Monday, November 16, 2015

One Month

It’s been a month since I got the 3:38 am the phone call. A phone call that shifted the terrain of our family. In the first seven days I functioned automatically, shifted into a place of doing what needed to be done, the shepherding mode. Take care of the sheep. Take care of the sheep. My goal was to take care of everyone—my mother, my step-father, my daughters, my niece and nephew, step-sisters and step-brother, and my brother’s two best friends.

My grief was and is real, but I relegated it to a compartment I wasn’t ready to open. I folded my grief and laid it in a box, thinking I would take it out and examine it later. I grieved during those first seven days, but through a fog, a numb stupor. Other people’s pain registered more strongly than my own.

But grief is a strong entity. Physical and tangible. Persistent and invasive. And it ambushes you. This thought did not originate with me, but someone said this during my brother’s funeral week. What a keen insight, what verb-age to apply to grief.


I would think after being ambushed several times one would begin to get a sense of the patterns and triggers. But no, I was caught off guard more than once.

A video (posted at the end)  was playing during visitation and right before the funeral. In the footage Courtney encouraged his baby son to walk.

“Come on. Come on.” 

I stood with my back to my brother’s casket, placing an armload of stuffed animals on the floor to get them out of the way. I knew where I was. I knew what was going on. In less than ten minutes, my brother’s funeral would begin. I was straightening. Preparing. Cleaning. I was trying to keep busy. Trying to focus on activity, remaining in motion. Somehow I knew that if the motion ceased, I would collapse inwardly.

And then I heard my brother’s voice.

“Come on. Come on.”

And I turned to find him, whipped around to look behind me to see where he was. My mind understood where I was and what was about to happen, what had happened, but Courtney’s voice pierced through the numbness, and I looked to find him. The hearing and looking were the triggers. Before I knew it, a sob pushed up and through and out of my throat. I remember putting my hand over my mouth to catch the sound, but it escaped through the spaces between my fingers. My face was already wet with tears. I turned and stumbled away, not even knowing what direction I headed.

I watched grief ambush the people Courtney loved. Over and over. And I was helpless and powerless to warn them. To stop it.

A month has passed. Everyone is still hurting and grieving in such different ways. Each of us broken or cracked at a different angle and severity, our own unique fractured webs.

Slowly, I am reentering the mainstream of living. There is still a numbness that I don't quite comprehend—just this small vacuum of space that I don't know how to navigate. This past week I realized with this foggy vagueness that something in me was anticipating my weekly text and pictures from Courtney. And I am still in the midst of trying to know and discern how to help my family navigate this nightmare.

My daily life has not been avalanched or earthquaked like my brother’s two best friends (Christian and Steven) or my mom and stepfather. I experience the aftershocks, the wakes of their grief combine with my own. I am trying to reenter the mainstream, but it is like merging back into high-speed interstate traffic. I keep feeling the whoosh of air fly by me as the cars just speed along in life.
All my dear friends encourage me to take the time to grieve, to allow myself space, and to give myself permission to grieve.

One of my brother’s best friends said something this week that I have been holding.

“He’s [Courtney] in the back of my mind constant. But that’s not new for me, what’s new for me is I’m not in the back of his mind. We’ve always thought of each other in a lot of things, things only we shared. But most people are already tired of hearing about him.”

Most people are already tired of hearing about him. Perhaps this is true. I catch myself holding thoughts in, holding emotions close, belting reactions, and closing my mouth before words escape. Only late at night when the house is dark or in the early light of the morning do the tears come, running hot and quick down my face. They waylay me and take me unaware. The tears and sorrow are held in a deep reservoir waiting for a crack to open. 

And I am thankful for the cracks, for the fissures. For the seepage of the weeping. The tears coat the jagged edges of pain. The release of them keeps me from cracking internally.

I think of Jesus.

He is the exact representation of the Father. He is the image of the invisible God.

Jesus stood at the tomb of Lazarus, his friend, and his heart brother. And he wept. He didn’t just cry ceremonial, obligatory tears. No, he cried. Jesus wept because death wasn’t a part of the original plan. It wasn’t an element in the original storyline. It wasn’t’ the Father’s intention. And Jesus stood at the brink and edge of sorrow and loss and pain. He didn’t shirk. He didn’t stoically hold it all in because God would make all things work together for the good. No, he wept for Lazarus, for Martha and Mary, and he wept for us. He stood at the cavern of death and wept for all of us.

And then he said to Lazarus, “Come out.” 

Come on, Lazarus.

I believe he said this to Courtney.

Come on. Come on.

Someday Jesus will say it to me.

And someday he will say it to you.

And when he does death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Courtney and Aiden

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