Stepping into my father’s bathroom during a trip home from college, I could not help but notice the tacky blue walls and the ceramic fish that hung off of them. In a way, it resembled a questionable seafood restaurant you would find along the Florida interstate. But at the same time, the particle board walls poorly painted tacky blue and the creepy ceramic fish allowed me to see something else I hadn’t seen before. It allowed me to see the re-making of hope.
After my mom passed away from lung cancer in 2007 shortly before Christmas, my father, sister, and I went through the process of mourning her absence that painful holiday. However, after the arrival of the new year and my sister and I returned to college, we began to begin the process of moving on in our lives. And for my dad who found himself a widower at 51, he was discovering to create a new life without my mom in it. Even if that first step was painting the bathroom a new color.
The pain of losing a loved one is a traumatic experience even if it’s expected. And you never really “get over” the absence of that person in your life. It is, as writer Anne Lamott says, “like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
“Pain demands to be felt,” John Green writes in his book “The Fault In Our Stars.” And while Jesus wept for the loss of Lazarus, he also re-assured us the eternal life our loved ones receive in the next life.
Yet for those of us who are left in the absence of loved ones, we are reminded that we will be comforted during the grieving process and the season of mourning will come to an end. And while things will never be the same as they once were, we will find meaning and purpose by re-discovering who we are.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” – Jeremiah 29:11, NIV.
Writer Anne Roipe says that grief comes in two parts, the first is loss and the second is the remaking of life. While my mother would have been horrified that my dad decided to redecorate her bathroom changing it from “country-themed” to “low-end seafood restaurant by the highway themed,” my dad was slowly discovering who he was without my mother. And while he would never be the same without her, he also was learning how to dance again.
When we find ourselves in a season of mourning, we must remember that as Green writes, “pain demands to be felt.” However, through the reassurances of the eternal life our lost loved ones find, we will also discover, slowly but surely and sometimes against our will, what it means to remake our own lives.