The following words are from one of my very best friends, Liz Woodruff. I admire her greatly for her strength, perseverance and reliance on the Lord through great, great loss. I am praying, as she communicates her story, you will be encouraged to look to the Lord, our Good Giver, no matter what you may be facing this holiday season.
When Sarah first asked me to write about grief and the holiday season I wanted to say no. I didn’t want this to be “my thing.” The thing I write or speak about. The thing I know the most about or have some level of experience and expertise. I wanted to say no because the truth is, there are days I still don’t want this to be my story.
But my story it is.
On May 21, 2017, my life and the life of my family took an unexpected detour. My youngest son of four boys died in a tragic drowning accident. Overnight I became acquainted with grief and sorrow. As a mother I was living my worst nightmare, the death of one of my children. I was faced with a reality I never wanted.
The entire first year after Andrew’s death felt like trying to find footing in quicksand. No matter how hard I tried I could not find solid ground.
It was a constant barrage of firsts, and not the fun ones. First summer. First Fourth of July. First Birthday. First Thanksgiving. First Christmas. All passing without him. Each one screamed loudly of his absence. It felt like taking gut punch after gut punch. A proclamation of what had been lost and the reality that time was proceeding even without the presence of my precious boy. It was insult to mortal injury.
Today I find myself rapidly approaching another holiday season without my beloved boy. This will be the fourth holiday season we have celebrated without him. As I reflect upon this, questions quickly echo in my mind. Two questions to be exact: 1) How has it been that long already? 2) How in the world did I survive?
Everyone has heard the saying, “Time heals all wounds.” In my experience, time itself is not responsible for my healing. Time has been both my foe and my friend. In the beginning, every second seemed laden with unsustainable effort and energy. Surviving each minute, each hour, each day with a gaping fatal wound seemed impossible. As each day passed it took me further from the life I wanted into the deep abyss of another life, a life without my son. Time escorted me closer to the next hard thing, the next reminder that Andrew was really gone.
Time was my enemy.
Today I pleasantly discover my perspective of time has changed. Time is now a luxury to be savored and enjoyed. A line from one of my favorite songs “Everything is Sacred” by Pat Barrett rings in my ears. It says “Oh show me how to hold this life ‘cause I don’t want to waste it”.
I do not know what this upcoming holiday season will hold for me as my feelings are often unpredictable. It is possible I could find myself on floor overcome with grief or silently surrendered to the dull ache of it moving with joy and purpose. There is simply no way for me to know. What I do know is that it won’t be wasted. Grief is not a waste of time. All time surrendered is time well used. Every minute, every hour, everyday is a gracious gift from a Good Giver.
Time, even when it is hard and swallowed up in tears, is a gift.
What has so drastically shifted my perspective? What made time my friend? The passage of time itself was not the balm for which my soul longed. I had been dealt literally and figuratively a death blow. Time itself did not have the power to resurrect my broken life or the power to guide me in the depths of my darkness. The passage of time did not guarantee or provide my survival.
My Father God has used time to heal a fatal wound. Time has, over and over again, provided me with the opportunity to choose to set my shoulders on Him. With each ticking of the clock since Andrews death, I have been forced to decide if his loss would make me bitter or better.
Bitter I can accomplish all on my own but better…I need power greater than myself to ascend from these ashes.
It turns out that my story is not as much about survival but rescue. How did I survive? I didn’t. I was rescued. Time and time again I have been rescued from the crashing waves of grief, including the ones surrounding the holiday seasons, by my good and glorious Savior.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”2 Corinthians 12:9