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  I received a response yesterday to my post “Tears in the Closet”.   My friend reminded me of the “extreme separation”, which are the words...

The Encounter

Sunday, April 29, 2012

As I was coming out of the sanctuary of my church this morning, I had a new experience. One which I have heard could happen to me at any given moment, in any given place, at any given time….I thought I saw Michael. Of course it does not make sense. I know I cannot just run into him. But all things familiar lined up to make it feel real for a split second. The kids were walking in front of me, as we were about to leave the sanctuary through one of the doors into a back hallway. Someone had quickly pulled back the door and was holding it open for us to walk through before he entered into the sanctuary. I had not paid any attention to who it was at first but then glanced his direction right when I was approaching the door. My heart flipped, my body suddenly radiated with heat and I became unaware of everything that was going on around me. Instantly, my eyes filled to the rim with tears, which I had been able to hold at bay throughout almost the entire service for the first time. At first glance, I did not even see his face, which is why I thought it was Michael. His outfit was put together like Michael’s would have been, his height felt similar to Michael’s, and he stood patiently, and happily, allowing my whole family through the door….like Michael would have opened the door for us. I quickly looked away and then glanced immediately back at him in an attempt to ground myself…I looked into his face and gave a faint smile and thought to myself, “How did that just happen? How did my emotions respond so quickly to the idea that he may have been standing right before me? I know he can’t be here holding the door open for me at church like he did for 24 years? Why did I immediately ‘see’ it as him?” This all happened…the encounter, the shock, the tears, and the attempt to pull myself together in a matter of seconds. With Mia walking in front of me, and the three boys walking behind me, I had to make my way down the hall with my eyes focused straight ahead without talking or glancing my eyes in any direction other than right before me. I had to tune out everything and completely concentrate on getting myself back out of the quicksand before the wave of tears spilled out of my blurry eyes. I have learned that if I focus hard enough, I can force the tears to recess back from where they so quickly came. I felt like I was walking down one of the hallways in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The walls felt as if they were closing in on me. I was disoriented and confused about this incident that had just thrown itself in my face out of nowhere, but, within seconds, I was going to emerge out of the hallway and be surrounded by people passing to get coffee in between the service and Sunday School. I had to get my wits back together in the same amount of time that I lost them. I was not ready to handle more uncomfortable glances of sympathy and chose to suck it up and push through the moment. I choked out a few “good mornings”, and then ran into my older brother, Craig…saved. Unaware of what had just happened, he began asking me questions and small talking about his daughter with me. I was quickly pulled back into this present moment.

I have talked to people who think they have seen their lost loved one in the grocery store, or passing in a car, or approaching them from behind while walking somewhere. The emotions that can be stirred and erupt in a matter of seconds is astounding. It can blindside me at any given moment, without any announcement that it is about to crush me. The wave hits, the wind gets knocked out of me, I stumble, maybe fall to me knees, like walking through rushing water, then struggle back to my feet, and force one foot in front of the other with deliberation and focus. It is an emotional workout, which builds strength, ever so slightly, with each hit that it takes on me.

Mysterious Joy

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I have been asked if I am done writing on my blog. The answer is no….the searching, healing, and questioning through my writing is not complete yet. Not that it will ever be fully complete, but I think there will be a time when I will feel like I have birthed all that I am supposed to birth concerning this grieving journey in this manner. Of course, I will continue on this road, discovering, learning, growing, and healing, long after I decide to stop posting new entries. It will not mean that there are no more struggles. It will just mean that this assignment, which I feel God has given me, and has graced me with the strength to carry through with it, is over. It will mean a different season has begun. I was speaking with someone recently who lost her father ten years ago and we both agreed on one thing. People say, it will get better over time, but we both agreed that it does not necessarily get better, you only get accustomed to the pain and the loss. You learn to live with it. Like I said in “A Day in the Life of Members Only,”…… “Our days slowly morph into a different life until we don’t recognize the extra pain and weight that our minds and body have now become accustomed to holding. Living and grieving now coexist daily. “

