Then came the day. One of my daughters had called in the morning to say it was looking likely that my mother was going to die imminently. She and her sister were going to try and get there in time to be with her. I rushed home from a business meeting but didn’t make it in time. As I sat in our lounge at home, there was a knock at the door. Both of my daughters stood at the door with a few of my mother’s possessions at the very moment that my eldest son Joel called and told us through his own tears that he had cancer. A few days later Joel called again to say he had months, maybe only weeks, to live. Seventeen exhausting days later, he was safe in the arms of Jesus, and we were bereft.
Grief in those circumstances can come like an express train, or it can seep out through tears, like barely imperceptible drops of sap from a tree’s bark. It can cause you to shout, to cry out, to bury your head into a friend’s arms. It can descend like a mist of perpetual darkness and it can catch you out when you least expect it. It can leave you in shock and disbelief. It can fill your mind with anger. It follows you to bed and fills your sleep and dreams. It plays back pictures to process the trauma and tries to help your mind make sense of it all. All these things, and much more, belong to grief.
Occasionally you may get caught up in a virtual tsunami of grief where, for some reason, from deep within erupts a tidal wave of emotion that you weren’t expecting, don’t fully understand, and certainly can’t resist. There are moments which professionals call ‘readiness’, when a number of contributing factors are in place and an unexpected tsunami of grief might positively take place.
Psalm 23 tells us, ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ The Hebrew rendering of that phrase is ‘the valley of deepest darkness’. Grief is like a long black tunnel, pitch-black and with no apparent light visible at the end. Occasionally, just occasionally, you may see tiny pinpricks of light that last for a moment, a second or two.