I can stare it down

Brenda Cannon Henley

“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” — Anne Roiphe

Today I faced a challenge. To me, it was a very big one. I did not know if I had the strength, the power, the perserverence to stick it out and the will to stick with it. I wanted to quit. I wanted to go into my private bedroom, crawl in my comfortable bed, pull the soft covers up, close my eyes, and just stay there. I did not want to answer the telephone, get the door, talk to anyone, or think. The biggest need I had at the moment was not to think. I think too much. I overanalyze. I conjure up bad things that probably will never happen. I was never like this until my husband, Ted, went to heaven.

I know I said I would not write any longer about grief and pain. I promised that I was learning to deal with the everyday issues of life and that I was doing OK handling all the matters he always handled for me. But I was wrong. It is not up to us to assign a timeframe to grief or our hearts I have learned.

I believe the reason that I miss Ted so and depended on him so greatly is that I had never had anyone in all of my life that wanted to take care of me other than my precious Mama Cole. She is in heaven, and I cannot always feel her here on earth. I try, and that makes me feel even more vacant and alone. I know God loves me, but He doesn’t often repair flat tires or check the oil in the engine. Did I pay all of the taxes? I cannot remember because we have property in more than one county and more than one state.

Usually when my heart is heavy, no one knows. I am an expert when it comes to hiding my inner feelings. I can cook and serve a complete meal to several guests, clean up the kitchen, and visit with them while my heart is literally breaking into pieces. I can go into the utility room and cry, clean my face up, and go back out to the crowd. But this is not really me. I am sounding like some weak spirited woman that has never faced trials.

My books are my best friends when I need help and comfort. I always start with the Bible, the Word of God, and read until I find solace and a plan of action starts to form. But sometimes even that doesn’t fix it. Today was one of those days. So, I turned to other books of quotes, good thoughts, peace, help and fine writing. I am not one to exhort folks to let the book open to where it may and allow my eyes to begin to read the page I see first. But I broke that rule today, too.

Believe it or not, I read, “Just one step at a time — meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.” This is an old quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, and having read her biography, she had a lot to stare down during her life. I read it a second time. “One step at a time ...” I could do that. I am pretty sure I can.

So I focused on taking that first step. I learned what I needed to know, and after some time and a season of prayer, I took that first step. Was it hard? Was it difficult? Was I frightened? Sure it was, and sure I was, but I was able to do it, and I feel better now. I can find my way through the maze of the other steps that have to be taken.

Now don’t begin to think you know what I am writing about. Don’t think you could do a better job of living my life than I am. Please don’t insult me by saying I should do so and so, or your Aunt Nelda did so and so. You don’t know. You are not me. You are not living my life, and guess what? I am not living yours either.

Grief is a strange bedfellow, and I am a strong old girl. I think I am winning most days, and I believe I can make it. But some days, I don’t care and I don’t really want to make it. I may not choose to parade my grief for others to see, but when it hurts, it hurts badly. Please be kind to those who are hurting. Don’t be smart. Don’t pop off. Don’t give trite advice that you really know nothing about in a first hand manner. Just say, “I am here if you need me.”

Maya Angelou wrote, “When I think of death, and of late, the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors. I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else. I find it impossible to let a friend or a relative go into that country of no return. Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake. I answer the heroic question, ‘Death, where is thy sting?’ with ‘It is here in my heart and my mind and my memories.’”