In under 3 years, i’ve watched 2 people from my family die. My mom’s mom died June 2012 and my dad’s dad died April 2015. Both experiences, though centered around the same big idea (death) were different. My grandma died after finding out she had cancer. She lived 3 months after her diagnosis. My grandpa died after 8 days in the hospital after suffering 2 heart attacks. One death slowly becoming more imminent, the other one, teetering on the edge of hope…that he might pull through. And my mind wanders. It wanders through the treacherous valley of hope.
It’s scary to hope. Because in both situations, i hoped. And in both situations, hope died. It died as i raced to the hospital to hopefully see my grandma one last time that never came. It died as i watched my grandpa fall asleep, surrounded by those who were hoping that he wouldn’t, for the last time. The agony rushes back in droves. The sorrow swallows my heart. The depth of hurt scoops out like a broken, metal shovel scraping what is left of my broken heart. My hope…feels shattered. My heart feels unreachable. My anger rages in silence as my heart continues to question His goodness. Right now, I feel so alone. I wonder where He is. If His Word says that He is near to the broken hearted and the crushed in spirit, i wonder, where is He? I get angry that I’m not seeing Him, or feeling His nearness. Maybe I'm just missing it. Maybe I'm just expecting it in a way that isn’t affordable. I want some kind of comfort. I want some kind of restoration to my hope. But i feel like the valley that I'm in is far too tall. That even though I know that the grass and the greenery is the most lush in the valley, i feel like I've only found desert. I’ve lost a lot of hope over the years. Because at the end of my hope, there has been disappointment. In my life, there have been things I have hoped for. I have sown blood, sweat, tears, time, energy, etc and i have been disappointed. And even though His Word promises He will never leave me nor forsake me, I am just having a hard time understanding how that can be true. Truth isn’t a feeling. No matter what i feel, it doesn't change who He is. Walking through grief takes shape differently in each person’s life. I don't remember feeling anything the week my grandpa was ill, because i had every hope…that he would be ok. But then, he died. I’m afraid to hope again. I’m afraid to put my feelers out again. because i have understood what disappointment feels like. It’s atrocious. it’s pain that words cannot reach to the depths of. I want comfort. I want reassurance. i want so many things. but they don’t come. And i feel ashamed that I'm the Christian…im the one who should have the hope. I'm the one who should have the answers. I'm the one who should be able to walk through grief the best. i should have no problem pulling out of sadness. but the truth is, i don't know how. i don't know how to trust God in this season of life. i don't know how to trust God for healing in this part of my life. because I'm not even sure i experienced healing from the last time. i don't know how to change my expectations. maybe if i just “expected” for my grandparents to die, the pain would have been a little more manageable. i understand that might sound a bit morbid, but you’re human too, I'm sure you understand. its not difficult to know, that the least connected you are to something, the least amount of pain associated with it’s passing. I don’t know my neighbor’s family. If one of them died, i would not feel it. Likewise, if i chose to not know anyone, it wouldn’t hurt as much when their time was done. The more love that is deposited, the more time spent, the more memories created, the more hardships faced together, the harder it is at the end of it all. I get that. but for some reason, i keep putting my hope out there.
i don’t have any pretty, flowery language to make it sound like i worked all of this out in one hour spent thinking about it, arguing with myself, yelling at God. I don’t have anything worked out. if anything, i feel that much further behind. Someone at my work, a fellow co-worker, had found out that my grandpa had died. Her first statement to me was this; “Was he expected to die?” Almost as if that would make the sting a little more ‘handle-able’ on my part. because if we had expected him to die, because grandpas are older, so we should just expect that they're on their last leg, my pain would be less. I answered after i took a moment to swallow the fury i wanted to scream back at her and I said, “no actually.” Then she asked the next question i wish i could beat all the way down to hell. She asked, “oh im sorry, were you close to him?” Almost as if she was trying to determine on a scale if i was exuding the right amount of sadness in that moment. I again swallowed back my pain as i answered, “yea, actually.” Then i walked out. I got in my car and drove to the water and parked. I sat in silence. Alone with my questions, 4 days after watching my grandpa struggle his way into eternity, i felt numb.
Now, 2 weeks later, i let myself cry. I let myself feel the pain of losing. Again. With each gasp, my hope wants to believe it won’t hurt as deep the next time. I wish I could reach into my chest and pull out my heart and put some padding around it for the next blow. I wish i could lock it up and throw the key into the ocean. SO that way, i couldn’t even open it. Its hard to believe that right now, God has the key to my heart. It’s hard to believe that right now, He is here and wants to heal my broken heart. Its hard to believe that he feels what I'm feeling. It’s hard. Because what i feel is everything opposite of that. Im looking at my closed bible sitting on the dash of my car, wondering if i’ll find the answer if i open it. or if my hope will be dashed by my search. because i know the truths in it, i could spout them off. but for some reason, not even those bring me any comfort. because what was here, is now gone. death rips through ignorantly, takes what it wants, leaves its devastation, and then we try to resume life the way it was before. which is impossible. because something is different. I dont know how to do this. And any effort i have is feeble at best. but i am going to do my best in this moment, and even if im wrong, im ok with that. One more time, i'm hoping that in this season of grief for all of us, maybe this little bit of encouragement will help heal a little piece of your heart.
