Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Grief and God's Bounty

I knew something was wrong when I heard the basement door creek open in the middle of the day, and saw Ben, still in his cycling clothes, drenched in sweat, walk in.  He didn't give me a hug, but took my hand and led me to the couch, told me to sit down.  He held both of my hands and looked at me for a moment before he had to look away.  "My parents called.  My brother John has been in an accident." Before he could finish, before his voice broke into sobs, I knew.  Before he uttered those impossible, cruel words, "He's dead."  We held each other and prayed: for strength, for wisdom, for comfort.  For John's family, his wife, his children.

I wish I could show you everything I have seen and felt over the past week.  My heart has broken a thousand times: from the sorrow and the beauty.  The way our family pulled together, showed up in full force, held one another through tears.  The hundreds of people who came to John's memorial service, the stage filled with other members of the Air Force, the service filled with testimony after testimony of this great man: his sweetness, his loveability, his inner strength.  I wish I could tell you the way my heart dropped when I saw the flag draped coffin, the sudden physical realization of the reality of this whole thing, that no, John was not going to walk in the door with his wide contagious smile and assure us that this had all been a mistake.  The poignant beauty of his widow sitting beside his coffin, eyes closed, luminous face raised, mouthing the words to a hymn with the hint of a smile.  A smile.  It is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I will see in my life.  A love song to the man she loved, and to the God who created us even in her grief.

We stayed in North Carolina for our niece's graduation from high school on Saturday.  John's eldest daughter, who is beautiful and kind and reminds us all a great deal of her father.  As she crossed the stage and our section of the bleachers cheered, I felt an incredible pride and joy.  God has brought us together, and God is faithful to us through these trials.  We are strengthened by John's presence in the Communion of Saints and can truly feel him here with us even as we long to be with him in person.  These are difficult days, for John's wife and children, for John's parents, his siblings, and everyone who loved him.  But I pray as we look back upon them we will see not only our sadness, but God's bounty.  I know John would have it no other way.


Margo said...

I am so sorry. I'm so glad your family could be all together and find some comfort together. May God bless you and keep you.

Melissa Hunter-Kilmer said...

Oh, Adele. I'm praying for John and his extended family, which of course includes your family. Please tell Ben how terribly sorry I am.

Adele said...

Thank you for your kind words, ladies!

JLynn said...

What a beautiful tribute you've written. You and your family are in my prayers.

Lauren Oliver said...

Beautiful. A lovely tribute. It gladdens my heart to see you all smiling in these pics! Have been praying for you all, so happy that you experienced God's bountiful love in the midst of such painful circumstances. Love you guys!!!