Good Grief

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Copyright © Tayfun Eker. All rights reserved.

On December 16, our only child, a son, left this earth and found his place at Jesus’ table. Graham’s passing was unexpected and sorely painful, but Sandy and I are finding, in the mess, the beautiful handprint of God. I’m attempting to write in the rawness of this near-season, because that’s how I process. Please forgive any puzzling sentiments; this is brand-new territory. And be patient with me; this may be the first of several postings.

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Burying your child bites.

At any age.

And Christmas, no less.

If it wasn’t so sad, it’d seem almost ‘made-for-Lifetime-tv’ cliche.

An empty stocking. A poignant absence. A cask of memories stoppered, it’s aroma sealed off so that only the fragrance left over could be imbibed. It’s tough sledding.

Yesterday I returned two books to the library for my bride. The sweet girl with the kewpie doll voice asked about our holidays. I paused a couple of ticks, then lied.

It was great, etc., etc., family in town, etc., great food, laughs, etc., etc….

Her co-worker overheard and added, ” oh that’s good; mine was the best in memory.”

I bowed and took my leave. I could’ve sucked the air out of the atmosphere right then with a story made for Kleenex, but what possible end would that achieve? I wheeled toward the exit, smiling, and kept our library a tissue-free zone.

My next stop was the neighborhood hair cuttery. What the heck, I thought. It happened. I can’t hide it forever. So when the smiling girl behind the counter asked my phone number, I knew her screen would pull up two names, mine and my boy’s.

“Are you Scott?”

“That’s me,” I said cheerily enough. A few clacking noises of fingernails on keyboard, then, I took a breath and took my chance.

“You can remove Graham’s name.”

I did it. I requested the erasure of my son’s memory from their hard drive.

She laughed, probably a little too loudly for anyone’s comfort. “Remove it?” she half-smiled, but now seemed momentarily puzzled.

“Yeah, go ahead and take it out.”

In retrospect, I’m pretty sure she thought I was being facetious?

Because now she smiled a full-white-teeth smile.

“I know its morbid,” I continued, “but he’s no longer with us…”

What happened next caught me off-guard.

“Okay, Mr. Mitchell, right this way…”

She never even acknowledged what I said. I followed her to her station and parked in front of her mirror where I saw the reflection of a dad who had just lost his son, laid his body to rest, and would never know the feel of grandkids bouncing on his paralyzed lap. In ten minutes, the insipid business of clippers on head and hair on floor was over; I paid, tipped generously, and quietly removed myself from the premises, already on to the next jejune errand. Sigh. Life goes on.

Good grief.

Tonight, as I compose these thoughts, I’m surrounded by the din of small talk and redolent aroma of coffee in a bookstore cafe. No one here knows me, thankfully, or what I’ve just been through. I find the juxtaposition of conflicted feelings has got me all Sybil-ed out. On the one hand, I’m safe in my nest of anonymity. On the inexplicable other, I want to tap on my cardboard cup with my plastic spoon and announce to the room I’m grieving. I somehow think if I did that, a few might be mildly irritated by the interruption, some would be confusedly alarmed and others might smile, nod in deference, then return to their paused-on paragraphs, none the wiser.

Who would it help? No one, most of all me.

I easily relent.

It’s been almost two weeks removed from “the call” (next post) and the suddenly-childless couple are braving the public. We want to, yes, need to, get out, but we’re not yet ripe for frivolity.

The day after laying our son’s body in a scar in the earth and paying our soulful respects, someone wanted us to leave all that weight and grief behind and let Madea turn our mourning into dancing with them. Completely understandable. But nowhere near our radar.

There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Amen, Clive. I so get you.

It’s hard to be on Facebook these days. For all its good, it can be painfully obtrusive or, even worse, obtuse. Aloof. People’s lives (rightfully) have already moved on past our momentary grief. We’re just not that interested in friends’ parties, get-togethers, selfies and animal snaps. But I too have been the unaware perpetrator of similar ‘crimes’ against others’ sorrow. Sitting here atop my own ash heap of dirge, I’m acutely aware of it.

We’ll move on, yes, but grief is, paradoxically, healing.

So we’ll heal here in the warm bath of hurt.

And praise Him in the pile.

On the day I knew of my son’s departure from this hard earth, I was visited by a friend. He came to the house, drew a chair close beside my own in the dining room and wept there with me, wordlessly, for fifteen minutes. Tears didn’t run down his cheeks, they flung outwardly to the floor. After he hugged me and held my hand, he prayed a few-second prayer, hugged me again then left. I still talk about that visit. There was no Romans 8:28, though it’s no less true. No counsel, though we welcome words of life into our soul. No bumper sticker theology. No tweets. No platitudes. Just grief. Good grief.

