Today I celebrated the life of Jen Haynes along with so many others who have marveled at her “grit and grace” throughout this past five years of fighting glioblastoma multiform, a type of brain cancer you don’t want to get. She won.
My heart hurts for her two kids and her husband. And her parents. When they got the diagnosis, they were propelled into a new normal. It’s been such a tough road, but they made sure there were plenty of cherished memories made along the way. Now they are figuring out another new normal…without Jen. To say that this will be difficult would be to minimize the immensity of what lies ahead of them. But they will be OK. I don’t say that flippantly. “OK” has lots of layers, and it is a process.
No less than in the decades before brain cancer, in these past five years, Jen’s heart exuded love for her God, for her family and friends, and for life itself. This is the legacy she leaves. Her family will follow Jen’s example and engage this grieving process, this finding a new normal, with “grit and grace.”
My friend who knows me so well asked as I hobbled to the car if I had stuffed down a lot of emotions during the service. Maybe she noticed me breathing out through pursed lips — the technique they told me would help me breeze through the pain of childbirth.
I was fine until the worship team started to sing “It is Well With My Soul.” Chance ended the song he wrote for Chandler’s memorial with that chorus. The movie played in my mind…my precious son pouring out his heart and soul to honor his brother. I pulled myself back to the moment. Here and now. Here and now.
Later they sang “Blessed be Your Name.” I sang. And then I couldn’t. And then I sang again. And then I wiped away tears.
Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering
When there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be your name
When it hurts like hell, the best I can do is run to truth. God is omnipotent, good, loving, kind…WITH me. I choose to bless His name. There is nowhere else for me to go, no place else to run. This is my truth.
There were a couple of times when I thought, “Just leave now….you’re about to lose it.” That’s when I just stuffed it all. I don’t normally condone that. But in this instance, it was the appropriate thing for me to do.
Grief makes you selfish. OK, I’ll amend that to say grief makes me selfish. My mind instantaneously connected so many things that were said and sung today to my own experience of losing Chandler. I didn’t want it to be that way. It just was.
I understood some of what Jen’s daughter was going through during that service because of my mom’s funeral when I was 18. I remember thinking, “How can I go on without Mama?” And I understood some of what Jen’s mom must have been feeling, to have watched her sweet daughter fight so hard…and now to be unable to hold her and kiss her forehead.
Death is a reality. It is as much a part of life as being born. We will all lose someone we love. We will all pass from this earth someday. I love what the pastor said today in his message...death is just a shadow. It’s not the end.
Dear God, my mind can’t grasp the idea that Jen is now living in the same reality as my Chandler. It is too much for me, beyond anything I can comprehend. I am grateful beyond words for this reality, for their new normal that is marked by perfect wholeness and joy. God, help us, all of us who have lost someone dear, to move forward, finding our new normal empowered by and immersed in your strength, peace, grace, love, and goodness. Amen.