Friday, October 18, 2013

Bittersweet


I wonder how many people bite their lip when they read my happy news on here. Oh, I know many read it with great joy. But I began writing publicly to discuss pain and how much it hurts and how Jesus heals. So I wonder if I am alienating hurting people now? And how many of you come here to read about Chris—one whom you loved very much? And hearing about my new man hurts you a little. You realize that he really is gone. And Emily isn’t “Chris’ wife” anymore. Maybe I was a connection to Chris somehow, and now you wonder if that connection is gone.

It seems to me that quite often, people surrounding a widow—or widower—are a little surprised to see them “moving on.” (Though I really prefer the phrase “moving forward.”  I will never be over Chris—what do I need to get over, after all?) And I’m very aware of how hearing my news of an engagement this time is quite different than when you heard it the first time—when I was 20 and dreaming of growing old with Chris. You all dreamed it for me too. And I love you for it.
And then, you all rallied around me when my dream was dashed. You let me sit in the chair in my bedroom for countless hours—first from sheer caregiver exhaustion and then from intense grief. You cared for my sweet, confused daughter because I could not. You texted me and usually received no response. You delivered flowers and yarn and chili chocolate torte to me. You sent me books and cards and emails. You prayed. You made me food—and I didn’t even care if it was good or not. I cared about very little. And I remember very little.
But you cared about me. And because you cared about me, you put your grief for Chris aside to help me through my own. Because my loss trumped yours. It was my life that was in ruins. It was my daughter that had no father. A lot of life left but no partner with whom to live it. And I fully entered into grief. It washed over me and completely consumed me. I did nothing but was completely exhausted. And those of you who are well-versed in grief told me, “Grief is hard work. You are doing something.”
And then healing started! The Great Healer—through this hard work of grief—started to bind up my wounds.
And now, maybe you feel the weight of his loss. You see that I’m ok, so it’s finally safe for you to be sad about Chris. And seeing me smiling with a man who is not Chris feels jarring and maybe even shocking. It’s interrupting your postponed grief and feels abrupt. Sometimes I feel a little sad that there is not the same joyful freedom in talking about Scotty—and all the things I love about him—as there was when I fell in love with Chris. No one has made me to feel that I cannot have that freedom. It’s just that I am conscious that this all must feel so bittersweet to some of you. It appears to be “Plan B.”
But it’s God’s “Plan A”, and that knowledge brings me great peace.
And so, I just wanted to acknowledge your pain in all this. And I wanted to thank you for your support through your pain.
(Oh, and I know that I promised more details…I have not forgotten. They are coming soon!)

3 comments:

  1. Dear Emily,

    Thank you for this thoughtful post--it is precisely what I would expect of the woman upon whom Chris had set his heart.

    And congratulations(!) on your engagement and upcoming marriage. I am now old enough to have seen a number of friends widowed who chose to remarry. )One--C. Everett Koop--remarried at the age of 93, several years after his wife's death!)

    When I was just barely eleven years old, I watched JFK's funeral. Schools were closed for the day so that we could stay home and watch it--no simulcast, no internet, no tweets. I recall being outraged at seeing Charles DeGaulle and Dwight Eisenhower laughing as they walked away from the tomb in Arlington; the "eternal" flame had been lit only minutes before, and I said to my mother, "How can they laugh!?" She said something like, "Nobody can be sad all the time", then added, "And besides, they are old friends, and have a lot of good memories" (this a multi-decade memory, and so probably not a precise quote).

    I realize that I shall never see my grand-daughter's children, or even know that they have been born; I shall not see the lives of many of the young people in our church; I shall certainly not see their grandchildren, nor will any of them know anything of me or my wife (and certainly nothing of our parents or grandparents). "A generation comes, a generation goes, and the earth endures beyond our imagination".

    And this is the order of all things under this sun.

    We, therefore, press on as best we can, muddling through our days and nights, trusting that the darkness will end, overwhelmed by the light--which only flashes now and again, and which we think we see, faint and far-off, and hope is not merely our imagination. And so changes come, some wonderful, happy, "out of all whooping" (as is your engagement or a child's birth), and some grievous, painful, exhausting, even angering--"sorrow upon sorrow" (as is not only every death, but also many other disasters, trials, and troubles).

    And so, like the returning Jews, "our mouths are filled with laughter", and we hope for you true joys and happiness, and life, light, and love for days, years, decades to come.

    Peace be in your heart.

    fred

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  2. This is sheer beauty. God's faithfulness has been divinely reflected through the unimaginable loss and heartbreak, and is just as astounding in this new season. Your words are beautifully written and I know many are better for having heard them. May God continue to be the Author of your love story as He continues His gracious work in and through you. Congratulations to you and Scotty!

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  3. Dear Emily,
    What kind words. I celebrate with you as you begin this new journey. I did some dating about a year and half after the loss of Joel. I wasn't ready and then made the decision to postpone dating until after my daughter Hannah(who was older), left home. Hannah still remembers and loves Chris. She comments that Chris was one of the best teachers she has ever had. Josiah, my freshman son, remembers how Chris pushed through his illness to teach. He commented that one time Chris left the room for a bit, but then came back and taught the rest of the class. It wasn't till later that he heard that Chris had gone to the bathroom to throw up during that time. Hannah is a senior at Liberty this year. Honestly, it was a bit hard on Hannah when she heard about your plan to re-marry, but she does want you and Erika to be happy. I want you to know that Liberty will always be home to you both and I hope that Scotty and his kids come to love it too. I am praying for God's blessings on your new journey with him and the kids. May there be joy in the journey!!

    Leaning hard on God,
    Susanne

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