Confessions of a Closet Christian 22: Grief & How it Effects Us Personally & the People Around Us

Now I lay me down to sleep.

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Jason.  His name is Jason.  My childhood friend was found unresponsive on February 18, 2014.  On February 19th, I wrote this in my journal.  I haven’t been able to write since.  It says:

I love Jason.  He’s a brother.  Someone I spent early days with.  Someone I thought I’d spend older days with.  At holidays.  Kids playing, turkeys roasting, spouses chatting.  It’s not far-fetched to think your good friend will live to be a good, very old man.  That his childish habits will burn off like dross burning off of gold.  And we’ll all be left with the glorifying creation we knew he could be.  That dross burnt off a little sooner.  He’s glorifying in some other place.  Some other-worldly far off cosmos we know exists and long for, but cannot comprehend or understand.  Is there peace in that?  Or hope?

Maybe.  But in the meantime it’s so shocking.  We’re stunned.  Paralyzed.  Afraid to say the words out loud because it makes them truer, so we say, “You know” and “I’m sorry” and “I’m thinking of you” and “I love you.”  We can’t go near “he’s gone” or “he was too young.”  Not yet.

As tears sting my eyes, I’m reminded of Jason’s goodness.  The life of the party and the king of wit, Jason always knew what to say.  He cared for his friends, family, and tradition.  He yearned for more – to see more, experience more, know more, be more.  Now he is.

As we process this – we ache.  We question.  We can’t sleep.  Why Jason?  Why did you go?  A year ago – did you know this was the last year you’d have on earth?  The last hug you’d give your friends?  Did you live fully?  I know you did.

As the dawn breaks, I wonder how we’ll face today.  Hurt.  Grieving.  Together.  It’s a terrible thing to lose.  It’s a terrible thing to lose your friend.  I close my eyes and I see birthday parties, youth group events, Star Wars Episode 2, icecream in the summer afternoons, Super Bowl Sunday.  I see dreams.  Ended.

Why Jason?  Why now?  So young.  Too young.  Too early.

 

Welcome to Confessions of a Closet Christian.  I’m Jana Elizabeth – now Doughty – yes, there’s been a name change, but more on that later.  On today’s podcast, we discuss grief and how it effects us personally, the people around us, and the culture we live in.

One of my friends, Kristin Murdock, was four months pregnant when she found out her baby had anencephaly and would be born missing a major portion of his brain.  While 90% of people who receive this diagnosis choose to terminate the pregnancy, Kristin and her husband, Glenn, decided to carry their beautiful boy, Branch Lionheart Murdock, to term.  They believe God gave them Branch for a season and they chose to celebrate his life as much as they could.  Branch was born alive and lived for seven days.  He was a miracle to Kristin and Glenn and everyone around them.  As Kristin grieves, she invites her online following to join her in her journey.  On what would have been Branch’s six month birthday, Kristin wrote this on her blog:

I am in a writing class, and yet I cannot seem to write.

I stare at the blank sheet. Nothing. Empty. It reminds me of my arms: where he should be, but instead they are empty. Nothing.

I have been more sorrowful in recent weeks. More emotional. More fearful of the future. More hesitant to celebrate, and needing more time to mourn. I suppose this is part of it all. Life, loss, story.

I do not want this to be my story. I’m done. Hasn’t this gone on long enough? The pain that floods every ounce of my being, missing him and wanting nothing if I can not hold him again, this time forever.

Sometimes I lie in bed and I am angry.  Angry that my little boy is in the ground. Angry that life goes on all around me. Angry at the Devil for finding satisfaction in my torment.

I’ve had enough.

I am reading a book that talks about how the only way to truly know Jesus and be close to His heart is to experience sorrow and allow Him to meet us there. I agree with this book, but it’s still hard.

