Every Day | When Grief Lasts and Hope Remains

I AM THAT CAT
We used to have two cats, Pink and Sabrina. They were brothers, which isn’t obvious from their names. That’s what happens when you let your four-year-old and her best friend name your kittens.

Pink was a super-sized, black tuxedo who acted an awful lot like a dog. Sabrina was a smaller, gray version of Pink, and he snored like something akin to a chainsaw. Like most brothers, they played and they fought and they cuddled when sleepy.

One day, when they were about five years old, Pink and Sabrina (both indoor cats) escaped into the great wide open. Pink came home. Sabrina never did.

We were terribly worried and sad, but no one more than Pink. Every day, the burly cat would climb in an open window or press his nose against our screen door and call for Sabrina. His was a heartbreaking cry and you knew, you just knew, his meows meant, “Where are you? I’m still here. Come home. I miss you. Come home! I’m waiting!”

This went on for two years. For two years, Pink called and cried for his brother. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised – those kitties were together every single day of their lives. I imagine Pink felt as though he’d lost not just his brother, but a part of himself.

I am that cat.

Two years after my baby brother’s death, my soul still cries, “Where are you! I’m here. I miss you. Come home! I’m waiting!”

Just about everyone’s favorite picture of Derek

Like Pink, I expect my brother to come walking up the driveway at any moment – to tell me a funny story about his son or to ask me if I saw that great play Dustin Pedroia made in last night’s game.

THE WISDOM OF FRIENDS
I’m so grateful for two honest women who, in the weeks following my brother’s death, were kind enough to spare me the usual platitudes and instead told me the bald truth:

“No matter what anyone says, it doesn’t get easier, we just learn to cope better…”

I needed to hear those words. Sure, I’d lost people before – Kenny (Derek’s father and my stepfather who was like a father to me, died when I was 12 and Derek was two), grandparents who helped raise me, uncles and aunts and friends – so on some level, I knew their words were true. But I needed to hear them anyway. I needed to know that it’s ok that I’ll never be ok with this loss.

Proof for middle-school girls that there is hope…you will not always look this awkward. I promise.

In some ways, all losses are the same – you grieve for what you can’t have. But in other ways, each loss is different. The loss of a parent triggers life-altering insecurity – Who will take care of me? Who will love me unconditionally? Who will show me how to do this thing called life? While the loss of a friend slaps us awake to our own mortality and robs us of one of the few relationships that isn’t dictated by birth or marrying into a family, but is instead chosen.

Losing my brother, though, has been much more like losing a part of myself, as if someone carved a giant chunk of flesh out of my side. My brother was mine and I was his. He was my equal, my side-by-side, my co-conspirator in the unique craziness that is our family and no one else’s.

Ryan, Derek & me (Only God can put a family like this together!)

Like most siblings, we shared a sort of secret language of eye-rolls and smirks and headshakes. 

And even though we weren’t always together, it’s as if he was somehow, in every moment, standing right next to me. I knew he was there, just a phone call or short drive or the next holiday away. Only now he’s not.

And I am that cat.

The day following Derek’s death, I told my mom, “Now every day is a day he gets further and further away from me.”

My friends were right. Life hasn’t gotten any easier. In many ways, it’s harder.

Because now it’s been two years since I’ve heard his laugh…
two years since I’ve looked into those seawater eyes…
two years since we’ve watched a ball game together…
two years since he’s cracked a joke and made me laugh until I cry…
two years since I’ve held his hand, since we’ve played Wheel of Fortune, since he’s smothered me in a bear hug, since I’ve told him I love him.

I miss him now more than ever.

And I am that stupid cat crying in the window.

A STILL SMALL VOICE
Eventually, Pink stopped calling for Sabrina. Did he grow tired of trying? Did his broken heart figure out that Sabrina wasn’t coming home? Did he simply forget?

I’ve thought about this a lot lately: How long will my broken heart search for the missing piece? How many times must I tell myself Derek’s really gone? Will I become accustomed to life without him? Do I want to?

