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Re-formatting my mind


Four years later we're still learning about grief. Our coping systems are engineered to help us find a way through the dreaded pains of loss. One of them is to anticipate and then pass the mile-markers on the grief cycle: denial and isolation; anger; bargaining; depression; and, acceptance. When we don't see them in the rear-view mirror at some point, we begin to doubt our own humanness. Something must be wrong with me if I haven't passed through a couple of those predictable stages.

It's strange how we pick up things from unusual places. Harriet and I were watching a detective mystery on Netflix the other night. One of characters was a bereavement counselor. In a candid moment with a client he said something like, "You'll never accept the death of your loved one. You'll never get over it. There is no new normal. You must learn to live your life without the presence of this special person". That made about as much sense as the Hallmark sentiment we usually peddle when people are experiencing those dark nights of the soul.

So, four years later we haven't accepted Brian's murder because it remains unsolved. At this point we haven't found the new normal because there isn't one. My counselor Dr. Chip Green told me once that "normal" is a setting on our washing machine. So, we aren't even looking for a new normal or life as it used to be. We do understand the finality of death, the brevity of life, and many other lessons about the mysteries of grief. Now, we're trying to re-program our thought life so we can learn to live this life without Brian's physical presence in it.

Learning to grieve as a believer involves re-formatting my thought patterns. What does the Bible say about death, and do I really believe it?

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Psalms 115:16, ESV

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in

the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from

their labors, for their deeds follow them!

Revelation 14:13, ESV

Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at

home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8, ESV

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God

is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself

will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and

death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain

anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4, ESV

The lesson of the past year for me is to re-arrange the order of my thoughts when Brian is in them. The new order of things may be---

First thought | thankful for Brian's salvation and that he is in heaven eternally.

Second thought | thankful for for his life and for being his father.

Third thought | thankful for many wonderful memories of our life with him.

Fourth thought | thankful for the people who shared his life.

Fifth thought | a prayer for our family as we live without him.

That brings me to the picture. This particular drawing came to Harriet in the weeks following Brian's murder. They were especially hard weeks and we were really struggling. We can't remember how that picture crossed her computer screen. But, it instantly registered with her. The man in the picture, the one being embraced by Jesus, bears a striking resemblance to Brian. We imagined that scene when he took his last breath on America Street. It was another "grace ambulance" to help us through those days. A copy of that picture is framed on the wall in front of my desk and brings comfort every single day. It is an object lesson in re-formatting thoughts. Then again, a picture is worth a thousand words.

My prayer is that the thought communicated in that picture will be the first thought in my mind when I think of him. First. Thought.

Then, and only then, will I be able to learn to live without his physical presence in this life.

It's just re-formatting my mind. First things first.

But seek first the Kingdom of God....

Matthew 6:33, ESV


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