I wanted to write sooner but my days have been too consumed with life going on at an incredibly fast pace. It has been very difficult for me to find the time in order to disappear and have the solitude that it takes to contemplate my feelings, listen to God, and put it down on paper. More difficult than finding time is making time for my personal healing a priority. My sister, Julie, told me two weeks ago, through both of our tears, that I put myself, and my needs, too low on the totem pole. It is natural for a mom to put all of her children and their needs first. But in a case such as death, it is imperative that I present a rested, healing self to my children so that I can be stronger for them. It is something that I have to plan ahead and be proactive about, for there to be a place for me in my life. I am taking time for me today by having a one-day retreat in the guest bedroom of a close friend. It is a quiet place, a place of beauty, and a space where I can get before God and seek him without any distractions. I have decided to write about something that I was dealing with last month during my hiatus from writing. I chose not to write about it then because I was too low or deep into the grieving box to share with anyone. Now that I have come up for air and feel like I am partially on the other side, I wanted to write down my experience and what I have been able to take away from it.

About a month ago, a week after the one-year mark, I suddenly came to an all time low. I say suddenly, but it crept on me for a couple of days, and then I was suddenly drowning. I felt that there were no expressions left in my face. I could not smile. I did not want to talk. Life felt blank, bland, and completely, utterly, absent of joy. I had never experienced this particular, specific mood, to this extent. I had to remind myself again, as before, “Breathe,” and “Breathe deeply.” I don’t remember how it happened, but I somehow ended up on the phone with Julie, and I broke down on the phone and told her how empty I felt, that there was no joy. She said that she had noticed it as well. She immediately took charge of all of the boys and gave me the next three hours alone in my house to work through this extreme low. I went upstairs and decided to write but knew that I could not post it at that time. I was not even sure that I could write it all out in this form, so I chose to write a poem to describe my emotional state. I was in a mental search for joy. I was trying to get a grip on biblical joy, what it meant, and was it wrong for me to not be feeling or walking in joy at this time. Following is the poem that was produced out of that quiet time of searching and experiencing this great void.

Mystery of Joy

Empty void monotonous blank

Duty bland continual drudgery

Robotic expressionless motionless numbing

Invisible, concealed, hidden, covert
Stir it up, seek for it, dig for it, fight for it
Uncover it, desire it……mysterious joy

Keep moving, lean forward, believe, trust
Presence, feeling, absence, searching
Discovering, understanding……mysterious joy

Written by
Jene’ Barranco
February 28, 2012

I sat on all of these feeling for a couple of weeks then searched the scriptures more deeply concerning the topic of joy. After reading countless scriptures and many studies on joy on the Internet, I realized that I was not in a place yet to feel, show, or walk out any form of joy, as we know joy. Then I came across this verse in Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” This jumped right into my heart when I read it. I thought to myself, “I can be joyful in hope….this is something I can do.” I can be joyful in my certainty (my hope) of God’s sovereignty. I can be joyful in my anticipation (my hope) of God’s perfect plan for my life. J. Hampton Keathley, III said in a study on hope,
“By its very nature, hope stresses futurity and invisibility. Things we have not received, can’t see or both. It changes how we see ourselves. It changes us into pilgrim persons, people who see this life as a temporary sojourn. It changes what we value. Hope, if biblical, makes us heavenly minded rather than earthly minded. It affects what we do with our lives - our talents, time, treasures. The Christian life, if it is grasped according to God’s truth, is a magnificent obsession with an eternal hope, a hope that does not lead to an escapist attitude, but to the pursuit of life on a whole new dimension. It makes you bullish on the potentials of life as stewards of God. It gives us power to live courageously to be all God has called us to be in Christ.”
I do have an obsession with an eternal hope. I am pursuing life on a whole new dimension. I am living courageously to be all that God has called me to be in Christ. My hope has changed my values, or rather secured them even more. I am a pilgrim on this journey. My ability to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer,” is the force that pushes me along this long road.