I worry, as I walk into a future without Derek, that I’m losing him again, that he’s growing smaller and smaller out on the horizon’s edge, and as the light and dust and distance obscure my vision, I fear that soon, he will disappear altogether. In those moments, the black abyss rushes at me and the hollow wind steals my breath and the air thick with emptiness presses down and… will the losing never end?!

Lashed by storms of grief and not comforted, I am a city in ruins.

But lately, in the midst of those ruins, when the silence settles like clear, fresh air, there is something else…a still, small voice…a voice that whispers to my soul:

Every day, every day, every day that passes,
every day that Derek gets further away from you,
every day is one day you get closer to seeing him again.
So don’t worry little one,
for while you are weeping at the door,
your brother calls to you:
“I’m right here. Don’t worry about me.
I’m already home.
And I’ll be right here, waiting for you,
every day.”

I am that cat crying at the door. But my brother waits for me. I am a city in ruins. But I am being rebuilt. Every day.

I love you baby brother. More than words can say. 


p.s. I’m about 99% sure that the next time I see Derek he is going to rank on me mercilessly for comparing our relationships to my cats. “I am that cat, Nichole? Really? That’s the line you went with? (followed by his high-pitched giggle)” Obviously, he won’t be swearing because we’ll be in heaven and all.

© Nichole Q Perreault

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Did God Really Say?

The following was written about an experience I had a couple of weeks before my brother passed away. It is still relevant now. 

One misty morning, when even the air seems gray and heavy with tears, I visit my old church. I climb to the top of the hill, and there surrounded by 12 boulders, I sit before the tall wooden cross in the damp crab grass, hugging my knees to my chest.

Birds chirp in the stillness. I wear the fog like a blanket and let the drizzling rain soak my shirt, the peace of this place soak my soul. It’s like coming home.

For a while, I rest in the quiet, the solitude, the home-ness. But I grow restless.

In a hospital bed not far away, my brother, my baby brother, fights for his life, stricken with an illness no 32 year-old father should experience. Every day for weeks we’ve prayed, we’ve stood vigil by his bed, taking shifts, helping him eat, holding his hand, washing his face, hoping against hope for a miracle.

Where is God in this? Who is God in this? Do I even want to know? If I keep looking, will I recognize the One I find? Or will I find that He is what I’ve always feared – a liar, a fraud, a cold, heartless trickster who lures us in with promises of life and goodness and joy and peace, only to laugh as we choke on the toxic apple?

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Thoughts from Inside the Storm

The pain burns, stings, like a thousand cuts carved into my skin, on my hands, my feet, across my chest, my stomach, my back. I can almost feel the blood oozing out like tears – my whole body weeps. My whole body weeps, shudders, shakes. I need to vomit. To expel this wretched wrong. This thing I can’t undo. This end. Which is an ending I never would have written but was written for me instead – for us all – but most of all, for him.

I am raw and broken. And sick. So sick. Only I can’t throw it up. There’s always more – more pain, more sorrow, more regret churning and burning its way through my soul.

Oh God. How can you ask me? How can you ask me to do this?

You color me in and then erase me. Drain me. To the dregs. And dregs are all I have left.

But You can’t blame me. I can blame me. I can be angry and live with regrets and could haves and should haves and would haves. But not You. Because You let this happen. You did. There’s no denying it.

So when I am nothing, when I am just sludge and scar tissue, You won’t ask why. You won’t dare look at me with surprise. You can’t possibly be surprised. You know the end from the beginning. You knew this. You knew this day. You knew this pain, too.

What if I can’t forgive You? What then? What if You and me are never the same? What have You done? Could You destroy “us”? Would You?

I think somewhere deep inside I know the answers, but today the pain is louder. Like the roaring winds of a hurricane. I hear nothing else. I feel nothing else. I am deaf to all but the screaming of my soul as I am peeled apart, layer by layer, flesh torn open and packed with salt.

Here, truth and comfort are merely words, tiny letters which, rearranged, can mean anything…or nothing at all. Meaningless. Meaningless. I spin around the eye of the storm. There is nothing but the pain.

And all I can do is wait.

——————————

For all our brothers, near, far and farthest. And to the One Brother who I need now more than ever: be my shelter from the storm.

