It sailed through the air. I never played ultimate Frisbee in college(shocking, I know considering my clear athleticism), so I was actually quite impressed at the air it got when I practically hurled the leather bound book across the room. In the story I am telling, it was day two without my sweet Daddy. My caring and thoughtful friend sent me a dear sympathy letter along with a book entitled “Grief Survivor.” I was simultaneously comforted by her words and disgusted that I was holding a book with those two ridiculously heavy words on the cover. I retrieved my new Frisbee Book(can’t cause too much of a scene in a house full of Southern women bringing casseroles) and tucked it back in the mailer package. I promptly decided I would open it in approximately 363 days. I mean. “I Can’t. Even.”
My father died on Thursday, and if you have been following this plot, you may remember that I returned to work on Tuesday. (It was when I introduced the acorn to you, often used for imagery and other symbolic purposes in my story) But, gosh, I do love a subplot. Meanwhile as I was discovering the power of fall foliage and debris, another story was unfolding. Kathy texted me on Monday to let me know a friend of mine had dropped off a gift for me at the office. Hold up. Did you catch that? Kathy was at the office on Monday. (There is where I am about to do that thing where the character comes out of the story and talks to the audience. What is that literary device? And ‘aside’? Eh, I was not an English major, so basically this is when the actor breaks the fourth wall:
[Kathy, who worked alongside me for seven years. Kathy, who was often referred to as the ‘mother of the office’ because of her wisdom, love, and care. Kathy, who I had to fire just three weeks prior because of dad’s abrupt medical leave. Kathy, who was with me when I received the call that would change my life. Kathy who dragged my body down two flights of stairs, and into her Expedition as she cried out loud to Jesus. Kathy, who watched as my eyes gained focus in all the activity and commotion, and I recognized Greg Shore, the county coroner, in my driveway. Kathy, who has been by my side during closing the of the practice, not as a coworker or employee, but as my friend. And, if she actually did social media, I would probably tag her in one of those ‘BFF’ posts.]
With no prompting, she tended to the immediate office needs and was there when the gift arrived. She later dropped off the sweetly wrapped present to me. Another dear sympathy card with precious words. Annnnnd that DAMN BOOK! I didn’t have the energy to test my Frisbee skills again, so I left it in the bag. I did think I would get it out eventually, because, well, the gift bag was cute, and totally reusable.
Time passed, as you know from my entries and small chapters I share, but, A-HA! The subplot thickens. I was approaching the end of my time staying with my mother. I checked her mailbox, as I did each evening, and noticed a package addressed to me. I did not recognize the return address. We sorted the daily stack of mail, trying to make sense of all the “official” mail that comes with death and quickly tossing all the glossy “life is perfect and we all wear j. crew” Christmas catalogs and lifestyle magazines. I sat in dad’s recliner and opened the mysterious package. Enclosed was a very long letter from a woman I do not even know. She had heard of my father’s passing and the circumstances surrounding, and told me she could not get me specifically off her mind. Her words leapt off the page as she spoke to me about my situation. She said she felt compelled to send me this book she had journeyed through herself. She said she got my folks address and mailed it off, hoping it would reach me. No plot twist yet, my friends. I pulled the book out. Yep. My very own THIRD copy of “Grief Survivor.” Perhaps third time is a charm, or maybe I am just not a quick study, but I realized at that moment that this book was meant to be read, by me. This stranger, my sister in Christ, had followed the Lord’s tug at her heart and given me a gift beyond what she or I knew.
That evening, I cracked open the book I never wanted to read. And you know what? It didn’t actually disgust me. In fact, it was the opposite. It was hopeful and helpful. It was comforting and kind. And it left room for me to write my own words of sorrow, guilt, anger, and loss. A book that lets me write too? This is brilliant news for a ‘writer girl’! I chuckled a little after that night, of how it took a stranger to get me to finally open the book. (I should really thank my sweet friends who also gave it too me! And because three was not enough, another friend of mine had messaged me telling me she had that same book to give my mom and me when we could meet up! I did tell her of the book tale last week when I saw her.)
And now, the plot twist you all have been waiting for?
Another week had passed and my new neighbor and I walked to Starbucks. I recounted to her my book tale, and she said, ever so freely, “Oh, that’s great. The author is a friend of mine, and I actually roomed with her daughter in college. She is speaking in the area next week, you should go. I’ll go with you.” Come, again? I couldn’t go that day, however, because of work obligations. ”That’s cool, I will just text her and see when her next speaking engagement is.” Um, ok. Awesome. This is definitely more promising than going back to my Bob Newhart grief center. The book had already ministered to me so immediately, so I was stoked at the idea of an event.
My friend texted me later, “Don’t be weirded out if you get a text from Beth(the author), she really just wants to meet you in person and hang out. She is fab and she is a writer so I feel like you two will get along great.” Um, ok, this is more awesome.
Within days, I found myself across the table from a woman who knows loss and grief, but who also understands hope, healing, and yes, being a “Grief Survivor.” She met me exactly where I was, with sensitivity, warmth, and a listening ear. We shared our stories, we shared our pain, and we shared our hope. The only real Hope. Our God. She reflected to me that hope He gives us. She embodied where the story can take us, if we allow it. To new depths and dimensions of the complete and total Sovereignty of God. To new found joys and fulfillment in a life as a child of God.
The events of this story I never intended to be a character in are happening faster than I can write. My pain is real. My loss is real. But MY GOD IS REAL.
Thank you all for reading, and come back, for God is composing ‘new chapters’ everyday for me, and for you!
(cue Destiny’s Child “I’m a Survivor”)
Happy one week from Thanksgiving, folks!