How am I doing?
I don't know, and I’m not able to be completely sure. There are a few more moments of joy, acceptance and laughter than ten weeks ago. The dull painful reality of being separated from Tammy lingers. The dailiness of life pushes me forward into the unknown future. I thank the Lord for that; otherwise I could see myself drowning in grief. I think this sense of greater responsibility keeps me from greater stupidity.
At the same time, I watch for my heart’s attempt to replace my grief with mindless entertainment or thoughtless repetition. There is nothing wrong with taking an aspirin for pain, but a bottle of aspirin is too much. At this moment the hardest part is not being able to talk to her. I know the solution is to talk more to the Lord. I do. Yet the ability to share every joy with her multiplied the joy. Talking out every worrisome thought reduced the worry. Giving her a handful of the broken shards of my faith and watching her help me piece them back together gave help in believing God for great things. The loss of the layers of our experiences together and our unspoken mutual understanding is greater than I can bear. See, there come the tears.
What brings me comfort?
My Lord. Our children. Friends. A great hearted church.
What is still hard?
Thursdays are hard. They mark the weekly anniversary of that terrible day in our lives. Thursday is the day when the phone call, the trip to the accident scene, the helicopter ride, telling my children and all of the painful events get a complete high definition rerun.
What is the toughest part?
There are many competitors for this ranking, but watching helplessly as your children hurt is tough.
How am I coping?
It is interesting––I often find myself asking, “What would Tammy do?” At Wal-Mart I turn to Kayla and ask, “What brand of laundry detergent would your mother pick?” because there are too many and I had no idea soap costs so much. I ask this in part to maintain some sense of normalcy, in part because she was so wise in the practical parts of living. I also ask, “What would Tammy do?” in respect to grief. If I had died, what would she have done? I think she would have been similarly devastated, but not to the point of being incapacitated. She would have found God's grace at every turn in the road, even though she hated winding mountain roads. I think she would have pressed on well, and I would have been proud of her.
Well, maybe. I’m coming to grips with a reality that has never hit me before. Tammy, as a pastor's wife, would have been in a totally different situation than I find myself as a pastor. You see, when I lost Tammy there was much I did not lose. A woman who faithfully serves as a pastor's wife and then loses her husband loses much more. She suffers the intense grief of her lost love as well as the additional blows of lost identity, lost income, lost security, lost companionship––and oftentimes the loss of a home, since many pastors’ families still live in church owned homes called parsonages. I have not lost my job, my security, my identity or my home. Like most people who have not suffered this kind of loss, I was amazingly insensitive to the nuance of it. So many women who lose their husbands in ministry also lose their pastor. I can only imagine the pain of watching as a new man and women are naturally called to live out, in their own way, the ministry she has seen cut short.
I don’t know how we as the body of Christ can better help those we love struggle through their grief, but I am convinced we must. Maybe we start by refusing to get frustrated when their grief outlives our own. One man wrote me, telling me how members of his church believed he was in sin one year after his son's tragic death, for not “getting beyond it.” I would get really mad, if it weren’t for the fact that I could actually see myself thinking something that stupid. We can help in practical ways by understanding tough decisions the grieving person faces and not judging them with our opinions. We can also pray for them and help when they need it.
At times I entertain the wish that it had been me and not her. But I shoo it away, because that is not my call. The sovereign heart of God alone has the right and wisdom to make such a choice. But I do believe that same God is honored and glorified when I seek wisdom from him and draw close with him to the broken hearted and those who are crushed in spirit.
P.S. That’s what I mean when I say, “I’m fine!?