I met with Linsey the other day. I always love meeting with her. She speaks kindness and truth, and she listens to me.  In our meeting, Linsey talked about the ‘wrestle’ I am experiencing. There are so many things I know, I believe, I experience about God and His character, and yet I cannot seem to figure out how Branch’s death fits in.  I am wrestling.  Linsey says it is the wrestling that keeps my heart alive. I loved that picture :: of my wounded heart fighting for its life every day.

I’m doing it.

Tomorrow will be six months since Branch was born. Half a year. In some ways so little time, in some ways so long. It’s unbelievable, really.  I think it always will be.

We went to his grave this morning. The grass is growing and it looks slightly less “freshly dug” than it did before.  There were jacaranda flowers that had fallen from the surrounding trees, and I took one and pressed it into his book of letters.  We saw three or four hummingbirds. We saw the groundskeeper begin to dig a new little grave for another baby.

Just like that, I find myself here again, staring at the blank part of the page.  There are no more words I can add.  This part will stay empty.

That piece was written by Kristin Murdock.  You can read more about Kristin and her journey on kristineats.com.

 

When I heard about the shooting in Santa Barbara and how the shooter claimed to do it because he felt “rejected,” my heart clenched.  Each of these shootings is a reminder of our world’s brokenness.  While all of the shootings are devastating and completely incomprehensible, especially when we think of Newtown and the loss of precious children, it’s striking to note the phases the greater population goes through as they respond to each event.  Sometimes it’s a travesty.  Sometimes we’re repulsed.  Sometimes we’re speechless.  Sometimes we’re jaded, wondering why anyone’s surprised that this has happened again.  And then again.  Sometimes we’re furious.  Sometimes we’re revolted.  Sometimes we’re offended, protesting, “How could it happen here?  In my own backyard.  These things happen, but not to me!”  And sometimes, we’re exasperated.  We’re exhausted.  What is wrong with us that in our despair, we think it’s okay to impose that on others, taking their lives and forever echoing our names into the lives of the victims’ families.

We’ve suffered grief as a nation.  Some mark it with 9/11, a fear-inciting day when we were attacked on our own territory.  But violence within our culture proceeds that with events like the infamous Columbine shooting.  Why do we attack each other?  Why would we decide that is the answer?

It’s something we wrestle with.  We know it’s wrong.  We know we’re broken.  We know we have a problem, but we don’t do anything about it.  Is it because we can’t do anything, won’t do anything, or we’re afraid to do anything?

A friend on Facebook wrote in response to the recent Oregon shooting:

Sitting at the airport gate. Channel turned to CNN covering Oregon school shooting. 200 people around me and 3 seem to be actively paying attention to the broadcast. That’s how common and mundane people killing other people has become in the US. No one is surprised, phased, or worried. What will it actually take to change anything?

It’s easy to write these events off with answers like, “if only people didn’t suffer from mental illness,” and “if only we saw something,” or “if only we said something.”

I do wonder what would happen if, as a culture, we really saw people for who they are.  And appreciated them for who they are.  Maybe even loved people for who they are.  I’m not saying mental illness would disappear, but maybe there would be less rejection and less cause for a tempestuous reaction.  Maybe people like the UC Santa Barbara shooter would feel included enough, like he was enough of a person.

Perhaps it’s an argument to attend church, whatever the grieving circumstance.  Churches are filled with broken people who know they’re broken.  They know they need help and they don’t really care what you look like or what you do for a living.  They’re just so glad you’re there.  They’re just so glad you’re you.  And, when they’re broken and they aren’t able to love you adequately themselves, they’ll direct you to Jesus, who does it perfectly.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”  In this case, “hope” means absolute confidence.  And we can have absolute confidence in Jesus.

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

Guide me safely through the night,

Wake me with the morning light.

 

This podcast is dedicated to the memories of Jason Nicholas Mastroianni and Branch Lionheart Murdock.

 

This has been Confessions of a Closet Christian.  I’m Jana Elizabeth Doughty.  You can follow me @JanaDoughty on Twitter or @Jana_Doughty on Instagram.  Thank you for listening!

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