Jack lingered in the arms of heartache - anchored there by the raging storms of anger and grief. During this time of rage and deep remorse he often cried out, “Why did you do this to me God?” And during those rare periods of grief without the storms of anger raging around him, he would cry and whisper, “I love you sweetheart – without you I am nothing.” Beth and Jack had been married over sixteen-years, they had no children she was his life, his love, his foundation. Beth completed him. Sadly, now she was gone - taken by cancer, Beth was just 36 years old.
I wish this was a rare occurrence, but sadly it isn’t. Statistics point out these sad facts: the years end in 2012 gave light to these tragedies – heart disease took 598,000, cancer ripped from us 575,000, respiratory disease and stroke took another 267,000. And death’s “hunting spree” did not stop there. Many died from accidental tragedy and,, deeply disturbing, 38,000 died from suicide. The CDC reports that 2.5 million Americans were embraced by death, in each and every case, behind each death, were found the storms of anger and grief.
Death never brings the immediate embrace of peace and acceptance. Death places each of us first into the arms of the numbness of loss, then the anger and rage of permanent separation, and finally the journey, one that must be walked alone – which leads to acceptance and stillness. The journey’s process is well known – it is achieved by taking one step at a time, stopping often to allow the storms of anger, despair, and rage to pass one by. It is in the living of life after the storms that we are enabled to move forward – not just sideways, moving sideways eventually leads us back to where we started.
Dealing with tragedy, especially death, is always difficult. What makes Beth’s death so difficult for Jack was his deep desire to know “why” she was taken from his arms, why she had to suffer, why his prayers for her recovery were seemingly ignored. It took a while, but after most storms had passed and Jack found himself in the arms of acceptance (not yet peace) that he realized “prayer” had indeed strengthened him to hold on to his life during the raging storms of death. Jack could now close his eyes at night just before falling into the arms of sleep – and hear Beth whisper, “I love you Jack, I’ll always be with you – please, please live your life as I would have wanted you to live. Live with hope, faith, and love.”
There is no doubt that most of us will or have survived the silent and often sudden approach of death. In each case, in order to pull away from the storms of anger and grief, we will travel this path: first denial, numbness and shock – then we will journey through bargaining, depression, and anger. Then, and only then, after we deal with these storms, can we “let go” of our grip on denial and fall into the arms of acceptance. As Jack now knows – acceptance allows us to move forward and live as his dear wife Beth wanted him to live – with hope, faith, and love. Next time you are near me, come to me and share with me the storms surrounding you, sharing always cuts grief in half and doubles joy. You are loved.