My life is now divided. There is “before” and there is “after.” Vance’s death is the dividing line. The Kelsy who lived “before” is, in a lot of ways, gone. This one now living in the “after,” she is different. In some ways that’s sad and there are a lot of things about the “before” that I will miss until my last breath escapes my lips. But in other ways, “after” me is going to be better than “before” me. I cannot unlearn what this has taught me. I cannot unsee what I have been shown. I am not not the same me I was “before.”
“Before” when someone died I really didn’t get it. I said ALL the dumb things. I avoided. I was awkward and I probably hurt a lot of people in doing that. I’m thankful for grace to cover that.
But now – “after” – I see people differently. I see them and I immediately see their loss as well.
The very first non-family member at Vance’s visitation was a lady I worked with in my first real job after college. Years before that she, too, had been a young widow. By the time I knew her she was remarried. So while I knew, I hadn’t really thought of her as having lost someone. After all, it had been years, decades even. But the minute she walked through the door of the funeral home our eyes met and there was a bond I’d never felt before. We were suddenly sisters, part of the club no one wants to join. As she hugged me there in front of Vance’s casket, I suddenly saw her for the first time.
After her, there were many more people who came through the line to hug me and pay their respects. And as each one approached, my eyes saw them anew. I knew every woman who had lost her husband. I felt a different compassion for parents who’d buried their children. In a brand new way, I saw the hurt in the eyes of those who had grieved brothers and sisters and parents and best friends.
I saw them and I saw their hurt. I think it was then that I understood that grief doesn’t go away. That it’s something you carry with you always.
Now I always see the hurt but in some of them, I also see the hope. I see that moving forward is possible and it can be done well. That honoring and remembering Vance will always be a priority for us but it will not always be all consuming.
In my grief, I am honored that God is opening my eyes to see, really see, the pain others are feeling. That I can now offer sincere words that may bring just a tiny bit of comfort to a broken heart. That maybe I can give the hug or the smile or say the prayer that gets someone through a rough day. That through my own tears I can finally see others the way God wants me to see them.