trying to give her Nana a hug, ripped me in two. It is so hard to help others navigate their feelings in light of your own. Singing worship songs at youth group brought a sizable lump to my throat. Every song seemed like it had been picked out just for me, for that space, for that day. Though hard to get the words out, worshiping became the perfect way to end the day, signing praise to the One who brought comfort despite my sorrow and my pain. Had I spent my day hidden under my silken bed sheets, I think I would have missed all the tender ways God showed me His peace and His care. The flowers left on my doorstep. The messages from friends who remembered. The conversation with my sister. The ice cream eaten around our kitchen table as conversation was shared. God was there in the little things. Glimmers of hope, love, and joy. And as my pain became exposed, my burden shifted a bit farther off my shoulders, firmly resting on the One who had promised to carry it for me all along.

In all its ups and downs, I went to bed thankful I had felt the day. And as promised…

Today dawned brighter because of the pain of my yesterday.

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Not too many years ago, God started to shatter my perfectly intact life. Hit after hit, the shards began to fall and through my brokenness I have learned to fully surrender. Slowly and with purpose, God is picking up the pieces, fashioning them for His glory. He is the master artist, creating a brilliant and reflective piece of art called FAITH.

3 thoughts on “Running Towards Grief

  1. I feel so fortunate that you have occupied a place in my heart all these years. Your comments were so spot on; I can think of nothing to add except perhaps, amen. I lost my mother when I was 13; my sister when I was 45. Grief never leaves. Growth from the grief is the best way to remember. I ran across a quote several years ago that I find comfort in: “People die, love never does.”

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