Honoring Sweet Jess One Year Later

(1986 - 2019)

I wasn't going to write about Jessica.  

The sadness of this, the first anniversary of her sudden, tragic death wasn't passing by me, no, not at all.  And it's not that I didn't adore her or want to honor her Christ-centered, beautiful life.

I simply don't have the energy.

There's a heaviness there that can't be denied.  A whole lot of wondering.  A deep aching for my sister and her family and my mother.  Recalling Jess's unique laugh, her immense love for people 'round the world, her incredibly creative spirit, her passion for Jesus, her enjoyment of sometimes quite odd cuisine.  

Someone's missing at the family table, at the celebration, in the circle of chairs on the beach, at the gift exchange, on the string of family texts, at the crazy Zoom game night.

Yet again.

With each death our family has experienced during the last five years, we have been swiftly, painfully, irrevocably re-altered.  Slowly, we're all in the process of somehow cobbling together a new identity which feels kind of odd and uncomfortable, like a new pair of shoes that doesn't quite fit yet.  

Yet could it be that our bonds are stronger because of our shared unspeakable sorrows?

Many of you have suffered a succession of losses as well.  Even one departure of a loved one can be traumatic enough to send us reeling for longer than we thought possible.

I hear your souls' cry and I want you to know that you are not alone. 

It's important to notice how we're feeling as our remembered losses come to call, deep sorrows wrapped around joyful memories sweet.  

Not to notice leads to shoving weird, unexplained emotions deep down inside somewhere dark, even as odd behaviors and strange responses seemingly pop out from nowhere.  Which can only lead to all kinds of maladies and messy junk ... emotional, physical, spiritual, relational.

We do best when we honor our traumas, name our pain, and refuse to hide from the reality of what has turned our world upside down and inside out, as awful or tragic as it may be.  Not in a maudlin way, but rather reflectively, quietly, considering all that has emerged in the weaving of our own unique family story.

And don't let anyone tell you that there's some kind of magical 3 step formula to grieving well.  They're just kidding themselves and giving you false hope.  Yes, life goes on.  But grief is a very personal journey, a daunting, sometimes overwhelming task filled with winding bends, deep valleys, and yes, some mountaintop vistas.  

And the whole process goes on much longer than you'd ever dreamed.  

Jessica was a mental health therapist.  I think she'd agree with all this here with a nod of her head, a gentle smile, a simple 'yes, Aunt Linda.'

artist unknown

Along the journey, we are blessed beyond measure if there is another soul to listen quietly, to affirm what is most true about us with the gentle touch of a hand, a silent tear falling, the simple nod of a head, a word of grace and consolation carefully spoken.  

Tender friends who refuse to lob Scripture at us, preach unwelcome words, or share their seemingly endless sagas in an effort to make our hard-to-watch pain somehow magically vanish from view.

And then ... there is a Sacred Friend who is so much closer than any earthly loved one could ever be.   

He, far above all others, truly gets what grief and sorrow are all about for He experienced them to a depth that we'll never come close to imagining.

He is our hope, our solace, our Comforter.  Now and forever.



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