• Dana L. Butler

Day 3: A Funeral {in which grief comes bearing gifts}

Hey, my sweet friends,

Yet again, I’m bringing you words written in advance, and hoping next week will find me writing in real time once again. For now, rolling with opportunities to write whenever I’m able, as we will be in NC with my side of our family until Sunday morning. This is my heart as it spilled out on Wednesday evening after my Grandma’s funeral.


I sit in the dark tonight, ocean sounds playing on my phone to fill the hotel room with white noise so the kids’ll keep right on snoozing.

When I made our reservations, the only rooms our hotel had left were those with 2 double beds. So I sit on one bed, Stan sits on the other, and we G-chat periodically as we go about our post-kids’-bedtime business: him looking at digital music equipment online, and me? Welp, writing, of course.

It’s been 3 days since my Grandma walked into the arms of Glory, and being here makes the ache of her absence acute.

Today, I hugged relatives and friends I’ve not seen since I was 12, introduced them to my husband and children, and quietly wiped tears from my eyes as I listened to my grandparents’ long-time pastor tell stories of Grandma’s life.

He spoke of how she loved Jesus. How she loved her family. Read words from her journal — how if she could have one request, it’d be that her entire family would know Him so we could all be in heaven together for eternity.

Those words brought tears this morning, and even now as I write, my eyes fill again.

Loving on my sweet grandpa with my cousin, Amy.

After the funeral ended, I mingled a while, hugged and snapped pictures and ran for kleenex boxes, and my children were loved on by umpteen relatives who thought they were the cutest things since I don’t know what. I’m not gonna lie – it blesses me, the way my extended family genuinely enjoys my kids.

Stan and I loaded up the kids, ran through the drive-through at Panda Express, and headed back to the hotel. I dropped my crew off for lunch and naps, immediately turned around, picked up my little brother, and headed out to the graveside service.

The sky was gray, and the hole in the ground where my Grandma’s body would soon be laid to rest — it made my breath catch in my throat for a moment, drove home the reality that life is a vapor and death is all too real, and y’all, it makes my heart just pulse with this ache for eternity.

Rows of folding chairs held my parents, my aunt and uncle, my grandparent’s close friend Shirley who has helped in caring for them for years. My Grandpa sat, grieved and exhausted, in his wheelchair at the end of the front row, and sometimes grief is hard to approach — ya know?

I took a deep breath and drew near anyway. Hugged him, told him I love him, let him know Stan and the kids and I would be over to visit him at his assisted living facility before we head home.

Pastor Larsen read from my Grandma’s favorite passage — Romans 8 — and my heart grabbed hold of the peace woven into the familiarity of those words.

For the good of those who love Him… in all things.  

In. all. things.

In all these things we are more than conquerors…

Neither height nor depth nor anything else… can separate us from His love.

We’re encouraged to “go in peace,” and I’m thankful that Peace is present, mingled with sorrow, because our hearts are held.

My aunt encourages me to take a flower from the arrangement on the casket. I walk toward it, gently remove a Gerber daisy, my favorite flower, and as I turn to walk away, I can’t hold back my tears. My cousin approaches me — we’re the two granddaughters, she and I — and hugs me while I weep on her shoulder. I apologize for my tears even though I know I don’t need to.

I’m still not used to being the one needing comforted, I guess.

But oh, am I ever that one these days. I am grieving, and I am weak, and despite the extreme discomfort of being so needy, I am so thankful to be here. Here with my family, leaning into the feelings, letting the grief hit my heart in waves.

And there’s joy here too, friends. There’s laughter as my kids run around and play with cousins. There are hugs and stories and hands held and looks exchanged — looks that say hey, we’re in this together.

With Maia {in desperate need of a nap} and my youngest brother, John {just generally a wacky guy}.

Cousin Ainsley enjoyed loving on our kiddos.

And the acuteness of all the emotions — grief included — it brings peace to my insides. Indicates that my heart is open, awake, receiving the gifts life brings. Receiving Jesus the way He chooses to give Himself to me — Holiness that comes wrapped in the beautiful and the painful and everything in between.

And for right now, for this heart, this whole being fully awake thing — it’s good, y’all. It’s rich. Even in grief.

Perhaps especially so.

It is so. so. good.

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