Eleven months and eleven days ago, I was oddly grateful that it would be a long time before I had to “celebrate” our first wedding anniversary without Dale. Now, as I write this, it is a mere 2 days away and I’ve been in tears for the past few weeks, dreading the emotions of this day. Yes, September 27, 1986 was one of the very best days of my life.
What day better represents your hopes and dreams as a married couple more than your wedding day?
We lived in the Twin Cities area at the time, me on the St. Paul side, Dale on the Minneapolis side and were in the process of building a home on an acreage north of Stillwater, MN where we would live for the next 5 ½ years.
My across-the-alley neighbor at the time had told me about the venue his daughter had gotten married on and I immediately thought it would be such a cool idea! So, we celebrated our wedding with a 4-hour cruise on the Jonathan Padelford paddle boat on the Mississippi River, out of the port of St. Paul, with about 90 of our friends and family members. God bless our pastor for signing on to that kind of commitment!
It was a beautiful, sunny September day and it was all that a bride could dream of and more. After the ceremony, we danced the night away to a live band and everyone had a grand old time! A white limousine picked us up when we returned to port and we enjoyed a fun tour around the lakes in Minneapolis. Truly a dream-come-true kind of day and I’m so grateful for all those memories that make me smile 32 years later.
As I thought through the memories of that day and all the joy that it held, I didn’t want this post to JUST be about those memories. I wanted to share another truth and an inside look, if you will, at this grieving process. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but, let’s face it, days like this are bittersweet.
Think with me, for a moment, of the greatest love of your life. It could be your spouse – especially back on your wedding day. It might be the love you felt when your children were born. Maybe it’s the love you had for a parent or a grandparent or a sibling or a best friend. Maybe even a beloved pet.
For me, there’s no question that the greatest, deepest love of my life was, and still is, Dale. Have you decided who YOUR greatest love is? Don’t read on until you have! 😊
Now, let me ask you this, “Was there ANYTHING you could have done to change the way you felt about that person at that point in your life?” I’m quite certain your answer would be a resounding NO! That kind of love is so powerful that no amount of sheer will could have dimmed its radiance in your life.
The parallel I want to draw for you now is this: Just like there was NOTHING I could do to change how deep my love was for Dale on that special day 32 years ago, there is now NOTHING I can do to change the depth of my grief for him now that he is gone. They are directly linked.
Let that sink in for a moment… I’m sure the first reaction for some of you might be to try to dispute that or talk me out of feeling that way. Surely I must be able to do SOMETHING to move past all this pain. Well, I’m doing all the things I “should” during this grieving period. I’m eating healthy (mostly), I’m sleeping well, I’m exercising daily, I’m engaged in normal life activities, I’m actively pursuing the ministry God has called me to, I’m in constant communication with God.
And yet, the pain and sorrow and grieving remain. Healing will never come from my own hand or will. It will be a function of time, to a certain degree. And ultimately, any healing will come as I continue to rely on God’s hand leading me through this dark time.
So, my message to you, dear readers, is this: Whether you understand it or agree with it or not, just trust me when I tell you that lessening or eliminating this heartache is as out of my control today as changing my love for Dale would have been 32 years ago.
If you doubt that, go back to that love you were remembering just a few minutes ago. Can’t change it, can you? That’s the message. That’s the lesson.
So, what’s your takeaway? Don’t rush someone through their grieving process. Don’t tell them to move on. Don’t expect normalcy – and don’t let it fool you if you see it.
Cry with me. Grieve with me. Extend kindness and grace and understanding. Be a blessing to your grieving friend.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26