We’ll be okay.

We are okay.

We’ve been prepared for this. God has made us ready. And when our Father requires us to redeem our suffering by entering into the suffering of another – which He will – we’ll most gladly tell of His good deeds, gracious intentions, expert wisdom and unfailing love – without words, if we have to; with simply being present; with silent sobbing; with resurrection hope; with His authority, because of a new degree added to our schooling.

On the night before Graham’s funeral I wrestled with my responsibility to share something. The people need to hear from us. I didn’t want my silence to be translated into depression or hopeless grief. The pastor in me wanted to explain, expound, exposit and exhort. The encourager in me wanted to encourage the many who came with question marks. It turns out, my pastor friend handled it with all the eloquence and grace I pined for. He was magnificent.

I, on the other hand, listened to my wife who said, “it’s okay for us to grieve, Scott. Just for today, would you be a Dad instead of a minister?”

Yes, my love. Yes, a million times over!

I like Dad mode. Who says it’s supposed to be over?

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69 thoughts on “Good Grief

  1. Kimberly Rae says:

    I have thought of you nearly every time I get on Facebook. It seems not right to post anything shallow, frivolous, or even celebratory, not when another is suffering. It is a strange thing that one must continue to breath and eat and sleep and wake up, when life should stop and such essential things should cease to be consequential for awhile in the shadow of what is so much bigger. The sun should stop shining for a time and the world should stop. It doesn’t, it cannot, but most of us are not like that woman at the barber. To all of us, keep talking friend. We are listening.

    • Donita Cullen says:

      Pastor Scott…you are just as I remember you when Graham attended the PLC. You were such a positive parent and person. When we heard the news before we left for school we did not find anything. My sincerest apology for not attending the service. May God continue to bless you and your wife.

      Sincerely,

      Donita Cullen

      • pasturescott says:

        Donita, you remain one of our favorites in such a difficult season. Thank you for reaching out to our Graham, loving him, accepting him and pulling for him. We loved the time he got to be under your grace-filled authority. Never forget what a great difference you made and are making in young lives. Thank you for your words here. They are treasured.

    • pasturescott says:

      Kim, your compassion, His ‘bowels of mercies’ in you, is so evident and eloquent. I’ve read and reread your words here many times. Each time I cry. Thank you. Sandy and I love you.

  2. Debra Dutton says:

    From my experience, with the shock of losing both parents in 9 days, and suddenly being an orphan when I thought I was going to be a care-giver, time is a wonderful gift from God. In His time you will be able to keep going….in His time.

    • pasturescott says:

      Debbie, thank you. It was absolutely a highlight to see Bruce at the viewing. Reunions in the time of grief remind us brightly of hope beyond the grave. Bless you, sweet lifelong friend.

  3. Alan and Michelle Powell says:

    I cannot do anything for you and Sandy but pray. I love you my brother.

  4. Thank you for letting us see into your raw, grieving heart.

  5. I’m so sorry. I am praying for you and your family.

  6. Belinda says:

    I am weeping with you and praying for you.

  7. Joe Elmore says:

    Thank you for sharing in your grief. I do not understand although my heart feels like its in my throat we I read your thoughts and feelings. I know the love of a father from my father and as a father.
    Grace and peace to you and Sandy.

  8. Linda and James Williams says:

    No one could have said these things better than you have. I know God will use you and Sandy in so many ways but I am so sorry that you had to go through this. I cannot imagine in any way what you both are going through……We love you, Scott and Sandy.

    • pasturescott says:

      Thank you, precious, grace-filled friend. Your family is so dear, dear, dear to us. Always have been, always will be. We are made rich by our Lord’s compassion in you. Love you much.

  9. Tracy coats says:

    The Lord has used you and your grief to strengthen my faith in an almighty amazing God. I’ve never experienced the depth of grief you surely feel, however, sometimes I fear the future and what it holds. My faith has been strengthened as I read am reminded that He that has redeemed me will be holding my hand no matter what the future holds. Thank you for painfully posting. Your tears through text have poured healing oil into some wounds. I’m praying for you all often.

    • pasturescott says:

      Tracy, thank you. Thank you for allowing us a peek inside some of the why of this. If our journey can bless, challenge, inspire and encourage another, it is more than worth it. Your sentiments are beautifully, humbly expressed. Thank you for allowing our aching hearts some release. God is eternally good and, oh, so faithful.

  10. Danette Moore says:

    My heart grieves with you both. Each time I think about ya’ll, I bring you before the throne to the God of Comfort. Hugs.