Not Mine to Keep | A Poem of Love and Loss

Family Photo

Family Photo

For my girls:

Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh is this child
this woman
who now walks away from me

Always she is walking away…always, she is going

I wish she had come with a note,
like a present with a ribbon tied ’round her wrist
and a card attached
with the words:

“Just passing through.
I will come to you,
into your body, into your home,
into your wallet, your schedule, your dreams
and most of all
into your heart.
But I will not stay.
I’m just passing through.”

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Unanswered

I find the letter. Worn. Faded. The words still familiar.

Melodic whispers of another time, another place. Of two faces, close together, flushing beneath a thousand sunlit cherry blossoms. The blushing trees stretching endlessly in every direction, motionless…as if holding their breath, waiting, listening.

His soft, brown eyes already asked the question. Her heart beat out an answer. An answer. An answer.

He held her in his eyes. She touched his cheek. And for a moment they were one. They were forever. All that was, all that would be, colliding in perfect stillness…

Before I finish reading, I slip the yellowing paper back into its envelope.

I close my eyes and find that moment…crystalized, frozen in time…pink petals suspended in the air. No questions. No fear. No doubt.

No words left unspoken. No letters left unanswered.

Just him. And me. And my heart still beating out an answer. An answer. An answer.

Written in response to Writing 101: Be Brief 

If My Heart had Wings

Four Generations

Four Generations

Some days, I miss her so much I can almost feel her next to me, in front of me…taking my face in her papery hands and drawing me close to kiss my cheek.

She wasn’t always old, though.

We lived a number places together: the Green House in the hills of Granby, an apartment in Simsbury and then, later, a raised ranch further up the street. Wherever she was felt like home to me.

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Valkyrie | Chooser of the Slain

I wrote the following piece of fiction in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: Traces, in which we were encouraged to talk about leaving our mark. Interestingly enough, I posted on a similar topic in January. As WWC posts are supposed to be written specifically for the challenge, I have created something new (below).  If you would like to read my non-fiction thoughts on the subject, feel free to visit YOLO or YOLOL | A Post for the New Year.

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Valkyrie | Chooser of the Slain

The Valkyrie's Vigil by Edward Robert Hughes

The Valkyrie’s Vigil by Edward Robert Hughes

With her finger, she traces the engraved letters, one at a time.

The stone feels cold. Cold and hard. And final.

A-R-D-E-N

That’s all. The rest had worn away. It was a long time ago for this world that forgets so quickly. And yet for her…

He was young and strong and strong-willed. She loved him instantly. She watched him for months before he noticed her. And even then, only because she wanted him to. His training was over and he would leave soon for the war. She knew she shouldn’t, but she did it anyway.

He sat alone at the bar, staring into his drink, his right leg shaking anxiously. She’d been studying him long enough to know that he wasn’t worried; he was impatient and excited, but not worried. Like so many others, he was eager for battle, for a chance to make a difference, to give his life for what he believed in.

She, however, had seen too many wars. Not dozens or hundreds, but thousands. Thousands upon thousands. Her heart, drenched and heavy with the blood of a million men, felt light when she looked at him – his dark hair and bronzed skin offset by bright, green eyes. His earthiness, his humanity pulled her toward him.

He started when he saw her. It was as if she had just appeared in the seat next to him. He stared, speechless, at first. Her beauty…it was otherworldly. Golden-red hair tumbled in waves over her bare, fair shoulders and her eyes were the most unusual purple-grey. He felt himself relax into her smile, as if he’d known her all his life.

 “You smell like lavender,” he breathed.

“I…what?” she laughed, almost embarrassed.

“You just…I’m sorry…I just,” He let out a sigh and smiled. “Hi.”

“Hi,” she smiled back.

Three days was all they had. Three days.

Confident and maybe a little naive , as the young so often are, he kissed her tears and promised to come back for her. As he walked away, she let him think he was leaving her. Let him think she’d be there when he returned…if he returned.

Sometime later, he saw her again. She’d been watching, as she was destined to do. In the fighting and the fury, among the gunfire and the screaming, she glided, seeing but unseen. Watching, waiting.  And choosing. She had no choice but to choose.

Just as she brushed her hand over the terrified eyes of a soldier too young to be a man, closing them forever, she heard him. His screams tore into her. His humanity, again, drawing her to him, above him, by his side.

