Saturday, October 21, 2017

Leaning Into Grief

Expecting to feel pretty slammed by grief on Tuesday, when all the family had gone and I would have the time to stop and think...and feel... it surprised me to just be numb and lethargic. I spent all morning reading a library ebook that had become available that day. Didn't get out of my pajamas until 2 p.m. Couldn't stay focused in the afternoon, thoughts flitting from one thing to the next in rapid succession. 

Then while surfing through my Facebook feed, up popped a link to a post about "leaning into grief" (sorry, I wasn't in the proper frame of mind and didn't think to note the author or title) and it made sense -- but how exactly do you do that? Lean into grief? The author said the point was to face it head on, rather than trying to go around or ignore grief. The idea floated in and out of my head all evening.

Wednesday morning I decided to read emails Sharon and I had written to one another in the months leading up to our departure from Argentina. As IRL, my emails were lengthy (blah, blah, blah)... while hers were short and to the point. We were so very different in so many ways but, for whatever reason, we totally understood one another. That's rare. That's a gift.

For me that's what leaning into grief looked like on Wednesday.

Monday, October 16, 2017

When Grief comes to visit

Grief is one of those guests who show up unannounced, assured of their place even though they're not welcomed with open arms. Grief keeps to himself a lot of the time, leaving us alone as we putter around the house or go shopping or to work. But every once in a while Grief becomes really annoying, getting right in our face, making demands. We can't shrug him off, or talk him into going away. He just stands there, front and center, immovable, and we can't get around him. He badgers and pesters and brings us to tears. Then suddenly he stops and goes back to his room for a while and we are left in blessed peace. Unfortunately we never know when Grief is going to come back out, so we're always a little on edge. He seems to delight in catching us when we least expect it, and then BOOM! he's all up in our business again.

The other unfortunate thing is that we don't know how long he'll stay at any given time. His visits can last weeks or months or years. There's no known way to shorten his visits, because what works for one person won't work for another. Some seem to handle Grief better than others. I wonder why that is? Grief is a mystery to me. I don't like him much, but he's a part of my life -- and yours -- and we just have to learn to deal with him the best we can. And that's going to look differently for each of us. I try not to let Grief overwhelm me (he's that sort, you know) and most of the time I succeed. But once in a while he gets under my skin and drives me absolutely crazy. I'd like to send him packing, but I know he won't go until he's good and ready. So meanwhile I hunker down and try to handle his unpredictable behavior the best I can.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Grace and Grief

I lost someone very dear to me this week and for a few days the words defeated me, as my Ugandan friends would say. My thoughts were a jumbled mess and I've felt like I was slogging through mud, both physically and emotionally. Then this morning I woke and the words were there, crowding my brain and I knew it was time to sit down and write.

The floodgates of grace released, pouring over and filling every nook and cranny of grief. Grief that I felt right down to my bones. Grief I'd been feeling all summer but especially this past month as Sharon's health steadily declined. Early in the summer it became obvious that the experimental drug trial she was in was not helping. Her lungs filled with fluid and had to be drained. Again and again. Her breathing was so labored that it hurt to hear her panting, gasping for air. And when she was hooked up to a monitor we could see how fast her heart was racing as it struggled with the oxygen deprivation.

Her big kind generous heart was slowly wearing down.

But she kept going by her sheer force of will, ready to try anything that might help. Chemo, immunotherapy, oxygen 24/7, pleural catheters... But it was becoming clear that nothing was really helping. Her sister Karen called her mom and other siblings. They started arriving last weekend. On Monday another breathing crisis meant yet another trip to the ER, but this time she was admitted to ICU. I wasn't there when the nurse practitioner from the oncologist's office came to the hospital to say they felt the best thing was to stop everything and just make Sharon as comfortable as possible.  I was on the way and had to pull over when her sister called to share the news; just sit there a while and pull my messy self together.

When I arrived at the hospital, I saw a glimpse of the old Sharon, purposeful and focused, using her last reserves to do what needed done, especially to help her husband and sons deal with her impending death. I held her hand a while and we talked and I held my tears in. Barely. Other people crying stressed her out. Her pastor came and she asked everyone to leave the room so she could talk with him alone. I said goodbye, not knowing it was for the last time here on earth. I did know it wouldn't be long though, and I sat in my car and cried for a good long while before I could leave the parking lot.

The decision was made to transfer her to a hospice facility in Ft. Wayne where they had the respiratory equipment she needed. That happened Wednesday evening. She was gone before dawn broke the next day. Thursday, October 12, 2017 I lost one of my best friends.

I don't know how long it will be before I stop thinking about things I need to tell her. I don't know how long it will be before simple things won't make me cry -- like seeing a generic Pinterest email in my inbox. She and I often sent each other pins, and we shared boards for various rehab projects. I don't know how I'm going to design and make this next baby quilt without her ideas and suggestions. I've never had to do this alone before. I don't know who to send funny animal memes to any more. I don't know who I can find to be snarky with about life; who shares the same irreverent sense of humor.

But amidst this great big whine fest, as I feel sorry for myself and mourn her loss, I have to also be grateful she's done suffering. Because believe me, she suffered. She did not go quietly into the night. She fought long and hard and with all her being, and it was hard. It was bereft of dignity as other people -- strangers mostly, although some became well known -- poked and prodded and scanned and drew blood and took x-rays and drained lungs... It was the loss of privacy for a very private person. It was becoming dependent on others when she could not do for herself, a person who had always done for others. It was painful and miserable and hard. And I can't but help feel relief that she's past that now.

That's where the grace comes in, flooding every crevice and pushing out the grief bit by bit. It will hurt for a long time. I will miss her always. But I'm holding onto the many memories and feeling thankful for the years she was my sister-in-law and my very dear friend.

Sharon Lynn Hoyt
Born: January 15, 1962
Died: October 12, 2017
Memorial Service: 
October 15, 4 p.m. 
Community Grace Brethren Church 
Warsaw, Indiana 

And because it would have pleased her to no end, I'm including a picture of her beloved dogs, Rilla and Walter (Little Cat is camera shy, but trust me when I say she rules the roost and those dogs!). She loved her pets to distraction and would have had more if it had been possible. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017


Wandering is a weak word for what I do.
But you relentlessly pursue me,
telling me again and again.....and again
that I am your beloved.

You bend grace when no one else would,
when my ugly is enormous 
and hurtful.

You shower me with joy
in moments unexpected,

You bend down to listen intently,
to every word or groan,
careful to hear my heart.

You are the Great I Am,
Almighty God,
Awesome Creator of all that exists,
Place of safety and rest,
Protector of the defenseless,
Provider of all that's good,
Relentless Redeemer.

My psalm offering for Harvest Sunday at Valley Springs Fellowship, 2017.