• Dana L. Butler

Day 4: On Nostalgia and Grieving Authentically

I breathe a sigh of gratitude for the almost-normal amount of sleep, quickly grab my computer, publish and share today’s 31 Days post, and begin getting ready for the day.

The kids watch Baby Einstein on the computer (yes, even my 4-year-old guy still loves it) while Stan and I pack up and load up the bellhop cart thingy with not one, but two complete loads. Traveling with young children is the equivalent of moving, basically. Yup.

We grab some breakfast in the lobby, finish loading the car, and drive approximately 3 minutes down the road to my parents’ home, where we “move in” yet again.

We invade their clean, quiet house with all our little kid wildness, and within 30 minutes or so we’ve decided a trip to the park is in order. Stat. After 3 straight days of being asked to be quiet, the kids are in need of a serious energy (and noise) dump.

We load up and drive a few blocks into the neighborhood where I grew up, past my parents’ old home which they just sold last year, and the nostalgia is overwhelming. I almost feel teary all over again. I stop too long at the stop sign in front of their house, just staring. Remembering. Aching a little.

Stan reminds me to keep driving.

Arriving at the park where my brothers and I grew up playing, we unbuckle the kids and turn them loose. My mom tracks Maia and I yell half-joking to Isaac, “Hey buddy, make those truck noises LOUDER! Even LOUDER, bud!” I need him to release his wild here in the outdoors.

We play and run and swing and explore a while. My dad shows up at the park as we’re getting ready to leave, asks if Stan wants to accompany him to run some errands related to transferring ownership of Grandma’s car. I tell him to go on — Stan and my dad have one of the cooler father-in-law/son-in-law relationships that I’ve ever seen, and I know Stan’s companionship will be comfort to my dad’s overwhelmed heart.

We send them on their way, come home and grab lunch, and half an hour later, my kiddos are snoozing soundly.

Stan and Dad are still out and about, and Mom has left for a hair appointment, so I sit and inhale the quiet in great gulps — alone for the first time in several days. I dig out my parents’ 30-something-year-old coffee pot and it gurgles loudly in the kitchen while I enjoy some moments to myself.

Looking around, my eyes rest on bouquet after bouquet of flowers given by loved ones. Gerber daisies and carnations and berries, snipped from the elaborate arrangement that adorned Grandma’s casket.

Gifts, all of them. Reminders that loss always comes with gifts of beauty, of Him, and if we stay fully awake, we’ll be open to receive — to draw Him more deeply into ourselves through the pain, to emit a fuller spectrum of His fragrance.

A sweet friend recently asked me, how do you grieve authentically?

I loved the question — how it resonated in my gut. And I think that, right there, is my answer. Stay awake. Lean into emotions as they come. Receive the gifts of joy and sorrow alike.

A heart that numbs out and self-protects might avoid experiencing the sharp pangs of grief, but it’ll also miss out on the gifts that come wrapped in the mourning.

Upon contemplation, I’m pretty sure this is the most important reason I’m thankful for the opportunity to be present with my family this week: it has given me pause to honor my Grandma’s memory. Her legacy. To embrace those who were also loved by her.

Pause to allow the weight of her absence from this place to begin to land on my heart. To find comfort in the presence of loved ones, to allow our presence (and our kids’ wild, affectionate cuteness) to bring comfort to them.

Pause to remember that stopping to laugh and enjoy one another does not hinder or betray the grief — rather, it compliments and completes it.

I don’t by any means claim to have attained to the fullness of authentic grieving — but in this season, for me, this is what it looks like.

Stop. Honor. Remember. Mourn. Weep. Laugh. Tell stories. Keep loving fierce and tender.

Stay awake. Live wide open to the gifts that come in this season.

In every season.

PS. I’m a little delayed in asking, but if you’d like to follow my 31-day journey and not miss a post, I invite you to subscribe to receive my words via email. Simply click here and enter your email address.

PPS. Tomorrow, I’ll be offering to you something I’ve never shared on my blog before: my music. Oh y’all, am I nervous. But it’s been on my heart for quite some time to share this piece of myself with you here. I’ll explain more tomorrow. Much love to you, my friends.

PPPS. Sharing this post with Lisha’s lovely community.

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