  11. Lillian Becker says:

    These words from our heart express what we went (are walking) through after Lee’s departure from here to heaven. Thank you. I will pass this on to my sister whose son died this past July fourth. All I can think is that we will be having a grand reunion with our children and our heavenly Father, and what a party He has planned. Joy will come in the morning. Love you.

    Jan Becker (Lillian) (Overcomers Camp Days)

    • Lillian Becker says:

      excuse my typo, meant to say “words from YOUR heart.” sorry

    • pasturescott says:

      Won’t that be a grand day, Lillian? How you’ve grieved and sorrowed and shed tears, but His sweetness in you has not diminished one iota. Thank you for being such a picture of His sweet grace. I’ll be praying for your sister whose sorrows are still so fresh.

  12. Lisa Runo says:

    Thank you, Scott, for letting us see into your heart, which only makes me admire you more. Love you both, even from this distance <3

  13. Beth Bookout says:

    You have been on our hearts and minds every day as we pause to pray in the evenings as a family. Often throughout the day you have come to my mind and I’ve whispered a prayer for you both. What you wrote was tremendously heartfelt and God’s way of living through the moments!

  14. Karen Hall says:

    Scott,
    You and Sandy have been on my heart throughout this season. Continuing to keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

  15. Kathy Weikum says:

    Continually in our thoughts and prayers…. everyone grieves in his/her own way. There are no rules and should be no expectations. Your sharing of your raw grief is nothing less than a testament to God’s extreme grace during this time. He will continue to lift you…

  16. Kimmi Biglin says:

    Thank you for having the courage to say what no one ever wants to say or hear, but people need to know. This is the time for others to minister to you; not just for a day or a week, but as long as you need. Love and hugs to you and Sandy!

    • pasturescott says:

      Thank you, Kimmi. I’ve missed you through the years. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to catch up and sing together again at H*C someday? In the Lord, we’ll wait to see what He has in store. Thank you for your beautiful, heartfelt words here, dear one.

  17. Erica says:

    Reading this made me cry. I to lost a child back in 2011. I was angry with God and always asked why? WHY? But over the years I learned that she’s in a better place and that God doesn’t do things on purpose that he has a purpose for doing them. I know it’s hard right now, but I’m praying for you guys.

    • pasturescott says:

      Erica, dear, dear fellow grief companion, I praise God for His healing work in you. Thank you for being authentic and honest here. This speaks marvelously of a God who cares and who faithfully heals – and hears! I’m sorry, too, for your ‘loss’ and what you’ve found in the hard process. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Linda Michelson says:

    Thank you, Scott…praying for you and Sandy!

  19. Renee Mattison says:

    Thank you, Scott, for sharing your feelings. I had a friend who lost her 11 year old and I would spend time with her and just be quiet, listening to what she had to say, enjoying pictures of Bryan and memories she needed to share. It seems as if no one sees your grief because the world has to continue on, but we do, and we do care, and we pray you through this process of grief. You never get over it, but you can get through it. I have only lost my parents, and that was so different because they had lived 89 1/2 years and been married 67 years, but I still long to talk to them. There is joy in knowing this place is only temporary; eternity is forever with loved ones again. Praying Gods presence will make a difference for you and Sandy for this moment, one-day-at-a-time.

  20. Lois Pettit Trippett says:

    I remember the student chapel service, Scott, when you spoke for the first time after your accident. I remember how you talked about the clichés, and how meaningless they were when someone is suffering so deeply. It made a huge impact on me. And you are doing it again, challenging us to live real, authentic lives in the midst of sufferings. I do not know why he chooses some to be that mouth piece, but I pray for grace for you and Sandy. Hugs and tears.

    • pasturescott says:

      Of the many comments here, Lori, though moved by every one and each appreciated in its own right, yours has moved me greatly. Thank you for the gift of your words. I’m a ‘words’ guy and yours have been life and breath to me. Thank you, precious sister.

  21. Lori Cannon says:

    Love you Scott and Sandy Mitchell, words are not adequate , ..need to hug you both soon Ok?

  22. You’re a great dad, Scott ! and Sandy, you’re an awesome mama ! It’s weird that when you’re an encourager by God’s gifting …others sometimes don’t know how to respond to us when we need to scream out , “We’re hurting !!! ” I hurt with you as you grieve and love you guys ! Thank you SO Much for letting us share in your processing …we need your heart !

  23. Linda St.John says:

    Scott and Sandy I think and Pray for you everyday, and just do not know what to say I just keep Praying

  24. Debra Sheats says:

    Trying to process it and lift you both up daily, only Christ can bear your grief truly…..our human attempts fall short but are all we know to offer…..trusting our Lord to comfort, hold, strengthen, and heal as only He can and He makes sense of our hurt and does not ever mind our cries of despair…..
    Thank you for sharing your heart…..

