September 12, 2011

A Severe Mercy

I received some bad news the other day; a friend of mine, someone I loved deeply, finally lost his battle with cancer. He wasn't even yet 30.

Although his death was expected, it doesn't stop the pain. The knowing that there will never be, on this Earth, another heated debate, another goading of me until I re-examined my stance on things, another laughing-until-I-cry moment with him. It hurts.

Grief is a weird thing. You have moments of okay-ness, where life seems to be chugging along, and although there's a hole in your life, you think you're going to be fine. Then, without warning or seeming provocation, you get hit between the eyes with a pain so intense, it takes your breath away.

I've walked through grief a few times in my life, and what I've learned is that when those moments hit, I need to not squelch them, but rather, I need to lose my breath, acknowledge the pain for what it is, call it grief, mourn in the moment, and let it pass. Not doing so is wrong. It's not how we're supposed to mourn. It's unhealthy.

Yesterday, I had one of those moments. I had stopped by my friend's parents' house, where he had spent his last months. His sister is my best friend, and she was there, doing things that needed to be done.

One of the things that needing doing was his laundry. His favorite clothes of the past few months had been washed and dried, but folding them...that was a final act that was almost too hard for them to do. Dad couldn't do it, and Mom didn't even know the laundry was being done...the grown kids were trying to make it as easy as possible for her.

The thing is, I could see in their eyes, even the grown kids weren't sure they could get through it. So, I walked into the garage and started folding. It's a mundane job, really. Nothing huge, but I had this surreal feeling that every fold needed to be perfect. I think I folded one t-shirt three times, because it wasn't correct. His pants, his socks, even his underwear...I folded every piece.

I bit my lip hard to keep the tears at bay, and I had to stop a few times to breathe a couple deep breaths before I could pick up the next item of clothing. I might've even kissed the beanie that he was wearing the last time I saw him.

Sheldon VanAucken called death God's "severe mercy," and I can't think of a more apt way to describe it. It's severe in the pain - the ripping of a loved one away from our arms, and the tearing of our hearts. Yet...there is mercy. Mercy for my friend - because I know in my core that he is no longer in pain, no longer suffering, and he is at peace. That mercy gives US mercy - in the knowing.

It doesn't make this path any easier to climb, but the mercy gives us some strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.


Kari said...

This made me cry.

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