There’s no polite way to say it; death sucks.
And I use that word on purpose. Hearing that a loved one has died has the ability to suck the air right out of your lungs. It sucks out reasonable grieving thoughts and replaces them with, “Oh man, I need to buy waterproof foundation, if I want to wear makeup at all this week.” It sucks out rational thought and let’s your stomach tell you that consuming a “bereavement pie” is a good idea. And that was all in the first four hours.
On June 23, my grandpa Ramon died after a long fight with cancer. A fight we were told he won last year. Until he didn’t. Over six months of preparation for this inevitability did nothing for that moment when my husband sat with me and said, “Your mom just called. Your grandpa’s gone.”
I wanted to take it all in stride. I wanted to have a stiff upper lip. After all, he’d been dying for six months. But I couldn’t. I was grieving hard, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball alone, snuggled under a blanket, watch some mindless tv, and weep. My buddy pug up in that picture knows what’s up.
It wasn’t just that he died that affected me. It wasn’t seeing his lifeless body, void of any resemblance of the vibrant man I knew, that drove me to want to hide. It was the heaving sobs, I saw from my mom. It was watching my nana shake in sorrow. It was seeing my strong, goof-ball doctor uncle stand still in tears, speechless. It was hugging my three-year old after he began to worry about his own grandma as she broke down. Realizing that the worst part of his death wasn’t his death at all, but the mourning and hurt that was to come. That broke me. But I knew I couldn’t hide away. I knew my family would need support, so I convinced myself, again, that my stiff upper lip was necessary. I needed to control myself.
I felt beyond guilty that I still just wanted to be that pug snuggled alone. Surely it was not the Godly, Christian thing for me to sit in this place. And then I remembered the words of Ecclesiastes:
“There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: A right time for birth and another for death, A right time to plant and another to reap, A right time to kill and another to heal, A right time to destroy and another to construct, A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer, A right time to make love and another to abstain, A right time to embrace and another to part, A right time to search and another to count your losses, A right time to hold on and another to let go, A right time to rip out and another to mend, A right time to shut up and another to speak up, A right time to love and another to hate, A right time to wage war and another to make peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 MSG
There is a time for birth and another for death. A time to cry and lament, and a time to laugh and cheer. We are allowed to grieve. We are allowed to weep. Jesus wept at the news of Lazarus’ death. Our savior, who would then bring his dear friend back to life, still let himself grieve.
Then we rejoice. We rejoice in the fulfillment of a promise. We cheer for the end of pain. We thank the Lord for eternity praising his name.
So I stopped being so hard on myself and had a few pug-in-the-blanket moments. My sweet husband blessed me with times away from our boys when I could cry unimpeded. I also started re-watching Parks and Rec. I tell you what, it was good. It was freeing. I have been so comforted and inspired by my sister writers on this blog who have experienced far more devastating losses than I. They’ve taught me how to grieve and rejoice, then grieve again. It is thanks to them that I could embrace my grief and ride that wave.
Then, I started easily smiling and laughing over sweet memories of my grandpa. I sang his favorite songs to myself often. I gleefully poured my energy into sorting old photos for a slide show. At my grandpa’s viewing, I welcomed visitors with a smile on my face and a cheerful, “thank you so much for being here! It means so much!” I’m sure I looked crazy, but it was only because I stopped fighting the feelings and remembered the truth that I could feel both sorrow over his departure, and feel joy that my Tata Ramon isn’t wasting away in pain; he’s celebrating in the glory of God!
Friends, enjoy the good grief moments, because it’s only once those waves have hit that we can move into the seasons of joy. Seasons of living in the gift of life we have been given.
Crystal-Lee is a wife, mom to two boys and freelance makeup artist. Her passion and focus has always been in music. She started learning piano at the age of 5, and continued to study different instruments until she joined choir in high school. She was drawn to classical voice and studied Vocal Performance at Azusa Pacific University. Looking for a way to use her talent ministry, she finally joined a worship team in 2011 and refocused in a more contemporary style.
In 2012, she and her husband moved to Arkansas to work for New Life Church where she was blessed to join in their worship leadership and learn amazing tools for implementing safe singing practices, a joyful and physically encouraging style of worship, and freedom to let the Holy Spirit move. She now has a heart to help other singers keep their voices healthy and gain confidence as humble leaders who usher our brothers and sisters into a time with God.
As well as her passion for worship, Crystal-Lee works as a freelance makeup artist focusing on weddings and photography. She strives to help women feel natural and confident. Their beauty is always enough; her job is to help them have fun.