If you’re reading this, and you’re part of my family, this next part is for you. I don’t usually call people out in my blogs, but i am this time. So if you’re reading this and you’re any of these people; Michael, Holli, Katie, Nicole, Alexa, Jaden and Angela, this is for you. And if you’re not, that’s ok, you can still continue to read. In moments like these, it’s hard to walk up in person and say what you want to say. Because what can you say when words do not heal? They only remind us of what was, what is and what will be.
To Michael and Holli; You will be wonderful parents. I’m so glad that Holli got to be part of our lives with grandma and grandpa. When i heard you call them “grandma and grandpa” it wasn’t weird, it was right. You were meant to be a Bailey. No matter the journey set ahead of you both, I don’t have much faith in a whole lot right now, but what i do have, is for you guys to not just “make it” but to succeed in every way you were meant to. NO matter what idea of success you have built up in your mind, whatever comes, commit to stay with each other, and for each other. It won’t be easy, in fact, you will probably walk through more difficult things than easy ones. But rememberer, iron sharpens iron, flowers start in the dirt and dark, and diamonds are made under pressure and heat. You can do it.
To Katie; whenever you feel like you’ve let everyone down, maybe even especially yourself, you made the best decision by choosing to walk out the hard stuff. When you doubt who you are as a mom, a future wife, a daughter, a sister, etc, know this; you have people who are full of belief for you. Not because of what you can do, but because of who you are. And when you feel alone, don’t look down, look up. You are the perfect mommy for Connor. You were chosen to be his mom. Keep doing it.
To Nicole; its ok to have limitations. it makes you human. you weren't meant to be a superhuman. It’s ok to be weak. Don't let your limitations, however, limit you. Let them catapult you into what you were made to do. Ask for help when you can’t do it. its a much more noble thing to ask for help when you need it, than to turn it down and try to figure it out on your own. even when it hurts, put your whole heart into everything you do. You might get burned, it could happen. But ask yourself this when you begin to doubt yourself, “what if i don’t?’ The reward is in the risk.
To Alexa; This might sound crazy, but don’t always do what your heart tells you to do. Our hearts make decisions based on our feelings in the moment, based on emotions and based on our circumstances. Don’t make split decisions if you don’t have to. it’s ok to take time to figure out who you are. Don’t shy away from taking the road less traveled. You never know how your life can impact and affect those around you.
To Jaden; dont run from the hard things. run from the shallow things. don’t let disappointment steer your course. Circumstances are tricky, circumstances fight for our attention. Commit to stay the course, fight to the end. Keep your focus. Don’t do anything for the approval of others. It’s a short high that ends in your own disappointment. It’s more painful to disappoint yourself and try to gain the acceptance of others, than it is to disappoint them. You have to live with you for the rest of your life. lol be the best version of yourself because you love you.
To my sister; i know you are probably angry at yourself for leaving when you did. i know it probably haunts you, and in the moment when you came back into grandpa’s room and you realized what had happened, i could almost feel the statement in your mind, saying, “you missed this one, too.” You were probably blaming your stupid self for not being there when grandma passed away, and now you were doing it again for not being there when grandpa passed away. But if i can encourage you, know this, even though you weren’t there when they both passed away, you were more than there when they were alive. You live more days than you die. You’re born once, you die once. But the time in between is the time that matters. That’s where memories are created, love is felt, life is shared, hurts are worked through. Don’t live in the blame, don't live on the days that they died. Live on the days they lived. That’s where the good stuff is.
To everyone else reading this; I’m not perfect, and i never will be. i don’t have my life figured out, and i never will. I struggle, i feel pain, i feel hopeless at times, i cry myself to sleep at night, i question God’s goodness in my life. I wonder sometimes if He sees me, if He hears me. This is one of those sometimes seasons in life. I wonder sometimes if He can handle me, if He can handle my grief, anger, fickleness, weakness. And even though i don’t feel anything right now, by faith, the little that i have, i can say, it is well with my soul. Not because i can look at it and it looks bright and cheery and happy. But because as best as i can, im letting Him have my soul. Even if that’s the only reason that it is well with my soul, then ok. And even if i don’t feel it right now, i know that my soul is in the best hands when i let it go to His. And even if you don’t feel it either, it doesn't make it any less true. Your soul is better in His hands. Even if you’re angry, even if you don’t trust it in His hands, you got nothing else left to lose. It’s one less thing you have to juggle.