This has been one of the more difficult weeks that I have had for a while now. Halloween without Joseph was lonely and sad. Yesterday was All Soul's Day and my church always does a memorial for the families of our parish who have lost a loved one since the last All Soul's Day. We all bring a picture to put on the altar...this is my third All Soul's Day memorial mass. First it was grandpa. Then it was Dad. I never could have imagined it being Joseph though. Seeing his smiling face up there among the others who have passed away, there in the church that I have avoided since his funeral....I cried more at that memorial last night than I did during his funeral services. I felt so bewildered and stunned...stunned that this thing that only happens to other people has happened to me. To us. Ten months. Its been just short of ten months since I have seen my Joe-Gi. Eleven since I have heard his voice. I miss him with a hollow desolation...disbelief that I will never see him again washing over me, particularly in the evenings when I am very tired, but with me through the day to some extent as well. Big Joe has been so patient. I was really doing better for a time and it has to be confusing and painful to watch me struggling again now that we are headed toward the holidays. He wants to talk about our Christmas budget this weekend and start getting things in order for gift buying and the like. I feel sick when I start trying to remember how much I usually spend on the kids and to work out the numbers. Simply multiplying by two instead of three is like some loud, heavy door slamming in my head. Grief is so selfish, so self absorbed. If I believe what I was told growing up and what I heard at church last night, Joseph is in a place that has been prepared for him, past the point of suffering and pain, capable of loving on a level that I cannot even conceptualize yet. I can start to feel very bad about myself for my current lack of faith and for the fact that even if I really do believe all those things (I think I do..but that overwhelming feeling of yes! There is a God and I KNOW it! is gone because even if there is I don't like Him very much right now) that I would rather have Joseph here with me....as I said. Selfish. I can take comfort in the fact that he is in that mythical "better place" but the flip side of that coin is that he is not here. He's dead. And goodness knows I have never been very good at waiting.
I do ponder a lot over the book A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. I pick it up often and read blurbs from it. He captured so much of the essence of grief over the death of his much loved wife from cancer. He makes a good point, that none of us really know that we have faith or that we are believers until something happens that makes us utilize that faith or belief. That everyone can crow to the heavens over Jesus and heaven, but that a loss like this kicks the platform out from underneath us. His own faith faltered for a time. Maybe I will find mine again too. But I cannot hear God right now over the wailing of my own broken heart.
A woman took Joseph's picture from my hands as I went to the altar to collect it to take it back home. She was a little bit of an oddity, soft spoken but smiling brilliantly and the first person to approach me in such a forward fashion to ask me about my son. I think she followed me up there. She must have seen me weeping through the service. She asked how old he was when he died and what his name was. And then she told me, not in a judgemental way or a scolding fashion, but more as if she were marveling at something beautiful "He is rejoicing..Oh he is rejoicing now!" I think in another time and place I would have hated her for that, thinking of all Joseph suffered and feeling as if she had neatly swept all of that away with one blithe statement, that it would have seemed to be more about comforting herself than about any real attempt to impart comfort to me. But this didn't feel that way. My spirit went quiet inside and all I could manage was a meek "I hope so". I would like that faith again, that certainty. It would be comforting to know where Joseph is and when, in a vague sense, that I will see him again.
So please keep us in your prayers. The hardest time both just in terms of the seasons and holidays but also in terms of anniversaries of Joseph's journey are coming up swiftly. Its like watching a hurricane approach.