Years ago, when my husband and I first decided to start a family, we discussed names. If we had twin daughters, I wanted to name them Mercy and Grace. As it turns out we didn’t have twins and we used ‘Grace’ for my daughter’s middle name. I’m not sure she liked her name that much. She was far too creative to blindly accept the name she’d been given. She was experimenting with different names, looking forward to a bright future when a brain hemorrhage ended her life. An arteriovenous malformation we didn’t know she was born with had ruptured and the damage was catastrophic.
If you’ve ever suffered a loss like this then you know that no one knows what to say to you. “There are no words.” We heard that from many and I usually responded along the lines that yes, there were no words. There should be no words for something like this. Nature has been overturned. What’s right and normal has been set on its head. Seventeen-year-olds are not supposed to die.
This kind of loss leaves you ragged and raw. As the weeks and months pass you get used to the triggers, the shows you can’t watch, the books you can’t read, the conversations you avoid, and the holidays you grin and bear it through. I wonder, sometimes, if I was part of another culture, if I hadn’t been raised in a small New England town, maybe I’d be more comfortable in showing my grief. Without even realizing it, I make sure no one is uncomfortable around me. Even at her funeral, I needed to reassure everyone it was going to be okay, comforting the grieving. Oddly, it made me feel better, focusing my consolation on her friends, our family, and my circle of friends gave me a purpose, a job, something concrete to do when I was utterly lost at sea.
“Above all else, love each over deeply because Love covers a multitude of sins.” That’s some Bible wisdom for you. Sometimes we toss love around like it’s nothing. The real thing though, it’s some powerful stuff. So are mercy and grace. In the now 10 months since she died, I’ve made a habit of extending mercy and grace whenever my raw feelings get rubbed wrong. I’ve told friends not to worry about triggering me since there are days when everything is a trigger. I’d rather hear her name, and be reminded of her than avoid her memory. Good and bad, I’d rather have the pain than the absence of it.
In my everyday life, when given the choice, I have always put my money on the counter and bought the ugly truth versus a pretty lie. I’d rather be real than comfortably lied to. There’s something sinister about facades and fakery. Something worse is usually lurking on the other side.
I know full well that this world can be brutal. But, I’m old enough now that I can look it in the eye after it’s knocked me to the ground and get up again. Not because I’m some incredibly strong person, but because in whatever I go through, I’m not alone. God is with me.
With dissension all around us, and war raging overseas, I think most of us understand that this world is not a safe place. That was a hard lesson for me. But in it, I also learned that forgiveness frees, love is an action verb, and mercy and grace, when applied liberally, will save relationships. Hate builds nothing, it only consumes you. Even if your anger is utterly justified, if you let hate creep in, it will change you. Mercy and grace can change that. Those of us who have experienced the saving grace of Jesus can attest to that. Bitterness is lonely. Loss, struggle, and trials open the door to anger and hate. Learn to close it and let love in instead.