Good Grief

Last year, an unwelcome course correction arrived at my doorstep with the sudden passing of my husband. My life came to a screeching halt as I faced the stark reality of being thrust into the unknown and the numbing emptiness that followed.

I unwillingly became a part of a club with no guidelines, no rules, and no secret handshake. I was signed up without permission and I can’t “cancel at any time”. 

The blessings that came from a forty-seven year marriage were overshadowed for most of this past year by regrets over things said or done, the if onlys and lost opportunities. I thought that dark cloud would not dissipate. It totally sucked.

I needed someone to complain to.  Ahhhhh, God. I could complain to God. I’m so good at that. But, the last time I tried it went something like this:

Me dialing the number I found on Google…

The message in response:

                Dial 1 to leave a message of gratitude.

                Dial 2 to leave a complaint. You will be prompted to whine, grovel and beg.

(FYI this box is not monitored.)

How in the world did I fool myself into believing that my life would just keep plugging along with only a few pot holes here, bumps in the road there, until I drifted unceremoniously into eternity? I was lulled into believing that the way my life was would not change drastically or without some kind of damn warning.

Wrinkles and gray hair warn you. They don’t just show up one fine morning. They tiptoe in without much fanfare giving you plenty of time to disguise them before your next high school reunion. The aches and pains of aging sneak around your joints like a ninja which mercifully eases you into the acceptance that your running days are over.

For as long as I can remember each day of my life seemed to blend into the next. Birthdays piling one on top of one another were no more thought provoking than a trash can filling up. Any thought of purpose or meaning was often left unaddressed – till tomorrow – or next week – or…. 

I think life’s subtle changes are meant as a wake-up call. But, they’re too subtle for me. They need to scream loudly into my failure to act before it’s too late…but…oh yeah…pride helped me ignore the fact that I probably needed a hearing aid. Until now – until this.

Then, just as suddenly as I was knee-jerked into widowhood, the dark cloud lifted to reveal God’s promise to turn my mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11).

Being thrust into the pain of loss must become the catalyst for change; for hope that there is more to this life. Or why do we even bother? Matthew 4:16 says, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light”. Jesus came along and spent his life showing us how to live abundantly in that light often in spite of the darkness.

Then one morning, God spoke into my broken heart, “This is your new reality Linda. You’re still here. You are surrounded by my love, the love of an amazing family, and supportive, loving friends. Now, get up, dust yourself off, and go do what you were created to do. Because, if you haven’t learned anything else this past year, you surely have realized that this one precious life you have is short. Quit wasting it!  Roll up your pity party mat and GO!”

I will leave you with two of the most powerful quotes that have helped me move beyond my sorrow:

Gian Carlo Menotti wants us to let this sink in, “Hell begins on the day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts which we have wasted, of all that we might have done which we did not do.”

 John Shelby Spong tells us, “It is to live not frightened by death, but rather called by the reality of death to go into our humanity so deeply and so passionately that even death is transcended.”

Sleep-Walking Through Life

For years, as a Christian, I determined that my “job” was to inform everyone I encountered of their “heaven/hell” status. I was good at it too! I could even give you a check list of “requirements” to get into heaven and I can assure you the hoops you were required to jump through were daunting. It was not for the faint of heart! It’s no wonder I was never successful at “converting” anyone, including myself!

We sleep-walk through life with no clue what we’re doing here or that our lives have meaning and purpose – but they do!

We are all called to use the gifts and talents we already possess that have been uniquely designed for us. But it takes awareness on our part. We can be so enmeshed in, and blinded by, the things of this world we miss out on our whole reason for being here.

If you are going through life day-after-unremarkable-day; schlepping through the same routine to ad nauseum – STOP IT! Your life has a purpose people. God needs your brilliance and love to shine his light in a darkened world.

You. Matter. That. Much.

Leo Tolstoy’s  novel, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”,  considered a masterpiece, was written just after his own “profound spiritual awakening” and conversion experience.

While lying on his deathbed, Ivan ruminated about the reality that his entire life was superficial and self-serving as he profoundly stated, “Maybe I didn’t live as I should have done.At the end, he posited a question that Tolstoy must have pondered, “What if I really have been wrong in the way I’ve lived my whole life, my conscious life?

And don’t look to me anymore (like you ever did) to give you a formula or a check list to send you on your way to sainthood. But, I will tell you this: You cannot love and serve others (which is our greatest calling) until you are able to love yourself. And you can’t love yourself by means of any of the myriad of self-help books on the market. And…no…sorry, there’s not a pill for that either.

We are so used to being in a world that is loud and demanding of our attention. We even busy ourselves filling in uncomfortably quiet places.

Socrates claimed the unexamined life is not worth living. “To live deep and suck out all the marrow” as Thoreau put it.

If we would just stop talking and LISTEN to the lessons life is trying to teach us!  Geeeezzzzz, we’re SO BAD at listening.

The expression, “Life is short” is a yawner for most of us until it becomes a reality. My reality came a few months ago when I found my husband had died in his sleep. Now it’s real for me!