October 17, 2017. Today is the eight-year anniversary of the death of Paul Eugene Giesbrecht. It’s hard to know what to do with the anniversary of someone’s death. It definitely should not be forgotten. Yet it’s stressful to remember. Ecclesiastes 7:1 says, “The day you die is better than the day you are born.” Then why does remembering feel so painful?
This past weekend, as the keynote speaker for Mt. Hermon Christian Women’s Camp, I told the story of the tragic accident, the loss of my precious husband, and the life questions facing me in the days and months after Paul’s “promotion to heaven.” I relived the accident and also experienced severe mental, emotional, and physical trauma. As painful as it was, God showed me in many ways I’ve begun to move on, and it really feels good to understand that about my grief. However, I am still grieving my own grief in my own way. I’ve given myself permission to take time to reflect on some questions:
1. Will this pain ever end?
Grief is a process I must go through. I’ve got to continue to put effort into working through my grief; I must remind myself this is how I heal. At the beginning of my Grief Share class, we learned to “lean into your grief. Embrace it. Let it take you where it will, like waves of an ocean, feel every emotion it provides.” In the busyness of life and ministry, I must continue to make time to grieve.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors though Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:36, 37
Facing my pain means understanding there are two kinds of pain involved in loss of a loved one:
- Emotional: Depends on the depth of the relationship
- Historical: Cherished memories of the loved one lost
I shared the Five Tasks of Grief (GriefShare™), which remind us to be honest emotionally and recognize the nature of the relationship of the loved one we’ve lost. I was married to my spouse for twenty-eight years, and we dated for two years before we married. It’s been just four years since the untimely, unfair, unexpected accident took his life and interrupted mine. It’s OK for me to mourn his passing for as long as I need. It’s necessary for me to share my emotions with God; that’s the only way healing takes place.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night and am not silent.” Psalm 22:1, 2
3. Will my life ever return to normal?
I must accept a new normal. You and I must remember, we don’t go back as if the situation did not happen. The absence of the person shapes the contours of our lives. It’s essential to make a list of losses because the relationship has ended. Paul could fix anything – our vehicles, our sprinklers, our sixty-year-old home. I must accept the things that will never be the same. I’ve learned to hire out all of the things Paul did to take care of our daily needs. I’ve found this includes dropping activities and traditions that don’t work anymore. I’m getting used to thinking of Paul in the past tense. At first it seemed like Paul was away on a trip, but now I’ve accepted the fact that he is never coming home. As a single woman, I must embrace the tasks and responsibilities of daily living.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
4. Does this mean thinking or caring less about your loved one?
No, no one has the right to ask you or me to forget our loved one. I won’t ever forget my marriage. I won’t ever forget the father of my children. I won’t ever forget our happy family memories. Recovery means we haven’t forgotten the person. Recovery means we no longer live where thoughts of the past are overwhelming. We have the emotional and spiritual strength to keep on. We can remember the cherished memories of our loved one by God’s grace and move on in the future.
“My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But as for me, it is good to be near God I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” Psalm 73:26 & 28
5. What have I learned ?
Although it’s been just four years since the home-going of Paul, I need to continue to follow the “ABC’s of Grief” (GriefShare™).
A — Always be true to your grief. Grieve your own grief. No one can do it for you.
B — Believe you will get to the end. Take the time you need, and let grief take you to a deeper relationship with God.
C — Communicate what you need. Be honest with your pain and your emotions. Preach the Gospel to yourself and wait on God to heal you.
I’ve also got to continue to remind myself and my children these facts:
Paul is alive and well in heaven. In fact, he is more alive now than he ever was here on earth. “For God so loved the world that He give his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life,” John 5:24.
We will see Paul again someday. Paul has found his place in heaven. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you,” John 14:2 .
Have hope in the divine plan of God. God’s ways are not our ways; the secret things belong to God. Although I may not understand His plan, I must trust His hand and heart even if it is painful. “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” Jeremiah 29:11,12.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Romans 15:13.
This life on earth is temporary. Each one of us has an appointed time to live and die. Our days are numbered. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,” Psalm 139:16. “Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all men! What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave?” Psalm 89:47, 48.
We will see death destroyed. You and I will get to see the death of death! “The last enemy to be destroyed is death,” I Corinthians 15:26. In heaven, someday there will be no more dying, trauma, or tears. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” Revelations 17:7.
Sharing memories of Paul’s influence helps all of us to remind each other that Paul’s life made a difference. Please share your memories of Pastor Paul Giesbrecht—we appreciate you!
All my love, Sheryl
“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” Isaiah 57:1,2