Funerals, Grief and Comfort

Today was the 7th funeral I’ve been to in my life. I remember 6 of the 7 them very clearly. They were all very different, some took place in small intimate chapels,  some were in large packed out churches, some were to celebrate a long-lived life and some mourned a life that ended too soon.  At every funeral, something happens to me as I’m looking at the casket. I  always find myself imagining the person in the casket, just jumping out and saying “Hey! Just kidding! I’m here!” I think that’s the denial/shock  stage of grief rearing its ugly head.  For the first few days after hearing that someone died, its hard to wrap my head around someone dying. But, Funerals always make the loss seem real.  In the end, the person never jumps out, the casket is taken away and put in the ground. I’ve taken a lot of spiritual strength tests, and I always get empathy. Funerals are hard because you see the family, you see their grief, you see close friends and neighbors all sitting just a few pews ahead. Tissues in hand and a burden so heavy.  I want to get up and hug them, I cry for them, my heart aches for them. Funerals are hard.

Death is hard to comprehend. One day someone is alive, and then the next they are not. Leaving behind material items, unfinished school work, clothes on the ground, friends who didn’t say goodbye, friends who wish they could have.

Death is sudden.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I’ll see you again.”
“Let’s keep in touch.”
“Have a good weekend!”

These are the things I said to the people who died the last time I saw them. And it’s not my fault for not being able to predict the future, but sometimes I just want to kick myself for not hugging them longer, or being more intentional. A lot of “could have’s” and “should have’s” flood my head. 2 of my friends took their own lives, so that whole  “could have” “should have” feelings were magnified with the “Why?” question.

Places, things, events all become very sacred after someone dies. I had lunch at Chickfila one Friday afternoon with some band people. Chris was with us and he introduced me to Chick-fil-a sauce. That night he passed away in a motorcycle accident. It was the first and last meal I had with Chris. 4 years later and I still get chick-fil-a sauce at every meal. After my friend Austin died, we put up a memorial on his tuba locker in the band hall. To anyone else, it was just a locker with a tuba in it. To us, it was sacred. It was his space. My last time spent with Katie was a year ago at an outdoor mall type place. We sat on a bench next to these fountains with Fro-yo in our hands. Maybe, instead of going to her grave, I’ll go that bench, and I’ll sit and talk with her there. I’ll add those long cinnamon sticks to my yogurt like she always did. Who knew cinnamon sticks could become sacred?

I’m no stranger to grief and loss, but I’m also no stranger to the comfort of God. There’s something truly unique about encountering God in a state of pure grief.  When you’re before the Lord, broken into a million pieces with a million questions,  the Lord scoops you up and holds you as you weep. He holds you as you shout in anger, He holds you as you doubt His goodness, He holds you as you struggle to get through the day. I love knowing that God is big enough to handle me as a grieve. I don’t have to pretend everything is alright when it’s not. He knows already what I am feeling, so why try and hide it from him?

Two of the hardest days of my life were March 21st, and March 22. 3/21 and 3/22. My life verse is Lamentation 3:21-22. Before this verse, the author was just venting his anger, frustrations and just unmet expectations to the Lord. He was angry and wanting the Lord to know. Lamentations 3:21-23 says “But, this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed; for His mercies are made new every morning. Lord great is your faithfulness.”

In a way he’s saying “BUT, even though it all sucks now, even though I’m angry and upset and hurt and confused, I  have to remember something. I have to remember that none of these emotions will consume me, though I grieve, though I feel pain, though I feel broken I will not be consumed. Why? because of the Lord’s great love. Every morning is a new day, every morning he showers me in mercies. Every day the Lord is faithful. The Lord’s love is constant despite my inconsistencies.”

Though I face another period of grief, I know it will not break me. I’m holding on to 2 Cor 4:8-12, 16-18

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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In Memory of Katie

Monday night, I got news that my friend Katie had passed away on Sunday. Katie and I were close friends through junior high and high school. We met once or twice to catch up after highschool and college, but it had been a year or so since we last talked. Below, I’m just going to share a lot of memories and stories. Maybe in another post I’ll write about my feelings but right now it’s just time to remember Katie and the impact she had on my life.

