Sunday, April 15, 2012

Good Grief: The Kaleidoscopic Work of Art


The following is a guest post by Jennifer Rainwater Jacobs. I've known her since I was 8. Almost 30 years. She was a part of my life when my life was the worst its ever been. The following is her account of my brother's death and her full circle moment: 
I don’t really know where to begin.  The last few weeks have been filled with the single steps that start the proverbial journey of a thousand miles. I’ve laid in bed, my mind churning, scattered thoughts milling around up there, ever evolving like the glass shards in that kaleidoscope I had as a kid.  It’s funny how that works.  One single little thought, like a single bit of glass can appear in so many different ways and spurn so many more thoughts.  For me, the last few weeks have been an impromptu exploratory adventure into some deeper thoughts about my attitude, how I view things and how I might need to change my perspective on things. On everything. 
This week, that little shard of glass was the excerpt Tisha posted here from her book On The Wings of Gratitude.  I can’t pretend to know what she felt in those awful moments when God took her little brother home; I’ve never experienced anything even close.  But her words took me back to where I was the night the call came & my grandparents told me about Johnny, and I cried.  AGAIN.  Which made me think… which made me post the following status update… which touched more people than I could have ever imagined… which led me here.
“Grief is such a powerful emotion. It amazes me how it can follow you through your life... How something you grieved as a child, you may grieve again as an adult... Then maybe again as a spouse or as a parent. Grief can transcend years... Decades. You may turn a corner on your journey and find it waiting for you... Something you thought you had left behind you long ago. And for all the pain grief can bring rushing back to your heart, it can bring so much more: Growth, peace, understanding, closure and even gratitude.” (April 9, 2012)
Johnny’s death is the first memory I have of losing someone I loved.  I can’t begin to count the times and the ways that I have grieved him.  First as a friend, then as I got older and would think of him, my perspective would change.  I am a big sister and a mother, and as the years have passed, I’ve grieved for his sister and his parents from a place I couldn’t have before.  Grief is like that.  It never goes away, really, and it has such power to change you.  It can make you bitter or leave you feeling lost, confused and broken, or it can make you stronger, increase your faith, and, as is the point I am finally getting to, IT CAN MAKE YOU GRATEFUL.  That’s where it brought me this week. 
A friend of mine lost her best friend two weeks ago.  I didn’t know her friend, but I have shared her grief, and have tried to lift her up.  I have remembered my friends that were lost too soon.  Gone before they had the chance to experience so many of the things I have been so blessed with: True love, a 1st wedding anniversary, a 14th wedding anniversary, holding my newborn children, experiencing the indescribable way children love their mommies… the list goes on and on and even includes some of the less than pleasant experiences of life: Heartbreak, tragedy, lessons learned the hard way.  All the little shards of glass that make our lives one big, beautiful, light-filled kaleidoscope work of art.
If you’ve ever looked into a kaleidoscope  you know that the image inside is the sum of its parts; of tiny little pieces.  You’ve probably also noticed that the big pattern is created from several smaller patterns. 
This week, those few words from On The Wings of Gratitude turned my mind’s kaleidoscope and made me see my grief differently.  That turned into the facebook status update.  I never expected a response or even a “like” from anyone… much less for the whole thing to come full circle like it has.  The first two responses I got were from the very people who were on my mind as I tapped away on my iPad. Hmmm… “God Winks”? 
“God Winks” might be putting it mildly.  My 365 Days of Gratitude post the next day was “The times when you have NO DOUBT that God is speaking to you. Some days it's a soft, still voice... other days, the bush may as well be on fire.”  When I woke up that morning, and Tisha Poncio was the first person on my mind, I knew the bush was definitely burning.  She’d been on my mind constantly for some time, but I wasn’t sure why.  Well, now I knew.  And Dad’s sermon from two Sundays ago on being encouragers and enablers to people in our lives fell neatly into place. So, I sent Tish the following (abridged) facebook message:
“Good morning, Tish.  I want you to know that you are heavy on my heart this morning.  I woke up at 4:50am and you were absolutely the first person on my mind. I don't even know where to begin trying to sort out everything I am feeling right now, but I DO KNOW that you are a large part of it. You are such an inspiration! You remind me daily of so many of the principles that I believe in, but so often overlook when life gets a little crazy.  You are so right though, we are NOT our story. I stumble on that a lot. A lot, A LOT!:)clip_image001  I can't pretend to know where this crazy journey may take me or where it may end, but I feel very much called to encourage you on yours.  My post (about grief) last night was about Johnny, or at least it was in large part where my train of thought originated. I was reading a little of your blog, and as usual, your words made my wheels turn a little faster.
So, as I was saying, I feel a STRONG CALL to be an encourager to you. Barnabas I am not. I have no influence with any people of any importance who may further your efforts, I don't have the assets to promote your projects, but I do have a heart for your work and have committed to pray for you daily and do anything within my power to help you. Even if all you need is prayer and verbal encouragement, I am here.”
It’s pretty amazing when all those little pieces fall into place and the big picture becomes clear.  It’s been a 36 hour internal whirlwind for me!!  God is good, and His timing is ALWAYS PERFECT.
So, take a new perspective on your grief, on your loss:  The broken pieces will always be there, and where they fall is ever-changing. One thing that never changes though, is that in the right light – His Light -  they are part of something so much bigger and oh so beautiful.  
#GRATITUDE.
#onthewingsofgratitude