Sometimes this fallen world slaps us in the face with something that knocks the wind out of our lungs and makes our heart hollow.
For me, this most recently happened with the loss of my Grandpa. My Grandpa was the cranky, old geezer who still lightened up every room with the hilarious jokes he told over and over again. Texts from him made you roll your eyes in annoyance as well as bust a gut laughing. He was a country boy with a heart for God and a healthy dose of encouragement heaped in with every word of discipline. He wasn’t always a great man, but his story of redemption gave him all the more credit for the life he chose to live. A life of giving, aiding, helping and loving. He was my annoying rock. I loved him and our relationship.
After getting to see him only once a year after our move to Louisiana, his epic “51 day stays” in the RV parked behind my parents’ house became the highlight of every year. But after decades of these visits he finally decided to leave his home and move to Louisiana. I blame his soft heart for his first grand baby, my daughter, who had her wrapped around his little finger since the day she came into the world. Soon, he was packing up his home, wife, and my aunt and traveling to Louisiana to make this place his home.
Suddenly, I had family again. My parents Saturday night dinners now included not just my parents and brother’s family, but everyone. We would all squeeze around the table and laugh at my daughter as she giggled at his fart jokes or him calling her “snicklefritz.” My life felt whole. My grandpa was here all of the time, full of life and dreams and energy.
But not long after their move, my grandfather got what he and the doctor thought was pneumonia. On his birthday, however, he discovered he had lung cancer. At the time of the first PET scan, he had a few spots, designating him to Stage 4, but all hope was not lost. With chemo, radiation, and tumor removal, he had a pretty, rose-colored prognosis of a life. A life different, and with cancer, but still life.
That didn’t wind up being his story, however. From his diagnosis in October, he only managed to last five months. The cancer spread like wild fire. From the first PET scan that contained only a few spots to the second where he lit up like a Christmas tree, our hopes of healing were dashed. By March, I was spending my last days with him, caring for him in his home while on hospice care. I’m not even sure he knew the care I took of him during those times. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world.
For me, this was a huge storm. This was the first family member in my life I watched die. And not just die, but die painfully and unexpectedly. None of us saw this coming. And for a while, I struggled. I was angry at God. I was angry at his doctors for not catching this sooner. I was desperately trying to hold on to hope while my entire family assumed he was a goner. I was still holding tight for God to intervene with a miracle.
I struggled through his sickness and death, desperately trying to find something to praise. Gratitude. Praise stills the enemy, right? But I just couldn’t seem to figure out how. Until one day, I asked myself a question that changed my perspective.
How is this good?
In other words, I started listing off things that were good regardless of the bad. In every storm cloud, there is a silver lining if you just look hard enough.
This was good because…
…my grandpa had a full year of health and living close to the ones he loved and cherished most before he even got sick.
…his proximity to family allowed us all to be a part of his care, as well as care for my grandmother and aunt that he used to care for.
…we had the opportunity to get to know him even better through the time he lived close by.
…God granted my grandpa mercy in the highest form. The man who prided himself on his resolve, strength, independence and fight did not have to suffer long, trapped inside a sick and decaying body. The Lord took him swiftly home. And I praise God daily, not for the pain that this caused me, but the peace my grandfather had in this, wether he spoke it or not.
…it helped me appreciate family more. No matter how ridiculous or annoying they can be sometimes, you never know when they can be taken from you, and this was a lesson I needed to learn.
…I learned what amazing friends I have. The outpouring of love and compassion from them cemented their place in my life as spiritual family, always.
…I learned how important my husband is, to not only me, but my entire family. His role was so vital during my grandpa’s illness and final days, and I’ll never forget how he went out of his way to get my grandpa his favorite ice cream on his last lucid day that we together fed him.
Finding the gratitude in this situation did not make his passing easier. The grief and pain of the loss is still there – hiding behind my smiling face at family dinners, holidays or when we announced we were having a third girl (I could hear him yelling from heaven, “Don’t you know that’s not the right plumbing? Where’s your boy?” Ha!) But the gratitude helped me to find joy even in the storm. It helped me find peace when I first thought I would never sleep well again. It helped me to draw closer to God and allow Him to carry me through this trial.
We all have storms. Some large, some small but large in our world. To find gratitude, to be able to praise God in the midst can be so difficult. But training ourselves to say “this is good because…” can help us walk through it with a little more peace in our souls.
I know your storm is hard, momma. But have faith. Find the bright side. Look for the silver lining. Know that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Take hold of that, even when you can’t see how the good can come about, and celebrate the fact your Heavenly Father is holding you through it all.
If you’re in the midst of life’s storm, please reach out. I would love to pray with you and help you to find the good!