I am a processor. I take in whatever information is presented to me and take time to think it through. It pervades my thoughts, my emotions, my dreams and my prayers. I like to understand my perspective and seek God’s perspective in whatever is going on – before I rush to disclose my thoughts publicly.
Two big things I have been processing this year are death and loss.
I am sure I am not alone. It is staggering when I think about how the corona virus pandemic has crippled our world and how there have been (as of today, world-wide) 395,195 deaths reported from Covid-19.
On top of this, there is even more death and loss due to all the violence, rioting, and looting in response to the protests against racism. The sickness of racism affects us all and The Black Lives Matter movement is super important and something we should all support in whatever way we can. I fully support the peaceful protests happening all around the world, and I have been processing my own responsibility to the issue. I even wrote about it in my recent blog BlackOut Tuesday.
On an even more personal note, in my immediate family, my grandma, grandpa, and my husband’s mom, my mother-in-law, have all recently passed away, in January, March and May, respectively. Their deaths are not because of the covid-19 or racial injustice, but because of other illnesses and old age. Like many other people, I am dealing with and processing death and loss in this already tough season.
It is never easy when someone you love dies. I am not a grief counselor nor expert in handling loss, and I don’t pretend to know what to do or how to help someone in their own processing. I can only speak from my own experiences and share the things that God has placed in my heart to help comfort me and guide me through difficult times.
When I learned of my grandpa’s passing, I was saddened but also relieved, as the last few weeks of his life had been filled with pain and confusion. I wanted desperately to go see my family in Louisiana and take part in the funeral, but given the pandemic, I was unable to travel. The funeral was brief and very limited as to the number of people who could gather. I am thankful that my sister streamed the graveside service on Facebook Live, so that I could participate. My grandpa was a pillar of his community and several people from the town drove their cars near the gravesite in order to pay their respects. The experience left me feeling so isolated and disconnected from my family, and I spent several days crying out to God, praying with friends, FaceTiming family, and binge-watching shows on Netflix and Hulu, like Britain’s Home Cook and The Masked Singer (both shows are fun, light and totally different than the heaviness in the world right now).
One of the women in my Tuesday Night Bible Study Group (affectionately called Sorority Sisters) sent me a nice card when my grandpa passed away. She included a packet of wildflower seeds and suggested I plant them as a remembrance to him. I thought that was an incredible idea, and I did it. Here is what my initial planting looked like:
I kept watering them and honestly, didn’t know if they would grow or thrive. When we packed up our things and moved from Los Angeles, I gave them to my friend Brandi, who said her aunt would love to nuture them, knowing they were planted in honor of my grandpa. Here they are today!
It warms my heart to see the growth of the flowers, to know that they honor him and are flourishing under my friend’s aunt’s care.
What is it about plants that help us process death and loss? Many people send flowers to funerals and place them at gravesites. Perhaps the newness of their growth, the way they come to life, reminds us of the good times we had with our loved ones. Maybe it is the idea that the plants are living on, despite our loss and that we should continue to grow and develop in our own lives. Or maybe it is just the smile that comes when we see them around, the remembrance of God’s beautiful creation.
The Bible talks about how “the righteous will flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. (Psalm 92:2) The Passion Translation takes it further to say, “…to flourish like palm trees each one growing in victory, standing with strength!”
Maybe that is the lesson…to grow in victory and stand in strength in processing death and loss. It doesn’t feel like that from an earthly view, but if your loved one has a relationship with Jesus and you know he or she is leaving this world to go to be with Him in Heaven, there is victory and strength for sure! Victory over death means an eternal life with God. Victory on the earth means making it through the toughest situations and coming out the other side stronger. That is my prayer for everyone who has experienced death and loss, to be planted and nourished in victory and strength over the alternative, endless grief, sadness, depression, giving up, or any of the other negative responses we may have to the difficulties in life.
Still, it takes time to process. And everyone has a different response and processing time. There is no rush and no pressure for any of us. Plant a flower, go for a walk, be still and hear from God, cook a meal, talk to safe people, and be honest with where you are in your process.
My prayer is that as we all experience the woes of today, including death and loss that is so prevalent around us, we will acknowledge the process and give each other grace. My leap of faith today is to trust God in the process and to remember all the wonderful times I had with my family members who have passed on. I am opening myself up to allow for space and honest conversations with other people and their experiences with death and loss.
Let’s remember all who have died and all who have experienced death and loss, and let’s have hope for better days to come.