It occurs to me this evening that earthquakes come in all shapes and sizes. And while the world’s eyes have been focused on Haiti’s earthquake over the past week, my eyes have been fixed on the one occurring beneath the surface of my own little piece of ground… the place I call home… the woman I call friend.
The ground beneath her has been shaking for the past four months, but her faith? Well, not easily shaken. And while leukemia has not been kind to her, her Father’s strength has been exceedingly kind. She has weathered her quake with all the dignity and grace of heaven. Some would say the cancer got the best of her, but I would say differently. Today, cancer had no say in the matter, because today the quake beneath her feet ceased in its shaking as she made her grand entrance to the throne of her Savior’s feet where she will worship him forever.
For those of us left behind, especially for her precious sons and adoring husband, the ground still shakes. The collective grief of our small community is palpable and strong. We’ve made this walk before. I’ve made this walk before—three times in the last two years. Cancer and its havoc is an all too familiar struggling in our neck of the world. For whatever reason, and God only knows (believe me when I tell you that I’ve asked him), our county claims some of the highest cancer statistics for our state. Everyone in our community has been touched by the disease at some point along the way.
Still and yet, familiarity doesn’t make the journey any easier. Each situation exceeds statistical data. Each road of suffering is unique and personally labeled with a name, a family, a life lived, a grief felt. There’s nothing neat and tidy about cancer. Nothing we can quickly and perfectly pack away even as we lower another casket into the ground.
Death and its corresponding mystery shake the earth beneath our feet. It reminds us all (whether we’re willing to own it or not) about the temporal nature of our flesh. About the eternal nature of our spirits. And that kind of reminder, friends, is sometimes a hard reckoning with which to engage. Why? Because of the searing pain that interjects its witness into the mix. Because of the questions that coincide with the grief. Because of the empty chair at the dinner table reserved for the one who has preceded us in death. And when all of that (the reckoning, the pain, the questions, the grief, and the empty chair) collide, the earth beneath our feet moves in witness to the internal wrestling of our souls. I don’t imagine there’s a Richter scale big enough to gauge that kind of rumbling.
As it should be. The burying of a loved one cannot be quantified and measured by human standards, only painfully felt at the deepest, rawest level of the human condition. We’ll try to quantify it; try to put some manageable parameters around it so as to better control the pain. Perhaps, this is needful… a necessary component to the grief process that enables us a measure of comfort during these days of unedited grief. My own heart stands as a witness to that this night.
Writing my heart helps me. Words enable me to put parameters around my feelings. To reign in my thoughts and the emotions which are spinning at full speed. Words, and all the pondering that goes into penning them, help me to re-focus my heart around the one truth that exceeds the pain of the moment. And that truth, friends, doesn’t in any way resemble a grave. That truth is a King and a kingdom and a beautiful, entirely whole, thirty-nine-year-old woman running through heaven’s meadows, partaking in the rightful promise that belongs to her as an heir of the Most High God.
Cancer did not get the final word. God did, and all of hell shuddered at the sound of his voice.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
May the God of all comfort, the God of everlasting peace, the God who collects our tears in a bottle and holds them close to his heart, the God who promises life beyond the casket, the God who numbered our days long before one of them came into being, the God who is well-familiar with all of our griefs and sufferings, the God who conquered death and the grave…
be the God who peels back the layers of heaven tonight to give us a glimpse of forever and to remind us, each one, that this is not our home.
And he is coming soon.
And his is a kingdom not easily shaken.
I love you “T” family. And I love the woman you so willing and graciously shared with this world. Her witness lives on in you. Winter’s bite will soon be over. Summer is just around the bend.
peace for the journey,