Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Graveside Grief

I went to my Dad's grave for the first time since his funeral today. Until just recently I guess I didn't see the point. There was a large part of me that figured he wasn't there anyway, so why did I need to go? But in the last couple days I had felt something drawing me to his side. I'm not sure what it was, but I needed to go again to that small spot of land where we had left him.

I was not prepared to encounter the person I turned into upon first sight of the place where he is buried. Instead of relying on the knowledge that he wasn't there in that ground, it was all I could do not to claw my way through the earth to get to him. Everything that connected me to my belief that he was in heaven completely vanished, and everything that was earthly within me came rushing to the surface, pleading, imploring, begging him to please, please come back. Over and over again I found myself crying aloud, and asking of him, "How are you here? How are you here? How are you here?".

Next to the first time I was there, these were the worst moments of my life. Nothing made sense. I couldn't reconcile the memory I had of my strong, invincible father and this newly sodded ground that represented the battle he had lost to this life. My world was turned upside down. I kept waiting for relief, or comfort, or any other calming emotion that would tell me I had done the right thing in coming, but the only thing I felt was utterly helpless and broken.

And then I couldn't leave him there. I couldn't bear to walk away from him. I couldn't stand the thought of abandoning him to this place where he didn't know anyone, where we weren't there to keep him company, where he couldn't see us keeping watch over him. Every irrational thought you can imagine ran through my head. Finally, I was able to stand up, get back in my car, and drive away, but not without many a look back, and not without an incredible sense of guilt following me every step of the way.

I wish I could say that the peace of God came over me then, and that I was reminded of where my father was spending his days. But this didn't happen. The protection that my faith had always provided me was gone. And along with the feeling that I had abandoned my Dad, I felt as if I had been abandoned as well, left alone to wade through this horrible pit of sorrow and confusion. In fact, I had not felt this alone since before my Dad was diagnosed with his horrible disease. Never once, until today, did I find myself questioning so sincerely the all-powerful presence of God in my life, which I have taken at face value since birth.

But, looking back now, I'm wondering if God let me fight through this alone on purpose. I'm wondering if His silence was His way of pushing me out of the nest a little bit, knowing that I would be okay, and trusting that I would not fall so far as to lose all sight of Him. I wonder if He knew that I needed to doubt Him in order to find my faith in Him again. If He knew that I needed to question His power in order to once again believe in His sovereignty over every situation. I wonder if He knew I needed to challenge His love for me in order to again feel His love for me.

I can tell you that my faith was shaken today. Not irreparably, but abundantly. My nerves are still raw, and I am almost wishing I never went there in the first place. But I also know that it was something I needed to do, something that God gave me the strength to do, and something that, when I make it through to the end of it, will not fail to restore and intensify my faith in Him.

Dear Lord in heaven,

I pray this day feeling exposed and vulnerable. I wasn't expecting to feel the way I did today when I went to see my father. I had figured my faith would carry me through, that the pain would easily give way to the assurance that he is with You. I had assumed that visiting him there was going to be no big deal. I was wrong, Lord. Instead I found myself questioning You and Your goodness, and doubting Your perfect plan for my Dad's life and Your wisdom in taking him away so soon.

But though You let me sort through these issues on my own, I know You never left me. And even now, as I sit here worn out and spent from the emotional roller coaster I unexpectedly found myself on, I know You are here.

Forgive me, Lord, if I struggle to find reasons to praise You tonight. Right now I just need to focus on picking up the pieces of my faith and putting them back together. I know they're all here, it's just a matter of studying them, familiarizing myself with them, and making this picture of You and me whole again.

You know I love You. Please, stay with me tonight while I sift and sort through all this extra stuff, until I am left once more with only You.

In Your Holy Name I pray,


  1. Dear God, when I asked You to teach me how to love You more, I didn't mean for You to put Susan through this. But thank You, I see a little better today then yesterday because of Susan's great love for You.

  2. Susan, I can completely identify with your graveside grief expressed today in your post. It's been 10 long (and short in some ways too) years since I've lost my mom to cancer as well but I can remember my first trip to her gravesite very well. I have come to a place now though that I enjoy going to her gravesite. I often will sit on the ground and talk with her when I'm facing something that I know she'd have so much wisdom to share with me if she were here. I now enjoy spending quiet time sitting there listening for God's voice. Thank you so much for being so open and honest with your emotions. It was a blessing to me today to read your post. I will pray for you today for peace. I hope it helps you to know that there will most likely come a day for you too that you will enjoy spending time at the cemetary.
    Michelle Lampen
    (It was a blessing spending time with you in our BSF group this year. I hope your pregnancy is going well too.)