by Barbara Miller
Good grief! I’ve often heard that expression when exclaiming over an unusual, surprising or adverse occurrence. Although I had never before this year been a witness to grieving that was “good.”
My great friend’s husband of more than 40 years had a stroke on a Sunday, went into hospice on Tuesday and died on Friday. And they were 1,400 miles from home. At least they were in our town, so we could rush to the hospital to be with them until his last days.
They were near because for several years they have rented a condo within walking distance of ours. Her husband had had a cardiac arrest 15 years ago and was without oxygen for a while. That “fried his brain” (her term), so she became more and more the caregiver–his everything.
She was the driver, bookkeeper, arranger, advocate, decider, bather, dresser, wheelchair pusher, daily laundress. Her attitude was that this is what she signed up for 50 years ago. So, she smiled and shrugged her shoulders, saying, “It’s what anyone would do.”
Remarkable and admirable
I suggested that her constant efforts were remarkable and admirable, and no, not everyone would be as kind and diligent. She is a child of God and saw this type of example growing up on a large family farm in Ohio. Her sisters plowed; other sisters helped fix noon meals for the large family and the farmhands.
Immediately after her husband’s death, I asked what she’d do now. She answered that she would make arrangements, wait for the cremains and death certificates and drive back to Ohio to plan the memorial service.
She quilted a lovely box for the cremains. She cried some, made hundreds of mementos from paper cranes for the visitors, cried more, wrote the remembrance biography and arranged for the meal.
I admired her ability to be stalwart and carry on. I think I’d be a massive crumble of tears and lamentations. But she pointed out it had been a long time coming. She said she had time throughout the years to celebrate what they did have and to grieve the losses as they came along.
This coming year my husband, my friend and I plan to take a cruise which used to be an occasional event for the four of us. Good grief!
“We voice our sorrow, thanking God for our loved one(s), and trusting in God’s promise at baptism that we are claimed by Christ forever. We rest in the sure hope of our resurrection.” (Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 279.)
When have you experienced “good grief?”
Barbara Miller served on the churchwide executive board from 2014-2016. She lives in Naples, Fla. She is chair of the Florida-Bahamas Synod hunger committee and serves on the synod’s global mission committee. Download “The Faces of Grief,” a three-session Women of the ELCA resource in English and Spanish designed to help you find wholeness and peace after loss.