Permission not to be strong.
Sweet Milly, my mother in law, passed away this week, one month short of her 98th birthday.
“From sod hut to Heavens open door Milly’s life was filled with love of her family and her deep faith in God, is the way one friend described her.
What has been in the front of my mind during this pandemic time has been the question, “how do I not miss this? How do I not miss the gifts of this time? How do I feel the emotions of it-good and bad? How do I press into God? How do I not miss what I am supposed to learn in this time?
When Milly went on hospice we got an extraordinary gift. The visiting restrictions at her care center were lessened because of end of life. Family could now visit. I got two visits I won’t forget.
The first visit was a week before she died. While praying for her, I had a picture of her galloping on a horse with her hair flying. Alive and Free. I got to share that vision and those words with her and have her confirm it with a big smile and the exclamation “that’s just what it was like!” Then she told me the story of the pony she rode across the Kansas prairie as a child. That was a very special exchange. I got to then tell her some of my favorite memories of our lives together and tell her what she had meant to me and our kids. She graciously received them and thanked me. It was a goodbye she could acknowledge and I felt thankful for the chance to tell her.
The second visit was hours before she died. She was unresponsive, but peaceful. This visit I got to share with my husband Eric and my sister in law. We played hymns, shared memories and gave her permission to go, her work was well done. We hugged her and held her hand. It was a certain goodbye for us. We then sat 5 of us on my brother in laws deck and shared. Each part of the goodbye was special and important for me not to miss this!
As I process her death so many questions arise, what will be the legacy I leave? How can I be intentional in that? What will we do to keep Milly’s memory alive? And that leads to asking how do we try to make sure the kids and grandkids remember Eric’s dad, and my mom and dad and their special legacy’s?
And that leads to the tears. The fresh tears for Milly. Then more tears, deeper grieving, for my mom and dad who passed three years ago. Then grieving for all the loved ones we’ve lost. And then surprisingly, grief for this time. For the lives lost, for the weddings postponed, for graduations not celebrated, for family gatherings not enjoyed, hugs not given. For people who are isolated and alone, for people in unhealthy living situations.
Grief is part of becoming aware of what my heart is saying. Part of authentic self knowing. And I believe the tough work of self awareness is deeply spiritual. Grief is also solidarity with the heart of God.
I am feeling ungrieved grief. I am giving myself permission to not be strong. To exhale into it. To not miss it! And I hope you can receive permission to feel and notice and learn from this season.