Aunt Laura got a toothache on Mother’s Day. But it wasn’t a toothache. It was brain cancer.
We had gone to her apartment at ten that morning to pick her up for church. Sundays were the highlight of the week for my 87-year-old, childless, widowed aunt. After church, she’d have us over for lunch and serve us heaps of rice and beans. No matter that I was in college and my brother in high school, she’d pat us on our heads, straighten our hair, and ask about our grades as if we were her own youngsters.
But there would be no church or lunch that day.
We dashed to the emergency room. Cancer. (What?) Terminal. Six months, max. (Wait, wait! I’m still processing the word cancer!) Hospice care. Here, take these pamphlets. Next!
We drove back to the apartment in silence. Eventually, the brooding elephant in the room trumpeted.
Aunt Laura cried, “We were just going to church! It was just a toothache! Why? Why?! Why?!” And there were no right words to offer in response. Instinctively, we knew this was her moment to cry, to scream, to grieve, to shout, to throw up her hands and ask: “Why?!”
Just as Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar made room to listen to Job’s lament in this part of his story, we needed to make room for this part of the grief process. Surely, there would be peace or wisdom or reason or hope down the road. But for today, Aunt Laura needed to exhale. When someone is telling us, I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest; but trouble comes (v. 26), our best response is to be quietly present and listen.
When have you or someone you love encountered shocking circumstances that made you ask questions for which there were no clear answers?
God, help us understand the process of grief. Let us embrace the catharsis that comes from releasing a full exhale in order to inhale peace for the road ahead. Amen.