Nothing prepares you for the death of your spouse. There aren’t any books you can find in the Christian bookstore that tell you how to prepare, or ten pithy things to say as your spouse is dying. Maybe God wants it that way so everything comes from your heart and not prepared statements.
After C. S. Lewis’s wife died from cancer, he wrote an excellent book titled A Grief Observed. In it he says, “Grief is not a state but a process.” I would go further and say it is a road, a lonely road that only the spouse left behind can travel on.
On January 7, I began walking on that road as my wife passed away after fighting a courageous battle against lung cancer. This road can be extremely lonely unless you are a Christian. Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us, and that includes when we are grieving. Jesus is there holding me tightly during the roughest times, telling me that He is here to help me through this tough part of the road. At other times He is off to the side, encouraging me that I can get through this but that, if needed, He will come alongside me.
These past few weeks, I have learned a lot about grief. Sometimes grief sneaks up on you from behind, like a sucker punch that you don’t see coming. I’m feeling in good spirits and then a song comes on the radio or I come across a card my wife gave me, and I become overwhelmed with grief. Other times it is like a huge ocean wave. I can feel it coming on slowly but steadily, and before I know it this wave of grief completely engulfs me and I am drawn under by it.
Sometimes grief can be mean. All of a sudden I tell myself that this is just a nightmare and I will wake up and see her lying next to me. Then I realize I’m not sleeping but awake and she is gone and I feel all the lonelier, as if grief has played a mean trick on me.
However, Jesus never allows our grief to totally consume us. He refreshes us in many little ways. For example, on the day Judy passed, a friend of ours sent Max Lucado’s UpWords for that day, titled “Into the Arms of God,” in which he answers the question “Where is my loved one now?” He tells us that she in heaven with Jesus. Even though I knew this, it was comforting to read that then and put any doubts to bed. It was as if Jesus wanted to tell me not to worry, she is with Him now and completely safe.
There are times when Jesus has our friends come up beside me on this lonely road and let me know they are there for me. But I won’t kid you: When I am home alone, surrounded by all the memories of our times together, it can still feel very lonely.
As tough as this has sounded, I am not despairing. I am filled with hope. Paul tells us not to mourn as those without hope and it is this hope that spurs me on. I don’t know how long this road called grief is, or when I will reach its end, but I know I will reach it. I know that each day fills me with more hope and less grief.
There will be a time when my tears will be dried and I will be a stronger Christian than I am today. I know that Judy is cured of her cancer, her pain has disappeared, and she is where each of us wants to be, in Jesus’ presence. A place where there are no more tears, no sorrow, only joy and perfect worship.
In the meantime I will rely on Jesus, and say, blessed be His name.
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