We gathered at the farm, bringing baseball gloves and brownies, walking slow to the edge of the pond and watching the lines and lures swim back and forth. We talked about things unimportant, quiet things and loud things, full of memories and teasing.
We all knew why we were there, though none of us mentioned it out loud. On the weekend of what would have been his 38th birthday, my brother-in-law’s presence was strong even a year, more really, after his death. Moving fish from one pond to another, roasting hot dogs over the fire, digging into casseroles fresh from the oven and Pinterest, and smack talking our next round of poker would’ve suited him just fine, I think.
But his dad must have felt differently. At one point he said, abruptly, “Yesterday was his birthday, you know.”
Yes, we knew. We remembered. It’s why we were there. But for my father-in-law it wasn’t enough. He loves having a full house, but it seemed he needed us to say, out loud, why his house was full that weekend in particular.
Everyone grieves differently.
Some of us grieve long, while others grieve shorter but harder perhaps. Some of us grieve every morning when our feet hit the floor, and some of us grieve in those moments when the memories hit us in the gut. Some of us grieve poetic and peaceful, and some of us grieve ugly and angry.
As I’ve said before, death and grief and everything that comes with it – in one way or another, to one person or another, it’s all inappropriate in some ways.
I think of all the ways I’ve grieved “wrong.”
I think of laughing over memories and inside jokes with my cousins during my granny’s visitation, much to my mother-in-law’s dismay. I think of screaming at my mom when she suggested one.more.time. that I get busy and cook some food after my friend’s car accident.
I remember joining my family at a birthday party the day after I lost my job, where I never sat down. I walked, numb and ignoring my family, from one room to the next, picking up empty plates and refilling glasses, afraid to stop, afraid to think, afraid to look anyone in the eye.
I think of the way I returned to my home church the very Sunday after leaving the one we’d help plant, the one that broke our hearts. I think about how I didn’t stop to take a breath, perhaps partly because I was afraid it would hurt too much to breathe. I think about how we all break differently.
And I remember earlier this spring, when I told a friend about our plans to go to the farm on the anniversary of my brother-in-law’s death. She couldn’t understand why we were choosing to commemorate this sad anniversary, why the date was so indelibly marked in our memories.
Sure, she’d lost people. She’d grieved. But she did it differently – and without mentally circling days on the calendar in black permanent marker.
Some of us remember quietly; some of us are a bit louder. Some of us remember every date of every sorrow every time it comes around; some of us mark time not by days but by how much less it hurts this year than the one before.
And it’s okay. It’s all okay. We all hurt in different ways, and we all remember in different ways. And what makes sense to me might be a mystery to you. But that’s okay.
Because, see, no matter how we choose to remember the painful events that shape us, God remembers right along with us.
He remembers when it happened and how you felt and why you cried. He remembers in the quiet of the evening and when you see the date on your phone and when someone mentions her name. He remembers when you walk to his grave and when you drive down that street and when the flags dip low.
Today our nation remembers, and many of us still grieve. No matter how your heart beats today – broken or healed or somewhere in between – take comfort in knowing that He remembers. He is close to the brokenhearted.
Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. . . Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
~ John 16:20, 22
Join us in praying for those remembering sorrows new and old today. Join us in praying for our nation, our sisters, our own hearts as we remember.