Tag Archive | death

The Grief That Lies Beneath Part 1


“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die…A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 2,4

11 November 2012, a day that I am far from forgetting. It started off like any other Sunday morning, rushed around the house getting ready for church and tried not to be late once again. I was happy and excited about a new outfit that I was wearing; black and white floral knee-length dress, pale blue cardigan teamed with peach and pale blue wedges and matching bag. I remember all too well because I had found the shoes and bag the day before and I was all too excited to wear an outfit so bright and perfectly coordinated to church. For the first time in about ten months I was wearing make up to church. I had decided earlier in the year to stop after I was moved to tears the one day and looked like a hot mess! I don’t know whether it was the new outfit that inspired me to try again, but for some reason I did on that day. I met my mom and aunt in the kitchen as I was walking out and they complimented me on how pretty I looked. I giggled and did a little twirl at my mom’s request before grabbing my bag and heading out the door. I thought of going to say bye to my gran but thought against it because I was scared to wake her up. Well that’s what I told myself but when I thought about it later, I just wanted to avoid getting into any argument about me going to church. I have wished virtually everyday in the past five and a half months that I would have gone in to see her, had I known….

Much of what happened from the time I left home at about 7:30am till the middle of the second service at 11:30 remains a blur. I just remember my one friend saying she hasn’t seen me this happy and relaxed in a long time. I also remember another telling me about how he senses that I am coming into a season of great blessing in my life but just as God starts to shower me with blessings, I step away from underneath the downpour. To this day I have never been able to decipher that message and it doesn’t help that he didn’t want to explain it to me either. For reasons that only made sense afterwards, I was a bit agitated that day and I kept my phone on during church which was out of character. In the middle of the service I felt it vibrate, I reached into my bag for it and I froze when I read my cousin’s BBM message: “Gran is gone.” With as much composure as I could muster, I showed my phone to my friend sitting next to me and started gathering my things and walking out trying not to cause too much disruption. It wasn’t until I was outside waiting for a friend to drive me home that I started crying. I cried all the way home and my heart felt like it was being ripped out of my chest. I was hit by guilt of not being home with her harder than grief that she was gone.

When I made it home I was greeted at the gate by our helper who told me to stop crying, my gran’s not dead they’ve just taken her to the hospital. Somehow I didn’t believe her but I tried my best to stop crying and I went into my room and I called my other cousin to ask him what’s going on and he said no they’ve taken my gran to the hospital with my mom and aunt. I distinctly remember asking if she was alive and him saying yes. I asked which hospital and told him I was on my way to them. I was barely out of the gate when he called me back to tell me to go back home, my gran was gone. A fresh batch of tears flooded my face from nowhere and I didn’t stop crying until my mom, aunt and cousin eventually came home from the hospital, their screams and cries said all I needed to know and confirmed that yes, this was very real, my last surviving grandparent was finally gone.

In the hours that followed I kept crying and searching for clues of what I had missed. I was devastated as I recalled my last conversation with her on Friday night. I had come home from work and walked into the room to find her sitting up on the bed, looking well and in high spirits. I was pleasantly surprised and I said to her: “Wow you look so much better!” and we had a little laugh about it. Little did I know that those would be my last conversation with her! Saturday I was out shopping and hanging out with my friends and when I got home I walked into the room to check on her she was sleeping. I took a nap and by the time I woke up again the rest of my family was sleeping so thought it best not to check up on her lest I woke her up.

I’ve tried to process her death and make sense of why I am consumed with grief, why when I think I am out of the woods then it hits me all over again. It doesn’t make sense because my three grandparents all passed away when I was old enough to understand what was going so she wasn’t the first grandparent I had lost. Death was nothing new to me because just a month before on October 10, my cousin who was just two months older than me passed away after a very short illness. Her death shouldn’t have been a surprise to me because for starters, as so many people were kind enough to point out, she was in her 80s and therefore old and expected to die. Secondly she had been ill for a few months and had been living with us for about three months leading up to her death. As I sit here remembering all the times my heart would jump to my throat if my mother phoned me while I was at work or when I tip toed into her room in the mornings before I went to work or the evenings when I came back, I realise that I had known that her time was near. Why did it hurt so badly then when it finally happened? Why does it still hurt so badly then as if it was a sudden death that no one could have foreseen?

I feel I am long way from recovering and healing from the loss of my gran but I am somewhat consoled when I look back at how far I have come and have made a few discoveries on I have struggled more with this loss than any other loss. Firstly, the grief and regret of not saying good-bye to her and realising that I will never get a chance to do that still has a very firm grip on my heart. Secondly, I am still carrying the burden of words said to and about me leading up to and after her death.

For some reason it is easier for me to believe that I would feel much better had I been home that Sunday and not been at church rather than to accept that I was exactly where I should have been and that my Father who knows me better than I know myself knew that I wasn’t strong enough to see her life end like that. I will always remember my gran as a woman of great strength and courage. My grandfather passed away when I was eight years old and so she spent the last twenty years of her life on her own. Although my mom and aunt helped her out here and there, she always wanted to remain independent and she sewed and sold what she sewed to supplement her pension money and provide for herself. She never wanted to feel like a burden on anyone and was always strong and full of so much wisdom. To me she was a shining example of a Psalm 31 woman. So how could a force like that be gone so easily?

