I was enjoying my Saturday morning; simply lying there as the sun streamed in through my window, completely comfortable. Warm and cool at the same time and lying against my soft pillows on a bed with more feather bed and egg crate mattresses than anyone could ever need. I hadn’t slept-in on any given day in weeks and yesterday, upon hearing that my choir practice had been moved to later in the day, I rejoiced at knowing that, for once, I would get to enjoy my Saturday morning.
As I lied in the bed, I considered all the things that I could get done today: write a little, check website stats, see if anyone’s left any book comments, go to the church business meeting, go to work, Gallery Hop tonight as the finale of my birthday celebrations…Today was going to be a good day.
The call between my mother and I:
(My cell rings to the tune of Law and Order)
Mother: Hi…did I wake you?
Me: Kind of.
Mother: Oh…I guess you haven’t heard yet.
Me: Heard what?
Mother: Well…Sister Edrith passed away last night.
(It takes me a moment to bring her face to the name and then I’m confused. She just turned 36 a couple weeks ago. Only old people pass away. What the hell does she mean “pass away?”)
Me: What? What d’you mean pass away?
Mother: She passed away. She was in a car accident last night and she was killed.
Something else was said by my mother, but I’m not sure what. All I can really remember these hours later is the feel of immense pressure bearing down on my chest. That’s what it feels like. Grief.
It didn’t make sense. That’s what I kept telling myself. It just didn’t make any sense. Edrith is a good person and she’s got a lot to do. She’s the Sunday School teacher for our adult class, she’s a lead soprano in our “young adult” choir, she wants to still get married and have children, she wants to begin a wedding planning business; she’s got a lot to do.
My mother kept talking as the initial tears began to spring from my eyes. “When we’ve done what we’re supposed to do, God takes us. You know, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” I heard the words, but my body shook as it still shakes now, making it very difficult for me to type. How could she be dead? I just saw her on Tuesday. I shared my Matthew Henry commentary with her during Teacher’s Meeting because she hadn’t brought hers. I had meant to ask her if she had just come from work that night and if that was why she hadn’t brought her things with her. What am I supposed to do now? My mother kept saying “I know. I just had my own…”
Then, I started to cry out loud. I’d never heard my own cry of grief and now that I reflect back on it, I suppose it sounds as it should. A long wail followed by gasps and gasps of screaming and gurgling in the back of my throat as my mind could no longer prepare words to describe what my heart was feeling. I just set down the phone and started to cry and scream. I couldn’t see anything and my thoughts were simply “How could this have happened?” “What do you mean pass away?” “She couldn’t be dead. I just saw her?” “This doesn’t make any sense.”
I couldn’t collect myself. Me, Dorienne, I couldn’t collect myself. I can pull it together in any situation, I am the strong one, I am the leader, and yet I couldn’t collect myself. I told my mother, who could be heard sniffing softly through the phone was talking, but I couldn’t hear her. I told her I would call her back. I needed to collect myself.
I went to the bathroom, but I had a temper tantrum and slapped and kicked anything close to me. I banged against the shower door and kicked at the walls and stomped my feet and cried and cried and cried. It just wasn’t fair.
As I’m writing now, a friend of mine is IMing me. She wants to know when we’re going to Gallery Hop tonight. What can I tell her when I am only now able to form coherent thoughts?
…”oh, i’m sorry” is her response and then she asks who was it. It’s someone you’ll never meet because you’ve always been too high and mighty to humble yourself and come to church with me. That’s who it is.
I keep remembering my own thoughts that flew to mind as I cried. At one point I remember thinking “Jesus…I hate you.” That’s right. I thought that and it was almost as good as saying it. How could this have happened. How could He take my friend away from me? She had so much more to do. My mother had been saying to me God only takes when we’ve finished what we’re supposed to do, but I still say it’s crap. How could He have done this? It’s not fair. I’m not prepared.
