Twenty-three and Eleven are not just random numbers. The first number, 23, is when I became an only child. The second number is when I became an orphan. My parents died 30 days apart and even though my Dad died in 2008, he stopped living the day my Mother died. God just granted him his heart's desire 30 days later.
Grief is a strange process. When my brother died, a large part of who I was died. I was always known as his littler sister. I lost that in June 1995. After his memorial service, I went to bed. I was so unprepared for the death of my brother, even though I knew he was going to die, I did not know how to live. We all understand that we will bury our grandparents and even our parents. However, no one can prepare you for the loss of a sibling.
You sibling is your first friend and also your first enemy. My brother and I had that kind of relationship until I grew up. My Mother failed to see how she created the relationship between us as one of a frienemy. She created a sense of resentment for me towards him. He and I (as adults) lived a couple miles apart for a while. She came to see him, spend the day with him even. When I spoke to him later in the day, he mentioned the visit. She only saw him and never told me she was in town.
My brother was mischievous, funny and twisted. He loved to say the outrageous to watch your reaction. He loved to have fun. His death was not sudden, it was too early, but we knew he would die. He asked to be buried with our Mother. So he sat on a table in the entry way of my parents' house for 12 years. We buried them together and I experienced that same grief of the loss of my brother all over again, mixed in with the loss of my Mom.
My Mother. How do you describe a force of nature? She was charming, mischievous (my Gradfather called her devilish once) and talented. My Mother had a strong sense of family and high expectations of others. Her expectations with family were somewhat unreasonable. Family gatherings meant all family members were to come, period. Do no make other arrangements, you come to be with family.
What I miss the most about my family are the conversations and celebrations. My Mother believed your birthday should be special. Minor holidays were meant to be special, just like the major ones. I told her once how much I hated Valentine's Day. She snuck into our office and made a noise. When I turned around, I saw a bear peaking out around the corner of the door. She wanted me to feel special not because of a guy (or lack of) but because I was loved. When I feel down, that bear is the first thing I reach for. Sometimes I have retrieve it from the upstairs rooms. :)
Then there's my Dad, my Hero. Here is a man who is very complicated. When he was angry, you had better have run and hid. He was charming and protective. One two occasions before my brother died, I remember he came out of his comfort zone. The first, I was in college and I got a card. When I opened it, he had written a note and signed it. My Dad NEVER signed cards. The second time was on my wedding day. My cousin actually captured it with his camera. He came over to me, kissed me on the cheek and said he loved me. (Talk about a makeup ruining moment!) Words he rarely spoke unless to my Mother. After my brother died, he showed a little more affection.
Grief is like the ocean, the ebb and flow of the waves. Waves of grief come and go. At first after you lose your loved one, it is like a crushing tidal wave that does not let up. But after a while the waves become smaller, barely noticeable. Until one day you smell a smell that triggers a memory, or you find stuff on MyHeritage.com that you want to share with them. That's when you are hit with an emptiness. That's when a new wave of grief comes crashing down. Twenty-three years or two years, grief is timeless.
Grief is a natural part of life. When a loved one dies, no words can comfort. And people mean well when they try to say something comforting. Revelation 21:4 offers the best comfort, "'He will wipe every tear from their eyes.' There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
I love reading Psalms. Words of encouragement, heartache, and praises are all in one book. Two recent finds have taken root in my heart. Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in Spirit." and Psalm 147:3 "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." During my times of grief, I have found I feel closer to God. I lean on Him to get me through the bone crushing loss I have felt.
There's a saying about family being all that remains (Friends come and go, but family is all you have in the end--something like that). Not true. You will bury your family. Yes, you may still have cousins around, but life happens and you will rarely see them. My saying is "Enjoy your family while you can, make as many memories as you can, but remember God is all that will remain in the end."