By: Gena Anderson
This photo was taken the first day of a fun get-away to Vegas. My husband joined me for a work trip, and we were enjoying the experience, looking forward to the next few days. Funny how expectations can be so far from reality, especially when life takes an unexpected turn.
The next day I received a call from home bearing news. My Dad had received his own call: the doctors had a possible kidney donor for him. Dad had been living with kidney disease for years, and had only been on the transplant list for about a month. My husband and I decided to stay in Vegas until we had more definitive news, there was still a process to work through before the actual transplant could take place. We went about our day in Vegas and kept up with family via phone calls and texts. The tests all went well and the transplant was scheduled for that afternoon. Everyone was excited, jovial even. Michael (my husband) and I had dinner and drinks, and talked about catching a flight home the next day.
It was during that dinner that the phone rang again, my husband’s phone this time. I could see it all over his face, something was wrong. Eventually I learned the surgery had taken a sudden turn for the worse, another unexpected twist, one none of us saw coming. I walked around Vegas in a fog, until we received another call with more bad news. At one point I got on my knees in the middle of an astroturf courtyard in Sin City and pleaded with God to fix this, because I knew he could and I needed his presence way more than I wanted to fit in to my present surroundings. Later, as I walked to my hotel room while my husband checked us out at the front desk, I couldn’t hold back the tears streaming down my face or stop my hands from shaking. What I was walking through was more than I could process, and certainly way out of my ability to control.
We caught a midnight flight home, and my Dad left this earth just before we landed. We did all the things one does following a loss, we planned a funeral, ate casseroles prepared by sweet loved ones, and cried a lot. As I type this today it has been exactly six months since Dad died. I miss him, and I’m not happy he’s gone, never will be.
I’ve also walked, step by step, through grief, growth, and blessings that come with the lived experience of loss. Although I would love the chance to talk to Dad again, I can’t bring him back, and truthfully I don’t want to. I know I’ll see him again, and he truly is in a better place where suffering doesn’t exist. Dad would absolutely hate this pandemic, it would drive him crazy to stay home all the time. Where he’s at the only pandemic is abundant joy. Why would I want him here to experience this?
This unparalleled time we are in has turned our world upside down. Our expectations have taken some swift blows, and I recognize in those around me, and in myself, something all too familiar to me at this point.
Some have lost our perfectly scheduled calendar, others the chance to celebrate the special occasion they’ve been anticipating for longer than they can remember. Jobs, finances, plans, dreams, routines, and freedoms have all been lost. Unfortunately all too many have or will experience the actual loss of a loved one who falls victim to this terrible virus. So, now that we recognize the experience of loss, what are we supposed to do with this awareness?
First, allow yourself to grieve. No loss is insignificant if it’s significant to you. Take time, whether it’s a moment, a day, or a portion of every day, to feel the sorrow and sadness that’s accumulated. Acknowledge that you’ve experienced a loss, and even if you’re not ready to fully accept your new reality, work on trying to accept that grief is a process and your feelings are real. Resist the push of our fast-paced world to rush to see a silver lining when you’re still blinded by the storm. The silver lining will reveal itself in time. Right now, it’s necessary to take time to grieve.
Second, be present and purposeful today. Once you’ve spent some time grieving, you’ll know when it’s time to do something else. In these times, it’s so tempting to wish you could go back to the way things were or look forward to better times. Reality tells us we cannot go back, nor are we promised tomorrow. What we’ve got is today. If there is breath in your lungs, then God’s got plans for you. Those plans are to give us hope and a future, and that future starts now. What can you do with the people around you? How can you make use of the resources you currently have? What one thing could you do today that would leave a lasting mark on someone else? Planning for tomorrow is good, and all plans start with a first step. What step can you take today?
Third, allow and invite transformation. Our experiences in life shape and change us, if we let them. Experiencing loss has offered me the ability to dispense empathy. Grieving has revealed to me a new level of intimacy with God I wouldn’t otherwise know. The new way of life we have all been forced to awkwardly step into has also turned out to be a unique opportunity to prune and weed our daily lives. We can choose to resist new ways and hold tight to what we know, or bravely take one awkward step at a time toward something new. The experience of grief changes us, and so does taking a good look around, and a long look up to see what direction we are being pointed in.
Experiencing loss, walking through the subsequent grief, and taking in stride each day that follows will slowly reveal the good that comes from life’s hardest times. I don’t think any of us knows what the unforeseen blessings will be in this crazy pandemic. One thing I’m sure of, we will each find them, when we are ready to see them, and we have permission today to experience the loss we feel right now.