We got a phone call this past Thursday evening. No work on Friday- the restaurant would be closed for a few days.
It was easier to get that out up front, because the force of the following words drove every other thought from my mind. Two of my co-workers had been in a tragic car accident.
One does not use the word "tragic" lightly. I must of gasped at the word, because before anything else was spoken, Mr C and the Individuals were looking at me with questions in their eyes. One of the young women, Stacey, had been killed in the accident.
As it turned out, the young women were on their way to a farewell dinner for Stacey- she was moving to another state this week. Instead, she takes up residence in her heavenly home.
Daniel and Sam and I attended a dinner before the "visitation" Sunday night. We wept with Stacey's many friends and family members. I couldn't go in to the visitation. I sat in the car while the boys went on inside. They didn't stay long. The funeral was yesterday. Stacey was prepared to make her journey from this body. The message centered around her readiness. I wanted to scream and scream, and scream some more. I saw her death as a robbery. Stolen from those of us here- not me so much as her family and friends. (We were acquainted through working together on Friday nights.) I kept my mouth shut, because I would not disrespect her beliefs, their beliefs.
As the funeral drew to a close, her casket was opened. I didn't want to walk by her. I didn't want to see. But I looked. That wasn't Stacey. That wasn't her. It was empty of all that was Stacey. I wanted to grab her Mama and hold her. I went to the car. I couldn't attend the burial. I was barely holding together as it was. It was a ceremony of farewell, for the comfort of those close to her. Not about me, and I was too close to "losing it".
It seems like when I think I have finally gotten a handle on my own grief, some small thing can set me off anew. And this wasn't a small thing.
I sat in the car, and "got a grip". Deep breaths, think of something else. I thought of ceremonies.
People need ceremonies. We have births, followed by a dedication or baptismal ceremony. Most of us honor birthdays with ceremonies. Graduations, award presentations, weddings. Sometimes engagements. New years' celebrations. Many cultures have coming of age ceremonies. A formalization and acknowledgement of some deed, done before man and God. And funerals. The last goodbye, where we formally recognize our earthly separation.
Funerals are the ceremonies that start our journeys of grief. It starts in a deep pit on one side of the tallest mountain you can imagine. You have no choice but to climb from the pit and up the mountain. There is no place else to go. No one can climb out of the pit, or climb this mountain, but you. God's grace helps carry our burdens, but it is still you who must climb.
At times, you think, "Oh yes, I can see the top of this mountain! I will soon be beyond Mt. Grief!"
It takes as long as it takes to get to the top.
For awhile, you think, "I did it! I am over grief!" Then, the clouds around you part for a way... and you see you aren't conquering one mountain. An entire range of mountains stand before you. There are more peaks ahead... and the valleys below. You hand your burdens back to God, and keep going.
(I know that once I have given a burden to God, I shouldn't take it back. I don't know many who have succeeded in not grabbing that pack back and rummaging through it again, to see if there is anything in it I "need".)