She understood instantly, as her kind always does, that his wounds, while not fatal, were devastating. And so she chose.

He lay on his back, his face waxing pale as the agony began to overwhelm him. But his eyes, darting back and forth, searching the gun-metal sky, glistened green like springtime. He began to call her name.

And then, because she wanted him to, he saw her. His anxious eyes settled on her face and his body slackened. With her fingertips, she brushed the hair away from his face, so he could see her better.  And at her touch, his breathing calmed.

“You…smell like…lavender,” he whispered with a playful smile.

She intended to laugh, but a sob escaped in its place.

“Hey. Don’t cry. It’s OK. See? I promised you I’d come back. And here I am.”

Swallowing her tears, she replied, “And here you are.”

She gazed into his eyes for a long moment before resting a hand on either side of his bloodstained face. She leaned into him and touched her lips to his. They were cold, as she knew they would be.

Photo by Erica

Photo by Erica | Click to view in orginal post

But hers were warm. Warm and soft and gentle and painless and….

…for her, it seems like days, hours even, though more than a hundred years and thousands of battles and countless souls have passed. Yet, she would never forget, could never forget.

She holds the lavender close and, taking a deep breath, fills herself with the earthiness. Then, just as she positions the purple and green flowers beneath his name, she’s gone.

 

Weekly Writing Challenge: Traces

  1. Archive of Comments | Arlen Shahverdyan. Author’s Blog
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  3. Traces | Kansa Muse
  4. Breadcrumbs | Master Of Disaster
  5. The Art of War | K beezy is viral
  6. Wet cement | Margaret Rose Stringer
  7. She was a memory | thinkerscap
  8. Traces: DP Challenge | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
  9. Arrogance Insults My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
  10. The Lavender Flowers | Stories From My Mind
  11. Trace | MindMeld
  12. Lavender and Rain | So This Is Writing?
  13. Like Flowers on a Grave | loveletterstoaghost
  14. Day Twenty-Four: Veteran At Death | Clearing My Voice
  15. it’s veterans day | Musings of a Random Mind
  16. Traces of You | UP! With Jesus
  17. Weekly Writing Challenge: Traces [Week 1] | Goss Family Blog
  18. DP Weekly Challenge/Traces: The Things He Left Behind | Between Madness & Euphoria
  19. Weekly Writing Challenge; Traces | terry1954
  20. Remembering You | Lucky Number Devin
  21. Lilac | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
  22. My Life in Stuffing, Words, and Paint: Searching for an Identity | The Positivity Project
  23. 12/11 Weekly Writing Challenge: Traces | Family, Photos, Food & Craft
  24. Weekly Writing Challenge: Traces | imaginations
  25. Traces of my soul | મન ની વાત
  26. Gone fishin’ | Thin spiral notebook
  27. in the middle of | y
  28. Ode To Something Great | The Dread Pirate Buttercup
  29. A Chinese Dragon in an English Garden | An Upturned Soul
  30. A Father’s Legacy | A mom’s blog
  31. Traces Left Behind | Rose with Thorns
  32. Traces | Weekly Writing Challenge | A chain of thoughts…
  33. Maybe, just maybe… | mostlytrueramblings
  34. We All Need Band-Aids | Broken Light: A Photography Collective
  35. Weekly Writing Challenge: Traces | Diary of a light worker
  36. The only polite thing to do … | Empressnasigoreng’s Blog
  37. WWC – Traces “A Family Affair” | aliabbasali
  38. The Last Bouquet | Home’s Cool!
  39. Trace. — Souvenirs of His Soul. | mommyverbs
  40. Wooden Spoons | lemon lime follies
  41. The Photogragh | The Crone’s Apprentice
  42. Message From The Flowers | conscientiouseconomist
  43. Traces of Her | 1st Check Off The Bucket List
  44. The mark of our time | Ernest Marlin
  45. Whats a Non-Traditional Meta For? | knappermiester
  46. Traces Left Behind | Perceptive Pot Clueless Kettle
  47. Top 10 for When You’re Pregnant | Fruit Loops & Foie Gras
  48. Traces | Insanitree
  49. My Blog isn’t My Mark | Avoiding Neverlan
  50. Friendly ghosts | LynnSlyWrites
  51. I remember you. (Wed Fiction) | Tales of a slightly stressed Mother!
  52. Summers 13D | Keigh Ahr
  53. The Graveyard Shift | S. J. Paige
  54. A Gift For Someone in Need | A Day in the Life of Anything that Happens to Catch My Interest
  55. Weekly Writing Challenge: Tracing Family | Making Life an Art
  56. Traces| Leaving Your Mark | Words from the heart
  57. Weekly Writing Challenge: Traces | Write Through Life
  58. The Sticks You Left Behind | eternal Domnation
  59. Every mom’s Jean Valjean moment. | jenny’s lark
  60. Evergreen Remembrance | Simply be, simply me
  61. The Mark of Me in Three Words | Mary J Melange
  62. Leaving Traces of Myself | tuckedintoacorner
  63. Riding With Peppers, The Video | A’A IN PARADISE
  64. Love Left Behind | Holoholo Girls
  65. Ligon’s Store | Ron Mayhew’s Blog
  66. Mosaic | Chopstix for Six
  67. Weekly Writing Challenge: Traces | roastbeefandrakija
  68. “Adding to the cabbage patch cause it looks like you swallowed a watermelon…” | Fruit Loops & Foie Gras
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  72.  
     

