I’m loving this beautiful spring weather. It’s a bittersweet time for me, though, because at this time last year I didn’t know my husband Byron would only have about six weeks left. He had declined quite a bit during the previous year, but he could still do things like walk, dance, and talk with funny accents. All of that was to change very quickly in the next few weeks. With Alzheimer’s disease, you never know what to expect or when to expect it.
You begin the cycle of grief when the doctor makes the diagnosis and you never really stop. I am relieved and grateful Byron is not suffering anymore, but that doesn’t make me miss him any less.
Probably many of us who have lost a loved one experience similar emotions. At some point, the fog of grief and numbness finally begins to lift. We look around and realize nothing is the same anymore. It seems that everything has shifted since our loved one is no longer with us. It sometimes feels like our former lives died with them. In a sense, they did. It’s hard to think about beginning again. We try to do the best we can and pray that the winter of our grief will soon turn into spring.
A friend signed me up to receive short daily email devotionals from GriefShare (www.griefshare.org). Its purpose is to help people through the grieving process for 365 days. I find them encouraging. In a recent post, Dr. Ray Pritchard, president of Keep Believing Ministries, was quoted: “There comes a time when you have to wipe the tears away. There comes a time when you have to stop thinking about what you have lost and start thinking about the needs of the people around you. I don’t say that’s easy. I don’t think that you can always do that overnight. For some people it will be after a period of weeks, for some after a period of months. For me it was a year after my father died.”
He suggested reaching out can be as easy as baking cookies for neighbors, visiting someone in a nursing home, or writing letters of encouragement to others who have lost loved ones. Taking action and reaching out to others will help alleviate your loneliness and despair, he said.
Good advice, I thought.
I got a chance to reach out a few weeks ago by helping an older lady find her car in the Walmart Supercenter parking lot. (Which is pretty amazing since I have trouble finding my own car in the Walmart parking lot.) She had been ahead of me in the checkout line and I noticed she seemed a little confused. After I bought my groceries and left the store, I saw her wandering around in the parking lot. I watched her a few minutes and sensed God nudging me. I began walking towards her so I could ask if she needed help. I didn’t get a chance, however, because as I approached, she volunteered, “I seem to have lost my car.”
“I will help you find it,” I told her.
It took us a while — the car was on the opposite side of the very crowded parking lot from where we started. But by golly, we finally found it. And it was filled with balloons and presents. She told me she was having a birthday party for her mother at the nursing home in a little while.
What if I had missed this? Thank you, God, for this opportunity to serve.
She was grateful for my help and told me, “God bless you.”
I thought to myself, He already has, and you’re the reason.
“God bless you, too,” I said, and we hugged.
This serendipitous blessing reminded me there is no greater gift or joy than the privilege of being Jesus’ hands and feet to each other.
I wonder how many opportunities I may have missed because of inattention or focusing on my own grief? We don’t need to achieve some lofty goal in order to serve God well. What we need most is to pray for sensitivity to God’s nudges and keep our eyes open to those around us we might be in a position to help.
I waited patiently for God to help me; then he listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path, and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God. Now many will hear of the glorious things he did for me, and stand in awe before the Lord, and put their trust in him (Psalm 40:1-3).