That reality sits heavy on us all, much like that sentence does when you read it.
Everyone is struggling with how to relate to me, and to our kids (grown ups) because our cuture does not typically deal with death as part of every day life. Our conventional conversation starters, or our polite phrases that acknowledge the presence of others, simply are not able to handle the reality of pain and loss. “How are you doing?” is expected to be answered by “Fine. How are you?”
When we are face to face with someone who has experienced a life altering loss, this question is inappropriate. If you really want to know how your friend is doing, you will use a different question that communicates your sincere interest.
However, there are many people with whom we come into contact every day that do not know about our loss, and are not interacting with us on that level. Culture teaches us to greet folks with “How are you today?” For many of those who endure major loss, this is a painful reminder of that loss.
Which brings me to having to find a new normal.
My life will never be the same as it was when Ann shared it with me. There are countless times that I think about something and want to share it with her. I have been doing work around the house and want to show it to her. I hear something on the news and want to talk it over with her. I read something in Scripture and want to hear her thoughts on it. But she is gone. We cannot talk about it. I cannot show it to her.
So I feel my loss fresh in each experience.
But God is still good. He is still accomplishing His redemptive work, by taking Ann home and by working in me now. Paul said it well in Philippians “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Ann is free of pain. She is safe where there is no more pain. No more sin. No more suffering. Somehow she is not suffering in spite of not being with her family. She will not dance at our grandchildren’s weddings. She really wanted to do that, but missing that is not causing her pain. That is a comfort for me.
God is redemptively at work in all that He does. He is doing good even if Ann is gone.
And my suffering is not unique. I live among a world of people who have suffered through my asking “How are you today?” I have not been aware of their hurt and suffering as I have interacted with them. I am now more sensitive to where people are before I speak to them now. I am listening more and speaking less. When I speak I hope it has more power and brings more good to those with whom I am talking.
I am also aware that I have the opportunity to help people see God’s redemptive care more clearly. God is still doing His kingdom building work as He has from creation until His return. Even my experiences, and my family’s experiences, are part of His kindgom work and He is using them to build His kingdom while we wait for our future glory.
The real issue for me as I live in a new normal, is to understand how my new story fits within the unchanged larger story of redemption and return.
That is a central part of my life now as I live without Ann and look forward to the glory to come.