We have a lot of sick and elderly in our church, and for them I was prepared. Someone had a seizure not two seats next to me in the choir stands last Sunday. For her, I was prepared. Our “mother” had a stroke a few weeks ago and is recovering. For her, I was prepared. So many of my “family” are over seventy and have been sick previously. For all of them, I was prepared. Not for Edrith. She’s my friend. I just saw her on Tuesday. I was going to see her today at our church business meeting. I was going to see tomorrow when we all consecrated for Sunday School and I was going to see her next Tuesday at Teacher’s Meeting. And now…
I don’t like not being prepared. I don’t like not having control. I kicked at the walls and pulled at my hair because I didn’t know what else to do. I’m so unprepared. It’s like I have no control over anything. I don’t like this. I need to be prepared. I need to be in control. I need to be prepared.
I remember thinking “Why do you do this to me Jesus? Why do you have us live only so that we die? Is this what my own life’s going to be like too? At the end, only a series of phone calls and gallons of tears shed? Why do you do this? It’s so unfair.”
What am I supposed to do? The one place I think I should go, church, is the one place I can’t. I associate her with church. I’ve been at that church for eighteen months and when I think of everything, from the seats to the fellowship hall to the steps to the parking lot, I think of her. What am I supposed to do now?
Last year about this time, we lost another member of our congregation. I had only just gotten to know her at that time, but it still hurt. Is this what you’re going to do Jesus? Are you going to take someone from me every fall? It’s so unfair. There was so much more she was going to do.
One of our choir’s songs just popped to mind and I have to collect myself again.
The struggle is over for you.
The struggle is over for you.
You’ve been in this place long enough
And the mountainside has been rough.
The struggle is over for you.
Dear Jesus…what am I supposed to do? It’s just so unfair. I was just talking to her. I can’t even remember the last things I said to her on Tuesday because it was so meaningless. It didn’t matter. I was just going to see her again on Saturday at the business meeting, so there was no reason to bother remembering what I’d said to her. It just doesn’t make any sense.
At one point I told myself I needed to get dressed, so I did. Everything except my glasses. It was as if I kept my eyes in this blur of the unseen, then I could delay reality. To put on my glasses or put in my contacts meant I’d have to see the world clearly and face the fact that our family had suffered this tragedy and the longer I delayed, the longer I could go without seeing it.
I just don’t know what to do. I still don’t know what to do. My mother called me back after I hadn’t called her and I answered after the second call. I barely remember what we talked about. I don’t want to see anybody at all. If I go without seeing anybody, then this can just be something in my mind; something that didn’t happen. More real than a dream, but something imaginary nonetheless.
I write all the time and I live in my head. I imagine things and perceive feelings and events that never happened all the time, and yet I am completely caught off guard. I had recently written about grief. It’s stages and what it was like when someone looked upon another who was grieving.
Something I had written months earlier:
“He was always out,” a voice said from the dining room doorway. Mrs. Whickfield, having recovered from the initial shock of hearing of her son’s death, stood just behind where the detectives sat, looking extremely distressed. Her blonde hair with its slivers of silver was tousled and standing on end in places, and blue eyes appeared dull behind the torrent of red in what should have been the whites of her eyes.
I find it almost laughable now to read the words. Once I dressed and finally digressed to put on my glasses, I took a look at myself in the mirror. My black hair stands on end in places from having been pulled at in fits of frustration and my brown eyes are laced with these traces of red lines everywhere. Months earlier, I could imagine grief, but…
Last Saturday, just one week to the day, I sat next to her as we prepared for our Mass Choir rehearsal and revealed to her that I had written a book. Her response: “Oh you go, girl! You gotta make your dreams come true. Like me and my business. I’m really looking into it too. I’m just imagining where I’d set up shop…” There was so much more she was supposed to do. I don’t understand why He would take her now. My mother kept saying that she had done what God had wanted her to do and he took her home, but we are selfish and we want her here with us. Mother said “God called her home and if there was ever a person I knew who deserved to be with her father, it’d be Edrith.” I just remember when our Sunday School lessons had brought us into Revelation and how she described the home of our heavenly father and how grand it would be. She spoke with such elation. I know she sits with Jesus never worrying, never crying, never stressing again, but…I’m still here and the shaking has returned as have the tears. I’m not prepared for this, like I’m not prepared for my own eventual end. Why doesn’t the fact that I know she’s at peace stop the sudden outbursts of tears? It just keeps happening and I don’t know what to do.
