It is Friday and, in two days, on Sunday November 8th, it will be the first year anniversary since my beloved’s horrible and unexpected death. I never expected my life to be touched so personally by tragedy. I never imagined that the unthinkable would become my reality. But it did. Anniversaries aren’t supposed to be like this. It’s not the right word, not at all. Anniversaries are meant for celebrating. One year. This is not an anniversary. It is simply a painful marking of time. A notch carved out on the stick of survival. I’ve carved out lots of notches on that imaginary stick in the past year. Every single day.
This morning I woke up with a migraine. The muscles in my neck and back taut with the discomfort of these dreaded days ahead. What I know from the experience of grief is that, sometimes, the expectations of something are more difficult than the reality of it.
Visiting Carl’s grave for the first time.
Carl’s first birthday in heaven. He would have been 36.
This one year anniversary of his death.
I can’t believe that I’ve survived any of this. I can’t believe that I survived those first awful, awful, awful seconds/days/weeks/months. But I did. And I continue to do so.
This morning, I took some ibuprofen and went back to bed until it took effect. I was folded in tight against the configuration of three dogs. There was no room to feel lack of love. Eventually, the tension in my body eased. An hour later, I wiggled my way out from under the covers and made a special pot of coffee…with beans we brought back with us from Uganda. There were 5 of us. We each brought back 5 kilos and then, once home, had a local coffee roaster work his magic on them. From green to black.
I stood in the kitchen and cried. I don’t know why. Half of those tears were an overflow of love for my new Ugandan home awaiting me and all those who I love in Africa. The other half of tears were an overflow of love for a man that is no longer with me on this earth.
I have not cried like this since before I left for Uganda. I am afraid that these tears might not stop for awhile. And I suppose that’s ok because, honestly, I need these tears to wash me clean.
I have fallen so deeply in love with a place and, most of all, its people. I feel a sense of purpose reaching so deep into my bones that I find it blessedly impossible not to act in accordance with it. I cry, but with a complete and holy knowing that God has had a plan with this all along.
Oh, God, why did you have to break me so thoroughly?
And yet I know He had to because it is the only way I could have experienced any of this in the way that I am. I’m moving into a future of working with widows in Eastern Africa to rebuild their lives. I’m moving into a future of loving and working with children who have lost some of the most important people in their lives.
I couldn’t understand their loss without having experienced such mind-bogglingly impossible loss myself.
I couldn’t do it without the amazing support of friends and Carl’s family standing beside me.
I couldn’t do it without God. And it was this loss that brought me straight to the feet of Him.
I’m moving towards hope and a future. And my heart fills to the point of overflow.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~Jer 29:11
I put my faith in those words and God has never once left me wondering about their truth. It began with a yearning. Then glimpses of a future. Soon those glimpses began transforming into real possibilities. It wasn’t long before those possibilities become actions and those actions became a reality.
With my own two feet planted on African soil,
my arms folding in a whole lot of love,
it was the first time I felt the depth of
that God had been promising me all along.
And I know that was only just the beginning. With each passing day I grow closer to the dreams that God planted a seed for so long ago.
I can do this. I can walk through this weekend with a full and grateful heart. I can get through the day I have dreaded for so long. Sunday. A sacred day. Carl’s first year in heaven. So many blessings have happened in that time. Carl made me ready for God. He wasn’t just the person I wanted to spend my life with…he’s the one who, by the gift of his love for me, taught me what true and good and healthy love really means. I didn’t know how to be loved like that before him. What a gift…
a gift that led me straight to God.
And so, these days, even through the tears, I am grateful. Because life is filling with a JOY and a depth that I have never before known.
Dear Abba, I am yours. Thankfully, I am yours.