Thursday, July 6, 2017

What Grief Feels Like: Entering my own Holy Week

Tuesday, which was the Fourth of July - a celebration for most of you, was the start of my holy week.

For Christendom, Catholics especially, Holy Week is the span from Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) through his death to Easter. ...and a year ago, July 4 marked our holy week. In one week, I'd gone from triumphant celebration of the Fourth (and a medal placing in a 5k) to becoming a widow. Upon reflecting, I realize this is my holy week. Dan's holy week. Our holy week.

July 4, 2016 - I woke up early to run the Corunna Firecracker 5K with Charles (my brother-in-law), Nate (nephew), and Karen (friend). Charles placed first in his age group, and I placed second. It was my best time of the year thus far. Dan chose not to come because he was in so much pain. Later in the day, he opted not to come to the Mason "tractor parade" either because of the pain.

July 5, 2016 - when I got home from work, Dan told me that he'd cried twice because of all the pain he was in

July 6, 2016 - after my run, when I got home, Dan grabbed my hand and told me that he loved me. When I sat down and asked him why, he said, "because you run. because you have dance parties in your office. because you live life, and you love life. because you can, and I can't."

July 7, 2016 - Dan invited his mom and dad over for supper. We had turkey loaf and some other things that Dan loved. We watched "Mom's Night Out" with his parents. Dan slept in our bed that night. Dan started to cough that night.

July 8, 2016 - We went to the U of M for our normal Friday doctor's visit and chemo. His oxygen levels were lower, and our doctor immediately moved to admit us. Dan found Deacon Wayne when he was getting some blood work done. For some reason, I couldn't stop crying that day. Deacon Wayne came to see us in the afternoon. He said, "Detachment, huh?" ...and I realized that I was so afraid that this was it. I told Dan that I was afraid this was the end. He said, "It's not the end," and we took a nap together.... and then, he got admitted.

...and all the days started to move in a weird slow motion, with every day getting worse. Of those 3 blurred days, my most vivid memories from Saturday and Sunday are praying with my sister-in-law and then with my best friend Pam...and through tears saying, "If this is your will to take him, I know it will be good. But, I don't want you to do it. But, I know you will make it good. But if there is any way, please not now."

I've realized that these were my Gethsemane moments. My moments in the Garden (literally - each time was outside in the sunshine) where I begged God to "let this cup pass from me," and finally resolving, "not as I will, but Yours be done." My last Gethsemane prayer was in the hour before Dan was administered Last Rites, and I prayed with Deacon Wayne. I had no idea how to let Dan go, and I will never "let him go" because he is mine and I am his. We're just holding onto God's hands now, in a much different fashion.

I know what that week was like for me. But, I have no idea what it was like for Dan. Before falling asleep on the 3rd, I talked to Dan about this time last year and told him that I have no idea what it was like for him.

I woke up to "Million Reasons" by Lady Gaga. ...and when I sat down to read the lyrics and hear the song, it fits (for the most part).

Last year at this time, Dan was in so much pain. So much pain that he couldn't leave the house; so much pain that I felt helpless - I didn't know how to make any of this better, and it was so hard to stay in his presence because there was nothing I could do and just watching was excruciating. I did, though - I did stay, I was here - but I think my mind has blocked part of it.

I'm entering the last week. The last, unbearable, unfathomable week.

July 8 was the day I couldn't stop crying. The day Dan wanted his parents to come to the hospital, which he usually didn't because he didn't want to fuss...our last good day together. ...and every day after that just slowly spun out of a helicopter going down in slow motion.

What was it like for Dan? I know that on July 5, he cried twice. He told me it was because the pain was so bad, and I believe that, but I also wonder if God didn't visit him and let him know what was about to happen...because then he told me about how much he loved that I lived life, and slept in our bed for the first time in weeks and held me, and we had dinner with his mom and dad for our last night at home.

"I bow down to pray
to try to make the worse feel better,
Lord show me the way to cut through all this worn out leather...
I have a hundred million reasons to walk way -
but, Baby, I just need one good to stay."

I know Dan held on so long, fought so hard - for me. He told me so. I know he didn't want to leave, to let go - but his body physically could not do it. It fell apart around him. It had given him a million reasons to let go - and he held on for a good one, good one, good one, good one, good one....until it was no longer possible.

You guys...death is real. It exists. It hurts more than anything I have experienced in my life, and the impact will be with me throughout my life. But Dan was right. It wasn't the end. Death does not have the final say: love does. Jesus conquered death - and though we must each endure it, it does not have to be the end. Jesus' resurrection redeemed death - meaning that those who believe in him, through our own death can enter into holiness through that gateway.

“We are not meant to die merely in order to be dead. God could not want that for the creatures to whom he has given the breath of life. We die in order to live.”
Elisabeth Elliot


Anonymous said...

We walked this week with you so beautifully written so hard to comprehend we love you very much Mom and Dad K

PJ Colando said...

crying, trying, empathizing and failing. Larry and I send LOVE. That's all we have