It’s almost time to leave for our church business meeting and I don’t know what to do. If I leave now, I suppose I can drive at a normal rate, right? Instead of speeding for once. I keep thinking, “Is this my punishment Lord? Is this what I get for not studying your Word enough for my own class? Is this my lesson for speeding throughout the city every single day? Is this some message you’re boring into me because I won’t listen?” I don’t hate Jesus and I haven’t lost my faith, but I’m still so unnerved that he could leave me this unprepared. I just don’t know what to do…So, I do what I always do in times of strife. I write. I write to bring these thoughts out of my mind, if only for a little while. I used to write poetry, but my mind cannot form even the freest free-verse right now. I can barely type at all, but I just need to write. It’s the only thing I can do to make some sense of this. To give it some perspective.
Mother kept saying that this is not something we’re meant to understand, but I still say it’s crap. I should get an answer. I want one now. I don’t want to wait for it. I deserve an answer!
She’s the third person I’ve ever known to die, but they are becoming increasingly worse as I get older. God, she just put her birthday money in the jar with me barely two Sundays ago…I didn’t know either of my grandfathers and I’d never met my mother’s cousin. I had only met my step-father’s mother once or twice and while I knew Kim, I didn’t really know her all that well. I saw that she looked a little sick, but I had only learned that she was on dialysis that Monday before, and had I known how truly sick she was, I might have been more prepared when Pastor announced from the pulpit that Sunday “Sister Kim passed away last night.” causing me to think “Who? No, that must have been some other Kim. Some Kim I didn’t know.” This is so much worse. We laughed together, worshipped together, prayed together. Wasn’t she just teasing me last Sunday because I had made it to Sunday School on time for two weeks in a row. God, what am I supposed to do?
Four of my own surgeries and now two deaths associated with Grant Hospital. I’ll never be able to go there again. I just…I don’t know.
I called Mother and told her I won’t be going to the church business meeting. I have to go to work today and I haven’t the strength to do both. I’ll be in the same place with which I had come to associate Edrith and I’ll fall to pieces again.
The first hints of a smile are trying to form, though face lacks the capacity to do it currently. When I spoke to my mother, she said something to me that makes me feel like all is not lost; that Jesus still hears me and still loves me even through my anger, frustration and sadness. She said to me, without me even mentioning that I didn’t know what to do, “You know what to do in times like this. Pray. We all have to pray. It’ll get you through this.” I needed to hear the words because I’ve realized I just kept saying it. That I didn’t know what to do. So, that’s what I’ll, now that I’ve written. I’ll pray about it and surely cry about it some more, but I think…I hope I’ll be okay.
It’s interesting because Pastor has always said that we never know when we’ll next get a chance to be in the house of the Lord. A part of me feels like if I had only known what was happening, I could have prayed about it right then and there and saved her, but I didn’t know. I would’ve known earlier today, but as my eyes fluttered open, I realized that my cell had been on vibrate all night and I turned it on to see I had missed several calls. I saw that my mother had called, but she’s always calling, so I turned the volume to normal and lied back against my pillows just as happy as I could be.
So many times earlier, I have prayed with all my strength and the Lord had delivered. It’s why I’m back with the church now. I had left when I was eighteen, insisting that I believed in God, but that he was not ever-present in my life and I had no reason to go to church. It wasn’t until I needed something, really, really needed something and literally fell on my knees praying for something specific, that I realized that God still listens to me. I asked for something specific; very specific and God delivered precisely what I needed. I would call it a miracle, but even now that seems far-fetched. I had prayed fervently weeks earlier as our church received some other terrible news. I had prayed and just said, “Jesus, it’s me again. I only really, really call out to you like this when it is most dire. Forget all the other little crap I’ve been asking about. This is what I need.” and He delivered yet again. If only I had known. I feel that I had only been awakened some time in the night when it happened; if I had just known, I could have prayed heartily again and there would only be need for a post about how great God is as opposed to my sorrow-filled lament.
My mother had told me earlier today that she thought Edrith was gone before they had even taken her to the hospital. I am just so despondent. I went to the bathroom and the toilet seat is broken. Now, I know what to do, but I just…
I just find it fascinating that this is what grief is like. I can imagine and ponder and theorize about anything this universe, but it’s not the same as actually experiencing it. I’m just…
I suppose I’m in awe.