II Corinthians 5:4 “…so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
My darling Gary, my husband of 40 years, left planet earth after pancreatic cancer finally took over the frail body that had battled so long to live.
I was not prepared for his death, though it was no surprise.
I tried hard to be well, to be an “overcomer” in the midst of a lost that left me riven to my soul. Riven means to be split asunder. Yes…that’s what it was like.
This next passage is taken directly from my journal 9 months after Gary’s death:
“I can’t be wrong or perky or cheerful or brave. I don’t care if I’m a good example or if I’m a disappointment. I’m screaming with pain and loss.
Heaven is foreign to me. It does not bring the comfort I need. I only know it is far, far away and Gary is there – away from me. I can’t see his face or hear his voice or touch his hand. He’s gone. He’s dead.
Its slowly sinking in – past the layers of shock. My darling Gary is never, never coming back. Ever. These are words I despise – single, widow, change and status, alone, cemetery, a new start, moving, “how are you doing?” People are sick of me. I’m sick of me. I can’t talk to anyone – not really talk. They’d be afraid of me.
I’m exhausted from trying – just trying to live, to work, to keep breathing. I’m surprised people can’t see the huge, bleeding hole in the middle of my chest – the gaping place where Gary used to be. But he’s gone and I can’t get better. I can’t recover. I’ve lost too much blood. My body continues to live, but I’m lost somewhere – alone – I wish there was an escape hatch, but it’s not there.”
Wow! That is a raw, but very accurate reflection of where I was. In 2 Corinthians, Paul reverses the imagery that death and the grave are the great swallowers and states that our life, our bodies can be swallowed up by LIFE.
Life took Gary; it left me – or so I thought. I thought I’d surely die myself from the pain of his loss. What is my testimony? The hated words from my journal have been swallowed up by life words.
After 10 years and 10 months, these are the four words that are part of me now:
HOPE – to expect with confidence Psalm 71:14 – “But as for me, I will always have HOPE. I will praise you more and more.”
Unfaltering hope made its way into my wounded heart. Hope is a transitive verb – it has a direct object (someone or something that receives the action of the verb).
Psalm 147:11 – “The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their HOPE in His unfailing love.”
The object of my hope is not me or my machinations. It is the Lord Jesus and His love. Hope is loud and strong and resilient. No wimpy hope here. It sustains a broken heart or a terrible failure.
I heard, “Hold on to hope,” but experienced that HOPE wrapped its strong cords around me and held me steady.
God calls out very clearly, “There is HOPE for you!” I’m so glad I heard Him and believed Him.
HAPPY – fortunate – having contentment. Happy was a long reach for me and a difficult part of healing. I cried hard every day for 19 months. Tears were ever present. Happy seemed too far away. I attended Grief Share and that offered me an outlet to release the deadly sorrow and confusion I held. I began to empty the negative and painful, so my heart and mind could be filled again with His word, the Truth. I began to see how fortunate I was. I was deeply loved by Gary. Grief is the price we pay for love and it’s loss. I’ll pay it! He was my gift of love.
The next part, contentment, came slowly. Phil 4:11”…for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstance…”The secret I learned about contentment? I am united with the living son of God. He is the one who fills my soul. Gary could never be my source of happiness or contentment. Only the Lord can fulfill our deepest longings.
I filled myself with His words, His truth, HIs promises. My mind was renewed, my shattered emotions began to be repaired and real contentment came.
HEALTHY – to be well. 3 John :2 – “…I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”
This scripture speaks of wellness as a continuous action. The journey began with brokenness, weakness, loneliness, fear and the pain of amputation. That’s what Gary’s death felt like. Healing from amputation is long and arduous, but there is HEALTH. You just learn to “walk” differently and “see” in a new way. Slowly, everything in my world that had turned upside down, began to right itself.
The beautiful, gentle Balm of Gilead poured Himself over my fractured life. The love of my family, who stood lovingly though it all right beside me, helped usher in eventual wellness. How welcome it was.
HORIZON – the limit of a person’s mental perception. In every step of a journey, horizons change. When I come home from Virginia, I look for the skyline of Charlotte on the horizon. It means I’m almost home.
Proverbs 15:24 – “The path of life leads upward for the wise.”
The grief journey is NOT onward and upward. It is dizzying and confusing. It is unknown and unfamiliar. But God’s faithful care keeps us from horizon to horizon.
Psalm 57:2, 3 – “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. God sends HIs love and HIs faithfulness.”
What were God’s purposes for me? I felt helpless and useless. But God put the broken pieces of me back together. It’s called God Glue (very exclusive). I learned I didn’t have to be a beautiful, pristine vase, but I could haul water!
His purposes for me always included these last 11 years. He already knew. My horizons have changed dramatically. I have retired, moved away from where I’d lived since 1953 – left family and friends – church – my job – all that was familiar and comfortable and repurposed everything. God stands outlined on each horizon, every day, grief and mourning are hard, but I have HEALTH ( I am well), HOPE (Jesus Christ), I am HAPPY (content and fortunate) and new HORIZONS greet me each sunrise.
I am swallowed up by LIFE!
Christ Fellowship member