By Guest Contributor: Morgan Burke
Deep Breaths, Surprising Comfort, and Ever Present help in time of need.
I was used to being the one sitting in the back of the church. I knew what it was like to quickly go through the visitation line, sit down, and watch as the ones who were wrought with new, raw grief stood upright for an extended amount of time. In awe, I wondered how it was that they could kindly acknowledge every single guest as they stood at the front of the church, receiving quick condolences, hugs and handshakes.
How are they able to smile?
What keeps them from falling down into a pile of sobs on the church floor?
I always felt a sense of deep respect for them, and felt sorry that they had to endure such a grueling series of social interactions when they have just been through unimaginable sorrow. I knew that one day I wouldn’t be the one in the pew anymore, but I couldn’t bear to imagine how or when those circumstances would come about.
At almost thirty years old, I found myself there, standing near the altar of the large church near my childhood home, at a funeral that felt as though it had come altogether too soon. I looked down the line at my mom, my sisters. I saw the strength in each of their faces, with their tear stained cheeks, puffy red eyes, complete with their brand new black dresses and heels. We had all borne witness to the suffering of my father, who fought his rare cancer diagnosis with grit and perseverance like none we’d ever seen.
I looked down at my own tired feet and realized that my soul felt something new and strange. It was a gaping lack of presence, spirit, giddiness, and love that often accompanied being around our dad. Seeing all of us in a lineup for the first time without him did something inside of me that I can scarcely put into words. What used to be whole was no longer, what used to be complete now felt broken, incomplete.
It was at this moment that the back doors to the church opened and there it was. The endless line of acquaintances, friends, neighbors, all there to offer their support.
Panic began to set in as I looked around the sanctuary.
“I can’t… I don’t think I can do this right now,” rang through my mind like a siren trying to force its way through traffic. Big heavy tears welled up in my eyes. I looked at my husband and envisioned myself running out the back doors and into the parking lot.
Somehow, the procession, the handshakes, they would all make it official. My dad is not here anymore.
I took a breath.
I sucked one big gulp of air down into my lungs and let it out slowly.
Maybe if I escaped, I could forget the reality of the grief that was present then and was to come.
The breath that I took in that moment; however, gave me the resolve to remain standing. I planted my feet and focused on the back wall. It was not time to run. It was time to honor the man that raised me with abundant grace and joy. It was time to reflect the ideals that he instilled so strongly inside of me as his daughter. It was time to do what was hard out of love for my family, just as he did, time and time again.
Despite the difficulty of those first couple of hours, I realized something significant.
Every face that came through the line in that church held a piece of my dad in it.
- The smiles, the hugs, the memories they recounted, the ways they said he had changed their life.
- They told about how my dad’s bright personhood had only gotten more brilliant while he walked through the fire of disease.
- They reminded us about all of the ways he loved the unseen, the voiceless, the weary ones who needed a friend.
Suddenly, the gaping hole that I had felt at the beginning began to slowly dissipate as I saw these loved ones fill the chairs in the sanctuary.
The lack of his presence will always be felt, but…
That day made me realize how much I can draw from the well that he left behind for us by looking at the people he loved. He loved well, and he loved with intention.
Until I see him again, I can find new ways to participate in the legacy he created by walking with the people he walked with. I can see him in my sisters and in my own children. I can anticipate the day that we will stroll together hand in hand, with the same Jesus that reached down and gave me the strength I needed to take a breath that day. I like to think that my dad and Jesus were working together in that moment, keeping my weary soul from kicking off my heels and bursting out the back of the church. Jesus provided what I needed in that very moment to fulfill my role as both a daughter of the King as well as the daughter of Scott Butler.
So when you find yourself feeling like you want to run away, remember that the God of the Universe is there, in your very next breath, giving you exactly what you need to face the moment that you are in.
Walking Through Grief, Loss and Suffering?
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Morgan Burke is a mom, former special education teacher and a writer. She enjoys writing about adoption and the hard stuff of motherhood. Her book, “It’s Always Been You,” is a about a love bigger than anything our children can imagine. Grab a copy and gift a friend here.
You can find her at www.morganburkewrites.com and at @morganburkewrites on Instagram.
Thanks for stopping by! Praying this encourages you today.
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