Hello dear friends. It has been a long time since we have talked. I knew I needed a sabbatical of sorts in order to fully attend to the season of life that I was facing. Life comes to us in seasons, as we all are well aware of more now than last fall! The snow has seemingly made a home in our area and while the blanket of white is beautiful, so many have cried "uncle" and long for spring. It's coming ... hang on.
Since last I wrote, God took me on a journey of healing. I feel as if I have been to grief boot camp or grief rehab. You see, I accepted a position with a hospice in another part of the state. And, though it was very rough emotionally, God used it to heal my heart. I once again served as a bereavement counselor for a hospice and also for Palliative Care. I talked to so many dear bereaved who had lost children and I could relate as my heart bled with theirs. I also was blessed to watch in wonder as Heaven came down and claimed soul after soul. That part, honestly, was such a blessing you can only understand if you have been in the room as it becomes crowded with unseen loved ones and angels coming to escort their beloved one home. One, in particular, had been best friends with my late father-in-law. It was my first official assignment. I went into his hospice room and he was pointing and proclaiming: "Well, there's Edward (not real name)." Edward was his son who had died 10 years prior. The death of his son was the most difficult trial this pastor and his wife of more than 75 years had ever faced. Tears flowed down my face as I prayed with him and his other son and listened as they told of him - the patient - praying with all of the nurses that attended to him. He had lived well into his 90s and had "fought a good fight." He served Christ faithfully his entire life. He was entering Glory and honestly, Glory was coming down to get him. It was a hallowed time. It was then I realized more than ever that Heaven really isn't so far away. My girl, like this man's son, had gone on before. The song that states "This is not my home, I'm just a passin' through" was never more real to me than at that moment. I continued over the next year and a half to minister in the hospice houses. I told my mom that it was very difficult for me to drive down off that mountain - literally the hospice house is upon a mountain - as I felt a taste of Heaven there. One of our chaplains stated that the angels walk the halls of the hospice house. So many of my patients and their family and friends stated the same: "as close to Heaven as a person can be on earth." I heard that over and over and I believe it. I also counseled and prayed in homes and in my office. I conducted grief support groups and I believe that's one of the places that helped me heal the most. Though gut wrenching at times, I never once felt hard or calloused to someone else's pain. That's the gift that comes wrapped in the package of sorrow, loss and pain: empathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone, but empathy is hurting with another as they hurt. For instance, several of our hospice staff had suffered great pain and loss. For many of us, the pain continued on a daily basis as we dealt with grief, some dealt with loved one's illness, their own cancer and so many other various trials. And, then, there was my own precious friend and co-counselor, Marla. She dealt with the effects of having had cancer, and the aftereffects of the radiation and chemotherapy. Everyone at hospice is wonderful and each has a story, but Marla became my confidant and friend. She asked about Kristin. She said Kristin's name! Others do not usually do this in fear of causing pain and more suffering. But, what most grieving parents want to hear, initially especially, is their child's name, their story, their likes and dislikes. Marla had not lost a child, but she knew through grief counseling that it is a balm to a grieving parent's heart. She has a daughter who looked and acted much like Kristin and was close in age, and therefore, the horror of my loss seemed more intense for her, and she ministered healing to me.
As this chapter is ending, I have become reflective upon my year and a half of "grief rehab." Now, due to chronic and debilitating migraines, I have had to resign my position as hospice bereavement counselor. I have struggled with migraines my entire life, but not on a daily basis as their intensity has became more and more frequent and literally daily. Does God take us "around" a different route on occasion in order to find the help we need? Absolutely. I felt so blessed to be able to minister, but in turn, I also was helped, and hopefully, I helped some along the way. I longed for usefulness and purpose and I found it in my patients as well as in their families and friends. And, along the way, He healed my own heart with the balm of Heaven. I feel as though I have a much better vision of "the big picture" now. Heaven is not so far away. We are truly on a journey, and this is not our home nor our destination. We should enjoy the journey, that is true, but let's not put our roots down too deep. Those trips to the hospice house gave me a longing. Strangely enough, there were times when I longed for "my turn." Don't get me wrong here, it wasn't a morbid preoccupation of the end, but a "taste" of what is to come. That's what God knew I needed: Just a taste of Heaven with some angelic type folks who gave to me, prayed for me, and ministered to me on my road to healing in my own grief rehab. I will be eternally grateful! Now, I am not saying I am finished with grief. I heard once that the grieving parent is never finished grieving until they are reunited with their child in Heaven. I believe that is true.
Please know that I am thankful to you, my friends, as you carried me for the first year-plus after Kristin's homegoing and have continued! You were and are earth angels and I have not forgotten those of you who came, prayed, encouraged and were simply "there." The greatest thing a person can do for a grieving person is to love them. Sometimes there are no words, but love heals hearts. My dear friends at hospice did for me what you did and still do for me. They showed love. I really like what Mother Teresa said about love:
The success of love is in the loving
- it is not in the result of loving.
Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person,
but whether it turns out that way or not
does not determine the value
of what we have done
- It is not how much we do,
but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give,
but how much love we put in the giving.
If we really want to love
we must learn how to forgive.
- We can do no great things;
only small things with great love.
There is a terrible hunger for love.
We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness.
We must have the courage to recognize it.
The poor you may have right in your own family.