Lessons in Loss
by Gina Johnson Smith
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In the last six months I have experienced many losses. It is said that the unexamined life is not worth living. At this moment, I wouldn’t agree. While an examined life ultimately leads to healing, its initial reaction exposes one to the raw sensitive underbelly of emotions so deep, so kinetically intense that your whole sense of sanity can hang in the balance.
The examined life, examined emotion is a dangerous place. We often live in a world of surface reality, a sort of suburb-like existence like transient people, only touching surface safe feelings and emotions. A world full of love and absent of life’s harsh realities. A place called Perfect. Too afraid of our realness. To afraid of where truth can possibly take us.
My losses have almost been too tremendous to bear. The loss of my grandchild to an untimely death, the loss of his unfulfilled potential, the loss of my daughter’s presence, her freedom, and mostly the loss of simply stroking her soft face with my fingers. I have sometimes lost the will to fight, the faith to believe and sometimes the will to live. These losses have shattered the very essence of who I though I was, the control I thought I had. These losses have forced me to look at myself with fresh eyes. To shine the laser-light on the real me. Who am I outside of my husband, my children, my family, and my job? Who am I?
The loss of Brandon has shattered my soul. I don’t think of him often, and rarely speak of him on purpose because the pain, like a hungry animal ripping the flesh from his very alive, very aware victim, sends me to an excruciating painful, almost numbing place of horror. Like your worst nightmare come true. Brandon was my little prince, my second grandchild. The one that made grandparenthood a reality in my world. I was proud as he pushed his healthy way into this brutal world. I thanked God on high for giving me the honor of being the grandparent to my two little miracles – Chanel and Brandon. As I watched that new life scream his lungs clear, I rejoiced in the heritage that he shared with me. This was my descendent, my heir apparent. This grandson would know his great-great-grandmother, the woman whom I have patterned my life after. He would know her story, her very essence, and her life. He would glimpse into the life of her parents. He and his sister would be my special ones. But this was not to be. In the twinkling of an eye, he was snuffed out forever.
Gone from my dreams. Gone home to be with God. Too soon. Too soon. Somewhere inside there is emptiness. A hurting place. Hurting because of the unexpected unnecessary extinguishing of his life. The pain often displays itself as anger…at whom? Whoever. It hides itself, lurking, ready to strike out at the unaware innocent victims of my life. This loss threatens to destroy me, but I hang on by a thread.
When I am consumed, drowning in a sea of frustration and pain, I cry out to God to save me. Save me from the sea that threatens to snuff out my very existence. In those moments when I rock too closely to that line of insanity, when I cry out…He saves me one more day. One more day He snatches me out of the fires of my life. The fires that lick out at my flesh, searching to consume me. But my God comes like a firefighter, ready to tear down the walls with His axe, extinguish the flames with the water of His Word, grasp me up in His strong arms and carry me to the safety side of sanity. I exhale, knowing that I will exist another day. One more day I have escaped consumption because I know where to go, what to do, whom to call.
My losses force me to recognize my blessings. For despite the hurt, despite the pain, despite it all, I am blessed. While my health has not always been the best, I still live. I still live to see the huge, biblical clouds that capture the oranges and peaches of the setting sun and through them, hot flashes of silver-white lightening bounding around. I still live to see the bright baby blue sky, so incredibly beautiful, so profoundly uncommon and electric.
While my grandson is gone, I was blessed with eight weeks of his joy and his smiles. The baby powder freshness of him. The contentment of nuzzling my nose in the silkiness of his baby fine hair. I will always have my Brandon in my heart, so young, so innocent, so much still a part of God’s new birthed spirit. His spirit lives on in my heart as a reminder that God is present. He is here. He sees all and sometimes shares his special ness very briefly, very quickly and then its gone. All that’s left are traces of the magic dust, the memories and the lessons.
While my daughter presence and touch are missing, I still have her voice. I can go and see her face. I can remember my little girl and my heart still pounds with the fierce love that only a mother can know. While I can’t hold her or touch her, I do have the memory of that, and anticipate the day when I can embrace my baby in the comfort and protection of my arms.
My spiritual self reasons out the good in this scenario. My natural self is empty without her presence. My God is helping me contend with this struggle.
My blessings continue with the love of Chanel. My first grandchild, my special granddaughter. This experience has made me hyper-focus on her. She has been shielded from the wounds of this situation. While her heart desires mommy, she survives and thrives on the over abundance of love stored up within me…Chanel gets it all, and then more.
I often sit back and observe all the emotions in her liquid brown eyes…the happiness of knowing love and feeling that child-like security.
How I miss that.
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