A few days ago, I was holding a pair of Gary's shoes, and tearing up. I was getting ready to put them into a box of his special clothes that I can't bear to part with right now...maybe never. Most of his clothes have been given away over the last few years as he became more and more immobile, and eventually bed bound, but there were still a few things in the closet, and so I went through them again. Clothes are personal. The memories of our loved ones in their "favorites" are etched in our minds. Shoes are just shoes, but my husband wore THOSE shoes. The shoes touched Gary and I can touch them. My sorrow over Gary's absence is never far away. It is real. It is fresh and it doesn't take much to pull it up to the surface.
"...you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy."
Jesus said this to His sad disciples when He spoke of leaving them. (John 16) They had given up their lives to be with Him and now He was going to be departing. They were confused, and very soon would be devastated as they would see him tortured and executed. But, their grief would be short-lived because He was going to be raised from the dead and come back again. Jesus was going to take the VERY EVENT that caused their greatest sorrow, His death on the cross, and use THAT SAME EVENT to cause their greatest joy, their eternal salvation. (Great sermon on this HERE. )
I want to do grief right. I'm a Christian. That means Jesus lives inside my soul. Here's a cool thought. When I am praying to the Lord, Gary while right now in the presence of the Lord, may very well be talking to Him too. At the same time. God has both of us in His hands. He's in between us and the Center of us. That is what we always wanted and what we promised when we vowed our vows. God is my only real-time connection to Gary now. I can't talk to Gary anymore in this life and would not even try to. Gary is having his very best possible life, present with the Lord. Someday I will be there too, but I just think it's so neat that even though our marriage is over, and we are no longer one flesh, we are each absorbed with our Savior. Jesus will be our main focal point for eternity. That's not always easy for me, but it IS easy for Gary now, without the distractions of this life. It's hard to describe, but in a tiny way it's similar to this: Do you know how exciting it is to share a great experience with someone? Taking in the scope of the Grand Canyon, watching your favorite team win, enjoying a wonderful concert together. It's a bonding that occurs over a shared experience. Gary and I are both loving God at the same time. He in the eternal presence of the Lord, and me from the limits of this life.
Standing there in my room holding Gary's shoes, God turned my sorrow into joy. He didn't REPLACE my grief over missing Gary with something "happy." Instead he reminded me that just as God was our Savior and the center of our marriage, He still is the One who receives our worship, gratitude and love. Because He loved us first, we love Him and we loved each other. God has repeatedly TRANSFORMED my SADNESS into JOY in the last three months without Gary. It's not a one time thing. Therefore, I'm committed to keep on looking to Him for joy and comfort in the midst of the unavoidable grief when it shows up.
By the way, there are still a few shirts hanging in the closet so I can touch them when I want, and remember including the orange shirt he's wearing in the photo.
"Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever."
Gary's Memorial Service can be viewed HERE.