Stories in My Pocket: Stricken (Part 7)

To catch up from the beginning: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

It is never said we are grief-nudged, or grief-touched. Grief does not whisper or tap our shoulders. It strikes as a baseball bat to the gut, and suddenly we are on the ground, so disoriented we gasp for sight and blink for air.

Grief deals only doubling-over blows.

"Becky." It was not a question, but recognition, when he answered the ringing on an early Saturday evening.
He listened, then doubled over, stricken, hand clutching forehead. He straightened, eyes speaking horror as they met mine, and again, he doubled over.
"We're coming." And he hung up the phone.

It sounded like shouting, but he might have whispered it.
"Rick's dead."

I heard but didn't believe.

"Rick's dead," he said again, in rising pitch and wavering voice, as if by speaking it, he had made it real.

We grabbed shoes and keys and possibly a coat, and we wept our way to the hospital.

It was there we saw him--the best friend, the husband, the new father--already gone.

And it was there we saw her--no longer defined by the son she'd just birthed but by the husband she'd just lost--without him.

And it was there that we began the sobbing up and down, a roller coaster of rib cages, exhausted from the labor it took just to breathe. We held onto her until they came to roll him away.

I don't remember sleeping that night, but I do remember waking up to a blurry, suffocating sorrow. I don't remember dressing or driving, but I do remember sitting in the balcony when D.C. Washington sang "Give me Jesus". When he began the last verse, I could no longer hold the weight of my head, and again, the doubling over, shoulders shaking my head into my hands. "When I come to die, when I come to die, when I come to die, give me Jesus. You can have all this world, but give me Jesus."

On the way to Becky's, we stopped for a baker's dozen, predicting even the Boston Creams would go untouched. We knew no one was hungry, but we had to show up with something besides our shocked and swollen selves.

I told Becky about the song I'd heard, about how I 'd cried the whole way through. She wrote it down because Maybe they could sing that song at the service. And could Larry be a pallbearer, and we think the service will be Friday...

"Whatever you need," we kept saying. "Just tell us and we'll do it. Whatever you need..." But there was so little we could actually offer. So Larry chopped some more wood from the tree that was apparently far too big to tackle in a day, and remarked how grateful he was for that one last day with Rick. And I picked up the backyard dog poop, and joked about how I got all the crappy jobs. And we gathered around Becky, and we held Max, and we told stories about Rick that made us smile and cry at the same time. And we knew this was going to hurt for a very long while.

Grief didn't strike me directly. Instead it made me watch as it tortured the people I loved, and that was enough to double me over. I thought this was the most we all could take, and I thought the grief-Giver would pull us upright now that He had our attention. But I was wrong.

Because we were not yet standing straight when suffering assaulted again.

Click here to continue to Part 8.

There is more story I must tell before I can talk about hope, and I cannot let myself jump ahead (although I'm quite tempted). But I did find reason to hope again in God's goodness, and I wrote more on that here. So feel free to jump ahead to the hope part.

Photo by Alizadeh100

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