Life is a series of moments. Moments shape our lives. Some moments more than others. Randy’s death unleashed moment after moment after defining moment. As hard as death is, there is a certain inevitable grace and beauty that comes in the process of healing.
If you would have told me that in those first days or months after Randy’s death, I never would have believed you. It’s hard, unbearable at times, to walk the path of a widow, or to walk through any storm. Moments created in grief, uplifted my soul and carried me through to a time when I could stand on my own to feet.
Some of those moments are unexpected. When I arrived at the funeral home for Randy’s visitation, I was broken. The anticipation of walking through those doors was torture. The thought of seeing him and the final goodbyes were more than I could comprehend. Every step closer to the doors made the tears fall faster. By the time I arrived at the casket, I was almost inconsolable. Then something happened that I had never imagined.
By 4:00pm, the scheduled time for the viewing to begin, the room was full. Not only was the chapel full, but I was getting reports from people in the line that it was wound down the hall, back up the other side, through the other chapel, outside to the steps, through the parking lot, and down the sidewalk for more than a block. The chapel was full of flowers. In fact, the flowers, gifts, and statues also overflowed our chapel into the next. A response I could never have expected. I heard the wait time to see me was about an hour and a half.
Person after person entered that room, made their way patiently to the front of the chapel to greet me. Each one played a special role in his life, my life, or a family members life. The longer I stood there and the more people I met seemed to push my tears further and further away. It wasn’t that I was happy or even relieved. I was astonished. I felt loved. I felt supported. And more than anything, I was completely amazed at the number of people who wanted to be a part of this day.
I stood at the front of that room, without moving, and greeted people for close to five hours! I could look down the line of people and see the constant wiping of tears and dabbing of noses. The room filled with the muffled sound of soft conversations and quiet sniffling. I looked up to greet the next person, and instead I saw an empty space. I saw a church friend partially bent over, holding onto a chair. He was sobbing. The rest of the room fell rather silent. People were trying to act as if they weren’t watching, but they couldn’t help it. His chest heaving and tears streaming from his eyes, he fell to his knees. Randy’s dad leaned on one knee to console him. Together they stood. I watched, speechless. Tears silently fell down my cheek. The pair gradually made it to me. Our friend could barely speak through his tears. I hugged him as he wept. I wanted to help him. I rubbed his shoulder and softly said, “You don’t have to say anything; I know its hard. I’m just glad you are here.”
He was the first person to just weep. He was the first man I had ever seen cry like that. He was the first of many men I saw weep just as deeply that evening. And with each one, I cried. I didn’t cry because I felt their grief, although I did feel it. I cried because it touched me. It touched me in a way that nothing else could have. The honesty shared through the tears of men was beautiful. That instant, that moment in time, shaped my healing process. It carved my path. I believe God was showing me what I needed to see to move forward with life.
We get caught up in ‘me, myself, and I’. Where I want to work. How much money I want to make. How big my house is. My car is better than your car. My husband works harder. My kids are smarter. What you can do for me. It’s all garbage and all of that garbage, in time, fades away.
Sometimes, we forget about other people. We forget that maybe money, houses, and cars aren’t the real blessings in life. We forget that we all set out to do the best we can, and some of us might need help learning how to achieve it. Everyone’s husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, friends, and children mean just as much to them as yours do to you–even when they aren’t perfect. Maybe, we should focus on what I can do for you and not what you can do for me. That is where the blessing is.
None of us will be here forever. And, as life with Randy showed me, some of us are gone way too soon. The things people remembered about Randy wasn’t our pitiful house, or the fact we did things backwards by getting pregnant and then married. They remembered he was young, smart, and dedicated. He was a good father and worked hard to support his young, ever-growing family. He loved Jesus, his family, sleep, hunting, and sports (in that order). He followed the rules and expected others to do the same. He helped and protected people and animals alike. He was a friend to everyone and an enemy of none.
Seeing tears of men shaped my life.
I walked into that building feeling broken and defeated. I left that building knowing that life is important and amazing. I went home knowing that everyone’s life is connected and affects others on a scale impossible to fathom. That night proved to me that life really is about something bigger than me. The instant our friend fell to his knees, helped me put away the ‘why is this happening to me?’ question and start asking, ‘why should it have happened to someone else? Why do I think someone else should suffer instead of me?’ Had I not experienced that night, those little moments, I’m not sure I would have healed, ever. That instant made me realize how much of an impact I have on others, especially my children.
I think about that night fairly often. I’m not stuck in that moment, but it still means so much to me. Sometimes, when life is pulling me down and I’m not sure how I am going to climb back out, that night comes back to me. It reminds me what really matters in life.