Truth be told looking back she really did put up a fight. From my mother’s accounts and her speech at both the wake and funeral, I came to realise just how much pain my gran had been in in those final months. So maybe I was just never meant to see her in her weakened state so that I always remembered her for the strong woman she was? Maybe God knew I was not strong enough and so shielded me from it all? Was that how my family had justified in their minds them not telling me that they had been up since 3am with my grandmother and that she was in a bad state when I left for church that morning? Is that how they had justified not calling me to tell me what happened and tell me to come home and yet others called? And still, despite all this, my mother was still able to say to me just hours after her death that I should have been at home, I shouldn’t have left that morning and it is those words that have imprisoned for months, unable to find absolution no matter how much I rationalised, prayed or talked about it.

Questions of Faith


For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. ~ Ephesians 6:15

Life is never what we expect it to be. We float through life never realising the danger that lurked around the corner that we just missed, never thinking as we leave the house in the morning that we might never make it home again. Yet, so many leave their homes and never make it to where they were going let alone make it back home. A routine checkup turns into an indefinite hospital stay for others. Some sleep with clothes ironed and laid out for the next morning, to-do-lists and appointments set for the next day and then, with no forewarning whatsoever, just never wake up.

One of the sad realities of being separated from your family and those you love is the constant fear of that call you are about to answer being bad news. Without even realising just how tense you were, you breathe a hectic sigh of relief when you are greeted by a lively, warm voice on the other end that reassures you that everything is ok. Yes you trust in the Lord and you pray to Him to keep your loved ones safe but then sometimes you wonder if that is enough. Did that fragile young child who has just become an orphan because her parents got killed in a random act of violence just didn’t pray enough?  Did the twenty-two year old who’s just died of cancer, never experiencing the joy of independence and the fulfilment of a life well lived die because they did not believe in God’s promises? So many questions pop into mind and if you were to try answer them all you would surely get nowhere.

My life has been filled with so much sadness and tragedy lately leaving me pondering so many questions of faith. To be clear, I do not question my faith, my hope remains firmly implanted in the Lord. I do not ask, “where is God” but rather, “what have we done Lord? What have we done to make you so angry that You allow us to continue to live in this barren wasteland?” My heart breaks when I think of all the pain, the hatred and the sheer evil that seems to consuming this world one heart at a time. What makes a man molest a vulnerable little girl over and over and over again, in school no less? What gives people the heart and the courage to plot and kill church leaders? Why are so many walking amongst us declaring to be Christians, declaring to be godly and yet unleash hatred and cruelty at every chance they get? Is this the life we are destined to live?

In as much as we live in discouraging times  I do not believe it is time to lose hope in humanity and in life. If God, knowing all He knows about each and every one of us, knowing our hearts’ desires, the evil and sin that lurks in us still has faith in us and undying love for us, why should we despair? I believe the Bible when it says, “His compassions never fail, they are new every morning.” I believe in the promise that “those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Which is why I get almost furious with the things that happen in my life. I find myself asking Him, “how it is that I dwell in Your house and yet still I find myself uneasy, surrounded darkness and serpents?” This is where the questions just multiply and then, without warning yet almost always on que, the battle of scriptures ensues in my mind. First witness for the prosecution is Exodus 20:5 which reminds me of God’s stern warning that “(He) will lay the sins of the parents upon their children; entire family is affected, even children in the third and fourth generations.” To which, almost callously I ask, “wait a minute Lord, what happened to nothing can ever separate us from Christ’s love?” Then of course, in an effort to prove that I did not just make this up and to point it out to Him and say, “see, see, You did say it!”  I storm to fetch my Bible, flip to Romans 8:35 and as I read it I feel the rays of God’s smile on me. I feel Him laughing at me saying, “Gotcha!”

As much as I would like to believe that Paul put his pen down at that point and declared us inseparable from God’s love and thus never having to suffer anything(which admittedly is how I read it). There are still four and half verses left in the chapter. Seven chapters till the end of the book of Romans. Twenty-one books till the end of the Bible. So sheepishly I go on to read, “Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? As the scripture says, For your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we have complete victory through Him who loved us!”

After allowing these words to simmer in my mind a while, the words of my favourite Psalms start coming into focus like a train appearing in the distance, just a flicker at first before full brightness and clarity. Psalm 42 is very dear to my heart because so many times I, like the psalmist, feel exiled to the land of the forgotten. The land where you have only your tears, heartache and longing for days gone past to keep you company. I too, feel like God has turned His face from me. As if refuses to look my way let alone smile His favour upon me. The psalmist puts so eloquently what I find myself grappling with far too many times; the longing to be with God and be in His presence instead of what feels like exile in a corrupt, rotten land, the heartbreak and tears that come with remembering the good times and most of all the enemy taunting you and adding to the feelings of abandonment.  I love this Psalm because even in the midst of all that depression, he says, “Yet I will praise Him, my Saviour and God.” This always gives me courage because it reminds me that because His mercies are new every morning, He will once again bring back the happiness I once knew.

It has taken me a while to learn that not all questions of faith mean you are questioning your faith. It has taken a lot of training to learn scriptures that will enable me to answer my questions when they do arise. I did not absorb from reading Ephesians 6:15 once just how much the Bible prepares you for. In as much as I get extremely frustrated that I cannot recall scriptures verbatim, I have come to realise what a blessing that is. It is because my memory fails me that I find myself constantly referring to my Bible and whenever I open it I never just read one verse, I find myself reading others as well which bring fresh and also renewed knowledge and understanding.

It is only now I realise and understand yes, Romans 8:35 is right. Trouble, hardship, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger and death cannot and should not separate us from the love of God. In these tough times, when everything seems sombre, we ask Him questions and to find answers we turn to His Word and there we find the truth and the peace that keeps us going because, “He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.”