So often we cling to those we love with a voracity that takes on a life of its own. But what happens when it’s time to let go?
I remember the last few months of my grandpa’s battle with cancer I begged God not to take him. I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I begged him to heal him. Begged for a miracle. I needed him here with me. Just don’t take him.
But those last few days… everything changed and I prayed a prayer I never dreamed I would.
I found myself begging God to take him. Please. Just make his pain stop. I couldn’t bear to see him suffering like that anymore. It was such an overwhelming feeling of grief and guilt for “giving up.” But suddenly asking to keep him here with me felt selfish. I just wanted him to stop hurting. And staying here with me was hurting him. Letting go was the hardest thing and the most defeated feeling I ever felt.
I ached with longing for the life I had known before the cancer, before the dying. After much sorrow and struggle, I began to come to terms with my loss. I say my loss, because it certainly was not his. In fact, in his final moments the anguish that had clouded his face for so long gave way to an indescribable joy. He smiled the biggest smile as if he were finally seeing a long-awaited friend, and then he was gone. Healed. Happy. The ruins that were left were my own to wrestle with. He was whole. Did I really want to bring him back? Back to this? Back to cancer? Brokenness? Pain?
C.S. Lewis spoke of losing his wife, Joy, in his book A Grief Observed:
“What sort of lover am I to think so much about my affliction and so much less about hers? Even the insane call, ‘Come back,’ is all for my own sake. I never even raised the question whether such a return, if it were possible, would be good for her. I want her back as an ingredient in the restoration of my past. Could I have wished her anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They cal Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal?”
What we so often fail to remember, or realize at all, is that those we lose who are found in Jesus- those we let go of in this world- they don’t lose. It is us who have to find our way through the storm. They don’t have any more storms to weather. Our grief is not for them, it’s for us.
The amazing thing is, the same Jesus who makes them whole, makes us whole as well. We will still have struggles, but He can piece together the shattered heart and allow us to keep moving forward. He says in the book of John “I have come that they may have life…”
In this world and the next.