I’m too tired to ask why. I’ve asked it so many times. I’ve tried so hard to understand what I know is impossible to understand. I have no more “why’s” left in me. So many times over the past weeks and months, I’ve pleaded for the mercy of God to come to Sarah’s body, to heal her from her literally-broken heart. These past few weeks especially I’ve asked why it’s all gone downhill, why brilliant doctors can’t figure out what was killing her. I’ve asked and answered myself so many times, “Why? I don’t know. I’ll never know.”
I have no more “why’s” left.
There are just rogue waves of grief. I am cruising along today, trying to help a family move back into their house, one person short. Trying to make sure that they don’t have to worry about anything, small or large. I’m just cruising along with my son in the backseat. Not happy but not… anything. Then all of a sudden, a wave of sadness and grief will come from nowhere and knock me over. I’ll suddenly convulse and cover my mouth with my hand and cry for a second. And then the wave will just as suddenly be gone. This happens to me over and over throughout the day. When Sarah’s dad calls me and asks me how to tell her sisters and brothers that she’s dead, I hang up and really cry. What a horrible, horrible conversation. I can answer the question to one degree or another, but I hate that I have to. I hate it. I hate hate hate hate hate it.
The waves roll over me and pound me down and then suddenly relent. Too much to do. Too many calls and texts to field.
I am sad that Sarah is gone. I’m even more sad for her family. To say goodbye to your child is something I’ve had nightmares about for months and months. I’ve imagined this scenario. I am not prepared for the horror of seeing it play out. I saw her lying in that bed a week ago. And now she’s gone. My friends had to hold her as she left. As she died.
The waves roll in again and again.
There’s a story in the Gospels that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Jesus is summoned to a man’s house because the man’s daughter is dying. Jesus is delayed because he is healing someone else, but he does come to the man’s house. It’s too late, though. The young girl is dead. Jesus walks into the room and sees her body and informs everyone that she’s not dead. She’s asleep.
People who lived 2,000 years ago could tell the difference between dead and asleep. They were not (contrary to modern assumptions) idiots. They could tell, without EEG’s or beeping monitors, that the little girl was dead.
Jesus sees what no one else can. Jesus knows this little girl better than anyone else, too. In the most simple, effective way you could ever imagine, Jesus walks over to her, grabs her hand and says, “Talitha koum” (Little girl, get up, in Aramaic). And she does. She wakes up from a kind of slumber that no one wakes up from and she walks around the room.
In the past week, I’ve imagined that moment when Jesus leans in to call her back from death. I imagine this to be an extraordinarily tender moment. He says a command, so maybe he was more firm. I don’t know. Maybe it’s how the Aramaic sounds to me that makes me think it wasn’t. But I imagine him holding her hand and bending over to whisper her awake. This is what I prayed for Sarah as I visited her last week. I prayed that Jesus would bend to her ear and whisper her awake.
Even as I prayed it, I felt scared. I felt scared that he would do as I asked but he would not do it how I asked. I was scared that he would call her to himself and we would not see her walk around the room. I wanted him, I asked him to give her back to her parents, to us. And sometimes, I think Jesus says yes to those kinds of prayers. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced Jesus doing wild, inexplicable things. Sometimes he does that.
But sometimes he says, “No.” And I don’t know why.
This morning, before seven, I do think Jesus walked into that room and stooped over that little girl’s bed. I think that he used that same, gentle voice and he called her to himself. I don’t know why he wouldn’t call her back to that room, why he said no, but I don’t think he said no to Sarah. I think he said yes to her. And I don’t think she’ll ever again be hindered by her little heart.
But I hate the rest of it. I hate the funeral that’s coming. I hate the empty crib. I hate knowing that every time I’ll look at my friends as our kids play, they could be counting their kids and coming up one short. I hate that the world isn’t fixed yet. I hate that the answer was no. I hate that the scream that rips from Jesus’ throat as he suffers on the Cross, his “WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?!,” is coming from all of us. I wanted to hear “It is finished” or “Little girl, get up.”
The waves will continue to roll in. Sometimes heavy. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes randomly. We’ll drift out into calm waters again eventually. Our friends will ache for the rest of their lives and we will ache with them. We’ll all be hit by the waves of grief together and separately. We’ll weather the waves together, though, finding shelter under the arms of the God who stretched out his hands to suffer with and for us.
Someday he’ll bend close to our ears, too. Someday the waves will stop. There will be no more sea for the waves to come from and the tears will be brushed away. Until then, we wait in hope.
Until then, we pray for our own healing.