In the Mirror

The following post was written for the Weekly Writing Challenge of WordPress.com.

Every scar holds a memory.

When I was little, my mother used to wince at the sight of it. 42 stitches from my scalp to my eyebrow. There are others…smaller ones…including the one inside my upper lip. Sometimes, I still run my tongue up and down the jagged ridge that cuts from the edge of my lip to where the skin meets my gums.

The memory is my mother’s, not mine. An empty aquarium shattering over the hard skull of her 14 month old daughter. Blood. Deep red. Heavy.

Washing glass from her little one’s hair while she waited for the ambulance.

“No time!” the police officer shouts. “I’ll drive you in my car.”

My father screaming, blaming. The officer leaves him behind.

Doctors whisking her baby girl into surgery.

“Will she be okay?”

“We’ll have to wait and see.”

Wait and see…and be questioned by protective services. It’s the standard protocol, they tell her.

Wait with empty arms as her little girl sleeps a dreamless sleep in a cold, sterile room down the hall. Wait as they pick glass splinters from her baby’s soft skin, as they stitch the broken, delicate flesh together. Wait and see the new face. The face of a memory she can never forget.

A memory I can never remember.

In the mirror, I see the only face I’ve ever known. Scars from a memory I own but cannot find.

I don’t remember my father screaming or the officer leaving him behind. I don’t remember my father much at all. But he left a scar too. Sometimes I can feel it – running along the outside of my heart -the jagged edges I sewed together to close up the cavity he left when he left us behind. It’s not a pretty scar. I was only a child, not a surgeon. But I needed to stop the bleeding…to keep the life from spilling out of me…to stop the world from getting in.

Like the scars on my face, this heart-scar is a part of me. It’s the only heart I’ve ever known, shaped by so many memories: memories I love and memories I loathe, memories I can’t remember and memories I never made at all, but could have, had he stayed.

Scarred hearts beat funny sometimes. And they ache…for what was taken and what was never let in.

Looking in the mirror, I ask The Surgeon, “Will she be okay?”

He gently rests a hand – a hand carrying scars of his own – on my heart. Knowingly, his eyes smile into mine as he whispers, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Answers

“I am intellectually empty and vacant.” Those are the words one minister spoke to his congregation last Sunday. Not as a man without hope, but as one honestly acknowledging that he had come to the end of himself. There was nothing that the intellectual, rational part of his being could do with the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut.

We are all a little desperate today.

The following, somewhat paraphrased, quote from the movie Love Comes Softly, keeps running through my mind:

“When we’re hurting, we spend an awful lot of time looking for answers, when what we really need is comfort.”

I believe we need that truth now more than ever.

