Many of you know that I am very, very close to Dr. David Black and his wife, now with the Lord, Becky Black, whom I affectionately called, Mama B! I have taken the liberty of taking a couple of Dave’s posts over this past week and noted below because he deals so transparently and honestly about grief! This is a Bible Scholar and one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever met (or will meet) and yet, he shares his soul about loss, grief, death and even depression.
I share this with you because it’s too good to keep locked up just on his site. So, read and read with the mindset that yes…you might not need this information today or tomorrow or even this year…but, I promise you…one day you’ll need this!
Sunday, November 17
So how are things going at Bradford Hall? I’m actually doing pretty well, though I’ve had my “moments.” Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Why does it only seem to get harder?” Yesterday was horrible. It was the two-week anniversary of Becky’s Homegoing. Yesterday I felt like a professional cyclist who has just climbed a long hill and now feels he should be able to coast down the other side. But when he reaches the top he sees that the road winds on, with even steeper hills than the one he has just climbed. Saturday, as I sat alone in my library, I began to sob. I don’t know if I can do this. Well, I may be dumb but I’m not stupid, so I got on the phone and called one of my daughters. I don’t need to suffer alone, I reminded myself. November 2, 2013, is a day I will never forget as long as I live. It is one I look back on with thanksgiving as well as heartbreak. With the Lord’s help I want to extract every ounce of positive teaching from the 4-year-long illness and passing of Becky. I want my whole life to count for Christ.
I try to thank Him every morning for all He has done for me, to praise Him for His goodness, and to ask Him for the strength to do His will so that through my actions others will see Him in me. Lamentations 3:23 has meant so much to me lately. “He does not willingly afflict the children of men.” I must be clear about that. God may permit suffering but He does not cause it. He seeks only my utmost good through the pain. With rare exceptions (thank God they have been few!), people have shown me love and acceptance. They have shown me how to support bereaved people with the greatest sensitivity. Mostly you’ve just taken time to visit my blog and listen.
What are the lessons I am learning? I’m learning to lean on God more than on others. I’m learning to appreciate the hospitality of people. I’m learning that it’s okay to miss Becky’s companionship. I’m learning the importance of studying the life and teachings of Jesus so that I can know how to react to the pressures of everyday life. I’m learning the value of singleness. (Jesus was a bachelor, and who would dare call Him an oddball or unfulfilled?) I’m learning that life can be rich and satisfying even if, humanly speaking, I am alone. I’m realizing that there are places in life I can go as a single person that would be out of the question if I were married.
So what makes being a widower so hard? I think it’s because the Christian widower knows that God is good. He dares to push the Absolute back into the center of the picture. He recognizes that his life is the product of a wise Creator. Where others see only loss and silence, he knows that God is shouting aloud in the color and scent of every sunset and rose. He knows he has no one apart from Christ. He realizes that Christianity is for people who have no answers apart from faith in a loving and just God. He knows that Christ will stick with him, change him, and in the end receive him into His presence. Ain’t it just like Jesus to teach me these things? The apostle Paul (a single man) had one ambition, and that was to know Him (Phil. 3:10). This is the same Paul who experienced success and loneliness, elation and depression, who had known Christ on dry land and in shipwreck. Richard of Chichester once prayed: “May I know thee more clearly/Love thee more dearly/and follow thee more nearly.” I suppose I can say this is my prayer too.
Well, I need to get caught up on emails and cook supper for Nigusse. As you know, I leave on Thursday to help the Ethiopian church cope with Becky’s death. I fear that for all too many, Becky’s passing is seen as the worst thing that could befall them. I shall seek to help them view it as a graduation into glory, into a life no longer marred by sorrow and suffering. I will be quite insistent that while tears of grief are acceptable, an atmosphere of gloom and doom is not. Death is a defeated enemy because of the first Easter. Christians are the only people on the planet who can rejoice in the face of the Valley.
