By Penny A. Bragg—

The whole world is wagging its tail in anticipation of the New Year; pregnant with possibility and hope. Goals. Dreams. Resolutions. Purpose. Death? It just doesn’t fit the list. But, death is coming—again. I hear its daunting footsteps and take off running in the other direction. But, I know better. The faster I run, the closer death gets and the harder it comes.

“I’m not ready!” I cry out in resistance to what seems so impending. But death won’t wait until I’m ready. Instead it chills me to the bone with its taunting shrill, “Ready, or not. Here I come!”

Even though it’s been three years, my brother’s suicide still echoes loudly in all my empty places. I was in shock for months after receiving the tragic news. Thirteen years his senior, Jay was more of a son to me than a brother. I miss his companionship, wit, creativity, and wisdom—an old soul in the body of a young man. Recovering from his death has been and still is a daily fight. I cannot bear another goodbye.

“Gramma” has been the matriarch of our family. Gloriously renowned to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren like the Queen Mother of England. She has kept us in line, kept us afloat, and kept us well fed. Gramma was only forty-three years old when I was born and we’ve been attached at the hip ever since.

This one woman has been the one constant thread woven through all my days. Endless slumber parties at her house gave birth to my love for Broadway musicals and mac and cheese. It was Gramma who nurtured me through every illness and injury. I’ve kept all the postcards she sent me from her travels and used them as inspiration to write personal sentiments to others. Gram also championed me through grad school; filling my fridge with pre-cooked meals each week. When I got my diploma, I gave her one, too.

It is Gramma who has constantly fanned the flames of my writing dreams and whose daily encouragement has kept me from giving up. She has mopped up my tears of failure and kicked me in the rear when needed. How do I say goodbye to all that?

“Gramma is ageless. She can’t die!” As my siblings and I lament over our losses, we debate about what’s worse: experiencing sudden loss, like with Jay, or knowing that Gram is slowly fading away. We still can’t decide. Perhaps what’s worse is whichever one comes.

Whatever form death takes, my natural inclination is to disdain it, especially now. Caskets aren’t supposed to come at Christmastime. Jay’s death was just two weeks short of it and every Christmas since has been blanketed by a drab shade of grey. And now as thousands cheer in the New Year, death is not welcome décor in all the holiday hoopla. It’s just not supposed to happen like this. The irony of it all threatens to interrupt every rational thought I have, giving way to bitterness.

Most of my friends are resolving to do this or that in 2015, but I am tightening my resolve and battening down the hatches of my heart. And as I ponder and try to prepare myself, I realize that my fear is not just about my grandmother’s death. Losing her will be compounded by every other loss before it. Together, they possess the power to blow my heart into a billion tiny pieces all over again. I’m not ready for that. After all, I’ve only just started to feel a little more whole again, growing stronger bit by bit.

But maybe that’s how loss works. Perhaps each grief experience strengthens you just enough to handle the next one. I don’t know. I lose all perspective when I’m standing on death’s doorstep. All I know is that something is about to shake loose way down deep inside me and that God is the only One who will, once again, hold all things together when everything falls apart.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10 (NIV)

 

 

 

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Penny BraggPenny A. Bragg spent the majority of her professional career in the California public school system as a teacher, principal, and district administrator. Through the miraculous reconciliation of her marriage after an eleven-year divorce and a distance of 3,000 coast-to-coast miles, God led Penny and her husband, Clint, into fulltime ministry in 2006. Together, they serve as marriage missionaries—sharing their testimony of marital restoration across the nation and abroad during their 40-Day Marriage Mission Trips. Through Inverse Ministries, their non-profit organization, Penny and Clint have written extensively about the ministry of reconciliation including their upcoming book, Marriage on the Mend—Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, and Divorce (Kregel, 2015). In addition, Penny ministers to those who, like her, have experienced traumatic loss. Her book, “For Those Who Weep—A Grief Response Journal,” (Redemption Press, 2014) is available at www.ForThoseWhoWeep.com.

11 Comments

  1. 1-26-2015

    Oh, Penny. Once again, your transparent heart speaks to my heart.
    Thank you, sweet friend, for being willing to give words to the feelings so many hide away.

    • 1-26-2015

      May God bless you with the comfort and peace of His presence, my friend. Looking forward to seeing you at FCWC.

  2. 1-26-2015

    Penny, what a beautifully written post – your granny sounds like the most wonderful person. What a blessing she has been in your life to make you who you are today. I am sure she is so proud of you as well.

    • 1-26-2015

      Thank you, Monique. Your words of kindness drip right down to the soul.

  3. 1-26-2015

    Penny, I know something of your feelings, and I weep at your words. And I pray for you.

  4. 1-26-2015

    “Perhaps what’s worse is whichever one comes.” Wise words for it is what we face today that takes all we have. Your relationship with your Gramma is a treasure you will always have my friend. And I believe each time God holds us up and helps guide us through the muck, the more we know who He is and can trust Him to get us to the other side. Love you.

    • 1-26-2015

      Love YOU, my friend. So true. Hospice is coming three times a week right now, but she seems to be holding steady and perhaps even making a mini-comeback. Not sure. Grateful for every moment I have her.

  5. 1-30-2015

    Lovely tribute to your Gramma~the woman who’s given you wings. The “not knowing what’s next” is the anxiety that can bind us and become our idol. I love that you’ve chosen to think on the good things. These will help us all to be reminded of the legacy we may leave behind one day~soon. Love you, friend!

  6. 2-2-2015

    Thinking of you my friend!! “Stay strong” xoxo

  7. 2-14-2015

    “Perhaps what’s worse is whichever one comes.”
    I guess we are never ready when it comes.
    So true, Friend. With you.

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