I know with all my heart one reason we find ourselves fresh out of amazing is loss and grief. I’ve watched many friends walk the valley of Achor (the name means bitterness) and felt helpless. But until a year ago, I hadn’t experienced this valley personally.
All that changed with a single phone call.
It was cooler than normal for March. My husband was about to head out the door for work when he asked if I needed the van for the day. I told him I was planning to take the girls shopping for bathing suits with hopes of making it to the beach before the week was out. Wishing me good luck, he happily headed for work on his motorcycle, and I finished my third cup of coffee.
I saw that my phone was ringing. I say saw because my phone was still on silent from the night before. It was a small miracle that I saw it ring. I recognized my mom’s number and of course answered immediately.
“Stacey Lynn?” said the male voice on the phone.
Before I could respond, he said, “It’s your daddy.”
My mind at this point was several seconds behind. I recognized the deep voice of my Uncle Larry. His next three words sent me into a tailspin.
“He is gone.” His voice choked out the words, but they were clear enough for me to know what he had said. Still, I said what you would expect me to say.
“He passed this morning, honey. I’m so sorry.”
At this point a sound deep from within my soul escaped before I could contain it. I heard it. I felt it. I saw it. But I could not stop it. I jumped up and started pacing back and forth around my bedroom.
I set my phone down and continued to pace around the room. This became my before-and-after moment. Before the phone call I was making plans for shopping, pool sitting, and movie watching with my girls. After the call I was swimming in an ocean of grief in desperate need of something to grab on to.
Later that night I found myself standing in the Loft. The kind salesgirl asked me what I needed, and I said, “A dress.” She did not question me or complain about my sneaking in at two minutes past nine. I left with a lovely black dress and a sweet pink cardigan. As I hung them in my car, I started to cry. I had just picked out the dress for my dad’s funeral. That morning I had thought I would be at the beach this week. Life had changed so suddenly.
My friend Kathleen told me later that what I was experiencing was a bouleversement. This French word means “a total upheaval, an upset, an absolute reorientation of the way you saw the world before.” She said, “That’s what you have ahead of you. I and so many others in the family of Christ will be praying you through the agony, the blur, the chaos as you try to figure out a world without your father in it.”
Yes. Yes. Yes. That is where I was. In the blur.
And somehow in the blur, we packed all six of us into our van and drove for two days to Indiana to be with my mom, brother, sister-in-law, and other family members and friends. Another dear friend, Lisa-Jo, told me, “Stacey, the only way through is through. No matter what, you have to go through it. And you will. And God will hold you together because that is what he does. He holds everything together, and everything includes you” (Colossians 1:17).
But I didn’t want to go through. I didn’t want to look through thousands of pictures and remember. I didn’t want to stand at the funeral home for five hours straight. I didn’t even want to think. What I really wanted to do was escape. I had the strangest desire to go to Disney World. I wanted for a while to feel magical and good and happy. Even if it wasn’t real, I wanted to suspend reality for a few minutes.
Of course, growth doesn’t happen at Disney World; it happens in the hard places of our lives. The messy places don’t run through It’s a Small World with happy little working songs. Through is through the chaos of grief. What my friends Lisa-Jo and Kathleen both knew was that the only way to make it through grief was to let Jesus hold you together.
I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there (Hosea 2:15 KJV).
From Fresh Out of Amazing by Stacey Thacker
So, as we search for something to grab hold of in the midst of grief that will bring comfort, or as we search for words to say to someone else who is grieving, we want to make sure that what we’re grabbing hold of, or offering to someone else to hold onto, is profoundly, fully, and eternally true.