Today we laid our 10 month old nephew to rest. Here are the words I shared this morning.
On Tuesday afternoon I walked upstairs in our home in Washington and a picture of Kerri caught my eye. She was maybe five years old. Wearing a beaded necklace, big pretend earrings and the biggest, cheesiest grin you’ve ever seen. Her right arm was wrapped tightly around her twin brother. Who also was wearing a beaded necklace, big pretend earrings and the biggest, cheesiest grin you’ve ever seen.
The longer I gazed at Kerri’s five year old face, the more I thought about what her and her incredible husband, Bob, have to do this week. We’re not kids anymore. Some days I wish we were still five.
We’re sitting in chairs in a room doing something we never thought we would do. We’re trying to make sense out of something that makes no sense. Something that isn’t fair. Something that takes your breath away with the cruelty of it all.
Our love for Graysen brings each of us into this room today. With a lot of feelings and emotions.
When I’m not sure what to do with big feelings, I turn to one specific part in the Bible, the book of Psalms. It’s full of people who are really angry with God and aren’t afraid to say it. I love those people. They know God can handle our anger, doubt and hard questions.
One of them wrote:
1-2 Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.
5-6 I pray to God—my life a prayer— and wait for what he’ll say and do.
Psalm 130 MSG
Two words jumped off the page immediately.
Grief, sadness and the pain of losing people we love is so hard and we may find ourselves searching for quick fixes to ease the pain. They may help for a little while. But the truth of it is the grief is what heals us. Feeling the tears, the loss, the anger is God’s gift to us as we wait. So don’t move too quickly to “be okay again.” For those who knew and loved Graysen, you won’t be the same again. And maybe this is a good thing. You are different because Graysen loved you. He taught you something.
Remember to wait in the grief. Let it be with you, in whatever ways that looks like for you. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Yours will look different from those around you.
When I find my 3 year old on the floor in tears, I often whisper to him, “it’s okay to cry.” The tears flow even more. We all need to hear that more often: “it’s okay to cry.”
As I read more of the Psalm, another word jumped off the page:
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning.
7-8 O Israel, wait and watch for God— with God’s arrival comes love, with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
While we wait, we’re also invited to watch. Because there is one thing God absolutely loves to do: to turn sorrow into joy. God is in the business of turning every single person into love. We start out that way and most of us get confused and a bit lost along the way. We try to be people we aren’t. We forget that we started out as love. And it’s to love that we return. “With God’s arrival, comes love.”
Last Thursday afternoon, my husband and I were sitting on a swing in our backyard, rocking, back and forth. There was a light breeze, it was 75 degrees and the late afternoon sun was filtering through the tall trees. My phone’s text message rang out and I glanced down to see the words, “he’s gone.” The breath we had been holding for months rushed out of our lungs. Tears flowed. And we rocked.
A hour or two later we sat down with our kids to talk with them about their cousin. Later we went on a walk before bedtime. As only a 6 year old can, she piped up, “Mom, it’s like Graysen is up in the sky.” “What do you mean?” “Mom, he’s up there. He’s still here.” And about 24 hours later she chimed in, “Mom, Graysen is still with us. We can’t see him, but he’s here.”
Somehow, in their innocence, the kids get it. Graysen is still with us.
We wait in grief. We watch for glimpses of joy. Because the One who created me, created you and created Graysen loves to turn sorrow into joy.
Family, we’re here because we love Graysen. We always will. He is forever a part of this family. Sometimes we think it’s easier to not talk about or bring up someone we’ve lost because it’ll hurt too much. That can be true sometimes. But more often, I find that families want to talk about the people they love who they don’t get to see anymore. Speaking their name, looking at pictures, sharing stories reminds us that Graysen was here. He was ours. He is ours.
I hope you know how much it means to this family that each of us are here today. Even more important than being here today is each of us remembering to send a text or make a phone call or visit in six months, in a year, in five years. To see how Kerri, Bob & Cody are doing. To share a memory of Graysen. To say you’ve been thinking about him. That’s what love does.
So to the girl with the cheesiest grin in the world, to her husband who is the epitome of courage, strength and kindness, to the big brother who tickled and laughed and entertained Graysen, to the grandpa and grandma who were a source of unwavering and steadfast support this year…we’re with you. Every single one of us. As we wait and watch together, know that we do this work as family. God is with us. God weeps with us. God holds Graysen close, even in this moment.
Graysen, our child, our grandchild, our nephew, our cousin and our beloved one. We love you and we miss you. Well done, good and faithful servant. Amen.