Yesterday I tried to pretend. How did THAT work for me? Not so well.
I started by watching movies. The first one I watched was "Blue Valentine". Interesting. Depressing. Two souls who didn't belong together tangled in a marriage that inevitably had to end.
I went on to Sleepless in Seattle. While the movie was light and fun, there was great drama inside my house making it a bit hard to deny certain difficult aspects of my life. My husband tried to protect my grief bubble... but it had already popped.
By the time that movie was done I kind of gave up on my little "personal movie retreat" and schlepped my body out of bed, into the shower and over to check in on my mom. I do that daily. It makes me feel better even though she insists that she's fine and I don't need to check up on her. My older daughter is staying with her this week so I get a three generation charge on those visits. There was no pretending on the four mile drive to her house... the tears and grief came as soon as my mind was no longer occupied.
After a little while of visiting, I came home to meet my walking buddy. Since I hadn't told her the horrible tale of my traumatic turn of events, for three miles I again found myself recounting the vivid last moments of my father's life. This time with more anger in my voice. I am SICK of this story. I cried again. She huffed and puffed during the walk... I must have been walking fast. I felt nothing... numb.
I ate my vegan lasagna and decided to invite daughter number one to my movie marathon. As I waited for her in the car outside of my mom's house, I looked up the path. In the dark with the glistening snow, another memory was triggered.
My sister was having a 50th birthday party for her husband. We had a nice dinner at her house outside of Boston. It was a snowy day. We dropped daughter number one off that day at Wellesley and then daughter number two went up to Gordon college for an overnight visit. Mom and Dad waited for us to return from the North Shore at my sister's. We swooped them up and brought them back to the Blackstone Valley.
I was glad that we could drive because Dad wasn't allowed to drive yet since his fainting episode. To spare Dad's dignity, we were getting in the habit of picking them up for our trips to Boston. We made it seem like the practical choice - why should we take two cars? Why waste the gas?
When we pulled the car into their driveway, they quickly hopped out and made their way up the path - hand in hand. I looked at them and thought.... that is SO cute. I know that both mom and dad were holding hands to "protect" the other one from falling. I remembered how my grandparents used to hold hands all the time. I wanted a picture of this moment. I didn't get one.
Last night, I saw that picture embedded in my mind as I looked up the pathway. I started to cry.... So much for pretending.
Pretending doesn't work too well. We can try to deny, let it all go - but in the end the truth is the truth. It's the truth that sets you free. The only way out is THROUGH the valley.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." The Psalmist doesn't say, "I try really hard to walk AROUND the valley of the shadow of death". No, we walk right through, whether we want to or not.
The valley is wide.
The valley is long.
The valley is dark.
The valley feels hopeless.
The valley smells of decaying flesh.
And the valley is scary.
"I will fear no evil: for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me".
Here's the tricky truth. God is IN the valley of the shadow of death - not waiting around on the corners. This is where you meet God. This is where the comfort and strength reside. He's not there in the pretend places and the lies, he's sitting right in the middle of your grief and pain. That's where you find Him!
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies". Wow... death is my biggest enemy. The death of my father. The decay and death of every thing that lives on this earth. All sin and evil is a precurser to death and every part if it stings.... sucks.... bites! Poverty, physical illness, mental illness, loneliness, strife... all signs of death and decay.
It was ok to take my little "vacation" as it was.... but I'm thinking that my strength lies in living the truth. I can run away, but I can't hide... and maybe I don't want to.
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.