When You Feel Alone

I’ve been searching for words and I’ve come up empty every time.* It’s the middle of the week, so for the past three days, I’ve just been trying to fall back into my routine, fall back into normal. I don’t necessarily know why I’m even bothering. Even though I was just on a plane coming back to Kansas City on Sunday, Friday evening I will once again find myself boarding a plane. I love flying, but I never really pictured myself flying this much.

You see, a week ago, I was boarding a plane to fly home. I never fly home. I usually just load my car and head out on the ten-hour trip hour. But, I got a plane ticket and was flying home. I love being home. But this wasn’t the same. After I booked my plane ticket and the Delta man on the phone told me to enjoy my trip, I wanted to punch him in the face. I wasn’t going to enjoy my trip. I was going home for my Grandma’s funeral. And that’s not something I thought I would find myself doing.

My plane touched down in Bismarck, North Dakota, which is still a couple hours drive from my hometown. My best guy friend was holding a white sign, printed with my name in all caps. Because that’s the kind of thing he does and I need him in my life to hold signs and bring smiles to my face and to assure me that all will be well even when the roads are icy. He drove me home and we ate pepper jack cheese cubes and small hunks of deer meat. The roads were icy, and he drove slower. I made it home, and hugged my mom.

The service was nice. The message was good. The sun was shining. But it was terrible. It was awful. I cried and I couldn’t stop the tears and the snot. I’m surprised I didn’t just collapse right there in the church.

My relatives packed inside my house. I gave my bedroom up for my aunt, and slept in my mom’s bedroom. My mother has six siblings—three brothers and three sisters. The house was full. But it wasn’t full. Grandma wasn’t there. Grandma is the glue that held us together, my mom said it multiple times over the weekend. We were all inside the same house, but we were all unglued and messy.

We spent the afternoon after the funeral in the dining room, dividing up jewelry and silverware sets and quilts—all from Grandma. We have a pretty small coffee pot, and it only holds four cups at a time, so I spent time filling and refilling the coffeemaker, filling cups, making more coffee, and refilling cups. I was putting dishes in the dishwasher, and I spilled some coffee.

And then the tears started spilling out of my eyes. I can’t do this. I broke down. I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I went upstairs and sat in my mom’s closet. I couldn’t take it anymore. Even now I think back and bring my memories to the forefront of my thoughts, I want to cry.

People think we should mourn, and then we should move on. But it doesn’t really work like that, I don’t think. I think we mourn and then we mourn and then we mourn more. Eventually we dry our eyes for a while and can get back to keeping busy, but when the memories come back, we realize we are still mourning. We find jars of pickles and mourn. We see pictures where we are together and we are smiling and we mourn.

Psalm 126:5-6 tells us:

“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”

Ann Voskamp writes in her blog:

“We may sorrow but we still sow. And though we are broken, we still bend and begin; we do our work though we weep.

We tell our hurts we must still do the task at hand if we hope to harvest; though we may not feel like it, the fields need seeds.

So we hang out the clothes as we try to hang on, and we stir the pot as all the pain spills, and we still sow though in tears, and let go of every seed, burying hopes and hurts in faith, and out of loss, new life will unfurl, our tears watering rows.

God is with us. And it’s His tender with-ness that binds up the wounds.”

“God sleeps in the Gaza strip,” sings Bad Books, the band made of Kevin Devine and some members of Manchester Orchestra. It’s a line in a song that is overall quite depressing, so I know that I am assigning a different meaning to this lyric than they intended when they wrote it. At first when I heard this line, I fought back and thought, “Well, that’s not true, God is not sleeping in the Gaza strip.”

Then I thought, maybe that is true. But it’s not a depressing thought to me anymore. You see, I need God to be in the Gaza strip. I don’t really get this image of God sleeping as negative because that means that he is still there. God is in the Gaza strip. He is in the middle of bomb explosions and wars. And He is right there with me in my mother’s closet, sitting on the floor with me as I break down. It’s not really something I fully understand, but it’s comforting and fills me with hope. I have hope knowing that I am not alone.

God’s with me, and Grandma’s with God.

*Normally when I start posts like this, I am doomed to fail because I never finish posts that start out like this.

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