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Every 4 years, my highschool band goes on an out-of-state trip. Lucky for us, this trip landed on our senior year. We went to Disneyland and Universal Studios in California. I remember Katie and I went through the House of Horrors together, and one of the funniest moments was when we both  were scared by the employee at the bottom of the stairs who was just standing there to warn us about the steps. This was in 2011 and Facebook Groups were a big deal, and so Katie and I decided to create a facebook group and the title was so oddly specific like: “I yelled at the employee at the bottom of the stairs at HOH in Universal Studios.” I think we were the only members of the group.

One day she invited me to a Jonas Brother concert and i was hesitant, but it was free and Katie was my friend. So I decided to go. I was not a fan of the Jonas brothers walking into the concert venue. The Jonas brothers were more than my little teenage girl heart could take. When the concert was over,  I’m pretty sure I wanted to marry all of them.  A two hour concert that night wasn’t enough JB for us, we jammed to their music on the car ride home. And I spent that night listening to their songs on Youtube.  And we spent the next few weeks/months talking about them. Katie’s passion for bands, movies, music, art was infectious. She’s the sole reason why I went through a Jonas Brother phase.

Speaking of phases, with adolescence comes phases of crippling self-doubt and loneliness. That was a tad bit dramatic, but its true. I remember having moments, days, weeks even when I just felt like no one liked me, that I didn’t have friends, or that I didn’t belong anywhere. On multiple occasions, I remember Katie being the person who brought me out of those dark phases, just by smiling and saying hello. On band trips, there were a lot of times where everyone was just standing around waiting or we would be going to a mall to eat, and everyone would group off with their friends. I knew I could always count on Katie to not run off and leave me. Or to include me in a circle of friends that she was talking to. i never felt judged by katie, I always had this sense of acceptance when I was around her. That I could be whoever I wanted and she’d still love me. Her faithfulness was such a light in my life.

It’s hard to think of a time in highschool where she wasn’t there. Band, band trips to Corpus, band trips to San Antonio for State and BOA, Anti-homecoming, Prom, the Snowpocalypse Texas had a few years ago when we went ‘sledding’ and made cookies afterwards, the trip to sixflags, your harry potter themed birthday party, bowling, my 18th birthday party, New Year’s eve where we played Apples to Apples for 3 hours on the floor by the front door. I’ve never lost someone who I’ve shared so many memories with.

We got together last year for frozen yogurt at the same shopping center where we took our group prom photos. I remember thinking about how everything had changed so much since Highschool. We’d gone to different colleges, met new friends, studied different things, yet, there we were siting on that bench eating Fro-yo like nothing had changed at all. It was not awkward, or forced, it was just authentic friendship. Laughing, talking, venting, dreaming. That’s how I knew i had a true friend. For that I am incredibly grateful. Thank you for your faithfulness, for sharing what you were passionate about with me, for always being down to do anything, for being an open ear, and a great source of joy in my life. I miss you already. but, i know I’ll see you again. 12250083_10153251410263317_5605255206383773078_n

 

 

 

 

Stop waiting.

The youngest student in my class is 3 years old, and she is very articulate. One time during recess, I saw her throwing rocks so I had her sit down for the rest of recess. For the next two weeks, every time we were going outside or anytime she remembered what had happened, she would say “Miss mowwy, I will not thwow wocks.”  One time she went as far as to say “I will not thwow wocks so miss mowwy wont get mad.” Ouch, i know Mom guilt is a thing, but is teacher guilt a thing? because that one stung a bit.

Anyways, she’s very articulate.

Recently she’s started a new thing, if she gets caught doing something wrong or we correct her, she’ll say “Okay, I will do (insert thing here) tomorrow.” Today for example, she skipped/ran to her spot in the classroom and I told her to walk. She stopped and said “Okay. I will walk tomorrow.” No, how about you walk today,  I thought to myself.  And then I heard a voice in my head that said ‘Why don’t you walk today, Marlie?” Then I realized how I was just like this 3 year old girl, knowing what I should be doing but deciding to put it all off for tomorrow. My dreams? Eh, tomorrow. Reading the Bible? tomorrow. That email I need to send? tomorrow. That friend I need to call? tomorrow. The apology that needs to be said? tomorrow. The conversation that has to happen? tomorrow. But how often does tomorrow just become today which is code for just another day that we say we’ll do that thing tomorrow. I don’t know what you need to do, or stop doing. But don’t wait to make that change. Today is the day. Walk to your spot today, send that email, confess that sin, confront that person with love/truth, step up. You’ll be glad that you did.

In all toil there is profit,
    but mere talk tends only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23