I never thought you could grieve someone while they were still living, but as I have discovered it's possible and can come from so many sources. A few years ago my father was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson's . At first the signs were small and there is a part of you that is never fully prepared for the full decline, but as time wears on it's a reality you come face to face with, no matter how much denial you're in.
For years I have not only watched his decline and behaviour change, I've had to witness the toll it takes on the carer as well. My mother went from adored wife to essentially a parent to her husband and I cry often when I see the strain it has put on her, the life that has had to stop because my father could no longer leave the home.
A few months ago, my mother had to make one of the hardest decisions of her life and we finally agreed that it was time for him to go to a facility for his safety and hers. The grief of watching him no longer be able to take care of himself, the devastation that he no longer at times remembered who I was or his grandchildren was a painful blow. Watching my mother go through the grief of now being alone in their home, visiting him still everyday and afraid he will soon enough forget her too is almost more than she can bear.
But I have to say, through it all God has been with us. And in the moments of lucidity he talks about wanting to go to his heavenly home.
The grief of this journey at every stage is always something you're never truly prepared for, and we know that there is more to come. As I think about my own pain, my mind often wanders to the pain of others also and what they may be facing. Watching loved ones battle cancer, the sudden loss of a family member, a divorce, a dear friendship lost. My heart aches for all of us, because there is not one that is immune from grief in this life. And so many of us get to the point where it feels as if it's one blow after another. The why question always on the tip of our tongues, because if I'm being honest sometimes life just feels so unfair.
But then God speaks... As I was talking to a friend the other week she had been given a vision and a word from God that stuck with me, so much so every time my heart goes to break the sentence pops up and reminds me of Jesus journey. She said that she had seen an angel who held out his hands towards her and said, "Take this cup of joy and suffering."
When she first told me, I was like... Ah, I'll take the joy, you can keep the suffering thanks. But the more I thought on it, the more God revealed that without suffering we would never know the value of joy. Through the pain we would never go back to the memories of the special times, the gratitude of experiencing those moments. I think of Jesus and the cross he carried, I think of Him telling us in Luke 9:23 to take up our cross daily. And in Romans 5:3-5 it says
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
To anyone who is reading this, I need you to know this... Grief comes in many forms, and there is no time limit on how long grief may last. It could be weeks, months, years or a lifetime. And that's okay. No matter where you are, or what you are facing, God knows your pain. But focus on the joyful moments you once had with that person, remember the beautiful seconds they added to your life, acknowledge the growth of character that has been built up in you, and take each moment for what it is. And trust God in the heartache, with your heartache.
Because that is what I'm doing in the trial I face this season. I'm remembering the man my father was. The kind, terrible joke telling, amazing grandfather, the doting husband to my mother and the one-of-a-kind son, created by God. He is all those things, no matter the illness. He is JOY.
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