Thursday night, I sat in the third row of a packed sanctuary, surrounded by the heavy sadness, lingering shock, and deep sobs of an all-too-soon funeral.
Friday night, I dressed up, went out with my friends, laughed, and danced away the night at my college Christmas banquet.
It almost felt wrong. This sorrow lasted longer than a night.
Thursday, I listened to an agonizingly beautiful lullaby, played and sung by heartbroken parents over their precious 17-year-old daughter, now still, and felt the unspeakable weight deep in the core of my being.
Friday, as energy pumped through the hall and excitement ran high, that music felt dreadfully empty.
The permanence of death didn’t sit well. Isn’t joy supposed to come in the morning?
Thursday night, the ears of my heart listened in agreement as we talked of hidden pain, and depression, and the value of each voice speaking up and speaking out, breaking the silence in which the devil likes to do his dirty work.
Friday night, my mind wandered amid the motion as I couldn’t help but wonder why my secret battle ended after a few short months while hers ended her earthly life; and why a similar struggle had different outcomes, and why I don’t understand, and how it’s all just not fair.
Grieving is exhausting.
Thursday night, we talked about love. Fierce love. The fierce love of a mother relentlessly interceding for her daughter, and standing watch as she slipped away – escorting her from the arms of her earthly parents to the arms of her heavenly father with grace, and with the gut-wrenching acknowledgement that “This. Doesn’t. Feel. Well.”, but with the confidence of eternity in the presence of Christ.
And of the fierce love of the Spirit, who intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
Thursday night, I sat directly behind a woman who played a huge role in my faith journey as a child – also a mother who has experienced the death of a child to different tragic circumstances. As we mourned, in our separate seats but as a corporate body, I watched her raise her hands as we proclaimed “from life’s first cry to final breathe, Jesus commands our destiny” and knew she really, truly believed that. And as we listened to words of the unconditional love of God, I watched Vivian’s mama stand to her feet as if to acknowledge that any ounce of strength still pulsing through her system was a result of that deep overflow of love.
Because we do not grieve as those without hope.
Friday night, I did laugh. I did dance. Not in flippancy, or in ignorance, or even in happiness. But because in the shadow of the cross, there is deep hope. There are deep promises. There is deep faithfulness. There is deep truth. And in the midst of our deep sorrow, there is a God whose character runs deeper still. That does not undermine our heartache. That does not diminish our bereavement. But in the words of our pastor, “grace runs downhill”, and in that flowing grace is deep victory over death.
As we deeply grieve, Vivian is dancing in that victory.