Wednesday, November 20
During the past couple of weeks, ever since Becky’s death, I have thought a lot about grief. I know that sounds morbid, but it’s true. Everyone tells me that what I’m experiencing is normal. Let it do its work, Dave. It’s okay to mourn. Believe you me, that’s a hard lesson for me to learn. I’m a fighter. I want to struggle against grief. But it seems that the harder I struggle, the worse it becomes. It’s like trying to walk on an icy sidewalk. Every step you take is precarious. The faster you go, the more likely you are to slip and fall.
When I was a teenager, my friends and I used to surf the North Shore of Oahu during the winter months, when the waves were anywhere between 15 and 25 feet.
On a big day, you were happy to get in four good rides. Wipeouts occurred frequently, especially if you were a risk-taker. Now, when you wipe out on a big wave, it’s like being tossed about in a washing machine. No sooner do you break to the surface to grab a quick breath of air when the next wave of the set comes crashing down on top of you. Every surfer knows exactly what to do in that situation. You release. You let go completely. You let the wave pummel you until it decides to let you go. Because the more you fight against the wave, the more exhausted you get. Fighting a big wave is an exercise in futility. You just have to let it do its work.
Grief attacks me like those 25-footers at Sunset Beach. The wave comes rolling in out of nowhere, and I am helpless to stop it. The harder I fight it, the more exhausted I become. I have to accept it, let it do its work. I lie in bed at night, sleepless, staring at the ceiling. I get tears while driving. Each wave reminds me of how different my life is today than it was when I had Becky by my side. The taken-for-granted normalness of life is a thing of the past. Everywhere I go I see where we shopped together, dined together, cried together, laughed together, made love together.
Back then, when the waves came, we went under together. We had each other to hold on to. Not anymore. Where do I even start to describe how lonely I feel? Irrational as it may sound, I sometimes say to myself, “No, it isn’t true. Becky can’t be gone.” Grief stalks me like a hunter. Scripture helps, but it’s no panacea. Just when I think I’ve made a few baby steps forward, I take bigger steps backwards. Her face fills the bleachers of my memory. I suppose that’s why I blog. I suppose that’s why I talk about her so much in these pages. Expressing my grief publicly is a reminder of how much I loved her. I try to fill the vacancy with activities. I put pictures of her on the blog that I know must drive my readers crazy. But even that doesn’t fill the hole. I feel violated, raped. Strong words, I know, but even they don’t describe how I feel sometimes. Diminished. Impoverished. Abandoned. I am lonely even in a crowd. Thankfully, one emotion I have not felt is anger. (I feel very virtuous in saying that.) Or maybe I am angry but just not expressing it. Knowledge is not my problem. I know that God will make this loss a gain. But if you ask me how I’m doing, I won’t white-wash it. If I’m struggling, I’ll say so. If I’m exhausted, I will let you know. If I’m depressed (dare I use the “D” word?), I won’t hesitate to tell you.
How often I have thanked the Lord that I had a chance to say goodbye to Becky. There I would sit, helpless to ease her suffering, but I could still speak, and she could still listen and nod. God didn’t have to plan things that way. He could have taken her suddenly. I am also so very thankful for all of you and for your emails. This is the other side of grief: the body of Christ coming together, rallying around the sufferer. You, dear reader, have helped me to pick up the pieces. I want to embrace life to the fullest. I realize that my life will never be “normal” again. My mind will always carry the videotapes of her life. I have “let her go” so many times I’ve lost count. I know I will have to let her go many more times. I have entrusted her to God. For years she filled an empty place in me, and that place is empty again. And so I’ll say it for the millionth time:
Goodbye, Becky. I miss you. I love you. I do not blame you for the pain in my heart. I just wish we didn’t have to say goodbye so soon.
Oh thank you Dave for sharing this! What a blessing it is that you have allowed us to look into your soul.
And this is how I will remember Mama B.
I miss you too Mama B! And I grieve…and yet rejoice! How can that be! Thank you Lord for the resurrection! It guarantees that I’ll see her again…and that Dave will too!