    • pasturescott says:

      Thank you, sister. Each day brings new mercies, more tears, a renewed hollowness and abrupt refilling. Oh, how worthy the great Shepherd of our souls in this trying but beautiful time. We love you, Debra.

  25. Cindy (Cooper) Ernst says:

    Beautiful eloquent expression of raw grief. We weep with you and pray daily for you both. God keeps you on our hearts and minds. Thank you for sharing. The memorial service was so beautifully done… stories of Graham. The expressions of his faith in God. Good memories! Mark and I are here for you both! We love you!

    • pasturescott says:

      Our love and expressions of sincere gratitude, Cindy. Your heart comes through so eloquently in your words. Thank you for sharing in our grief. You and Mark are God’s emissaries of comfort and grace.

  26. Mark Ernst says:

    Scott…you are very courageous and transparent to share this. And, I understand that you and Sandy need you to be a Dad & husband…but God has shaped you to be many things, and my thoughts are that you being the encourager and pastor that you seem to be so effortlessly may be a catalyst in your healing as well. So, encourage those around you if you feel the impulse..because the comfort we share often aids our healing. Our prayers have not
    ceased, and I’m sure that is true of many…grace and peace…

    • pasturescott says:

      I receive your grace-filled encouragement and insight, Mark. Thank you, my pastor-friend for such tenderness in a brutal hour. He is enough. This my soul knows full well. Selah.

  27. Joe Beard says:

    You know, Mohandas Gandhi was enamored with the person of Jesus. He read the Gospels, read much about him, and quoted him often. He was asked why he doesn’t convert to Christianity if he was so taken by Jesus. His response, if I had ever met a Christian I would have become a Christian. He obviously met many in his day, one of his greatest supporters was a Catholic priest. His point: no one lives like Christ. My point is this: Gandhi never met you guys.

    • pasturescott says:

      I’ve read that, Joe. It’s always spoken to me, and I’ve prayed that in no one’s life or observation would I ever become an obstacle to The Way. I’m so honored and humbled with tears for your sentiments expressed here, my friend. Thank you.

  28. jenniferellen14 says:

    Scott, I grieve with you and Sandy. This is so not the way it is supposed to be. I think we lost something important when we abandoned the tradition of wearing morning clothes for a season- a way to make that public declaration wherever we go. To creat e that space in the midst of “normal” life that will never be the same. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Soli Deo Gloria.

  29. Preston Barnes says:

    Wow. Your process is beautiful. I agree with Joe Beard. Not many meet the image of Christ. I have. His name is Scott Mitchell. He is one cool dude. He rides around being cool and stuff!

  30. Reblogged this on myfullemptynest and commented:
    On grief. “On the day I knew of my son’s departure from this hard earth, I was visited by a friend. He came to the house, drew a chair close beside my own in the dining room and wept there with me, wordlessly, for fifteen minutes. Tears didn’t run down his cheeks, they flung outwardly to the floor. After he hugged me and held my hand, he prayed a few-second prayer, hugged me again then left. I still talk about that visit. There was no Romans 8:28, though it’s no less true. No counsel, though we welcome words of life into our soul. No bumper sticker theology. No tweets. No platitudes. Just grief. Good grief.”

  31. Joan Swanson says:

    Continuing to lift you and Sandy up in prayer.

  32. Daphne Greer says:

    Spoken so beautifully. So sorry for your loss.praying for peace and God’s comfort for your family.

  33. Belinda says:

    Scott, Sandy, We studied Hebrews 13, 14-19 tonight in small group. We talked about how the Word talks about the Christian community so much. We decided that to be able to follow Christ (as imperfect as we are), we must hold each other up and help one another in the journey on this earth that is “not our home where we belong”. We must share the sorrows as well as the joy. I am so daily filled with grief due to my husbands medical decline this past year. I share your grief and my heart is so full of hugs and compassion, and tears for you both. I can not imagine loosing my son as God gave up His Son, His only Son whom he loved and as you have lost your only son whom you loved. I know that the Lord will carry you through this and is holding you close to Him. I love you both.
    Belinda from WHBC

    • pasturescott says:

      Indeed, my sweet friend! Oh, Belinda, how our hearts ache with you too. You have been so steadfast, so trusting. He is enough, Belinda; as you’ve no doubt learned, He is so much more than enough. Selah.

      Our great love to you. Thank you for your aches for us.

  34. Buddy Mapes says:

    Scott, that you have held onto your faith throughout this, as well as other difficult times, causes me to question my disbelief. For you and Sandy to remain faithful as you have, it causes me to consider something simple and profound:

    Your God might be more real than my atheism.

    I hope He is, and that I will find faith like yours.

    I love you, my friend.

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