Now, as the shock wears off and the anger surfaces. Now, while we search for someone to punish. Now, when we are grasping for reason. Clinging to frayed hopes for humanity. Now, as we race to protect our children and ourselves. As we try to control the uncontrollable, rationalize the irrational and console the inconsolable.

Now – when we are searching, desperately searching for answers, we must remember where to look.

I have wrestled with pain before – pain that the world can do nothing to ease. I have searched for answers.  I have railed against God. Pounded on His chest and screamed, “WHY?!!!”

Then God asked me: “What answer would satisfy you?”

So, I imagined the God of the universe standing before me and saying, “Nichole, you have suffered because ______.” But every word I used to fill in the blank fell short of my expectations. No answer sufficed. Every time – every time – my response was, “Well, you’re God. Surely you could have done it another way.”

Some pain is too deep, some things too extraordinary to understand.

20 children shot dead and hundreds more traumatized, scarred for life. Surely there was another way!

When Job lost everything he had – family, health, business, friends, position in society – he cried out to the Lord for an answer. The Lord answered out of the storm. But probably not in the way Job expected:

“Brace yourself like a man;
    I [God] will question you [Job],
    and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
 while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?”

Can you just imagine His booming voice, like the rushing wind or crackling thunder? Continuing like that for several more chapters, (Job 38-41) God’s answer hardly seems like an answer at all. It rather seems like…a rebuke.

But what answer would have satisfied Job? Would he have actually found comfort in knowing that God allowed Satan to sift him like wheat?

God is so good. He knew what Job needed better than Job himself.

Instead of speaking to Job’s intellect, God reveals Himself to Job’s heart. And Job responds:

“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know….

My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

God didn’t give Job an answer. God WAS the answer.

Finally, Job surrenders. He stops his frantic search. He lays down his quiver of accusations. Throws himself on the ground and vomits up the bile of his bitter, grieving heart. He has seen the Lord and at last, he rests. At last, he finds comfort.

Grief, sorrow, pain. Harbor these waters of affliction and your wells will turn bitter and run dry. But let them flow, let your tears rain down, seek comfort in the arms of your Father, and there you will find the waters of life. (Oddly enough my blog last month was about grieving. You can read it here if you would like to explore this topic further.)

To my grieving fellow Connecticutians and Americans, what arrows are in your quiver? Strung on your bow? Acts of retribution? Making someone pay? Judgment? Or acts of morality? Giving financially to victims? Social activism? Or acts of self-protection? Fear? Isolation?  Not all of these things are bad, but do them – even the “good” ones – without receiving comfort and you will be like Job, like I once was, perhaps even like the perpetrators you despise – weary, bitter, empty and isolated.

Can you admit, like the minister did, that you are intellectually vacant? Can you fall at the feet of the One and Only Answer you will ever need? Can you let Him be enough? Because He Is. He Was. He Will Always Be, the only Answer that satisfies. The One in whom all questions fade away.

This is one of my favorite songs and as music often does, it says more in 3 minutes than I could in a thousand years.

Healing Rain

I Had a Dream….no really, I did!

I was with my youngest daughter, Christina, and a friend. We stood in a vast, barren landscape of dry, scraggly hills covered with natural debris. I didn’t look at the sky but it must have been sunless, because everything was gray, ashen.

I am bent over a pile of withered, cracked branches – branches much longer than I am tall and about the thickness of a baseball bat. The branches are so dry, they’ve begun to turn white. I kneel down, curious. Lifting up a few branches to see what lies beneath, I notice they’re stuck in some sort of gray mire. An old riverbed! The mire reeks of decay. 

I lift my head. To my left are three dead owls.

Nothing lives here.

I stand and look around. I see now – the hills and valleys are actually the stony banks and dry beds of countless rivers and creeks. Each one filled with desiccated branches.  Everywhere my eyes scan: parched, lifeless land.

A moment later, I am at an old farmhouse. Not mine. My grandmother’s? My mother’s? I think we’re on vacation. My entire family is there. Even my grandparents, who’ve long since passed.

My grandma’s in the kitchen. There’s a child sleeping on an over sized chair. Is it Christina? Or am I seeing myself?

I step out the screen door and the sky looms heavy, oppressive, dark. Drizzle dots my skin. I sigh and think, “Ugh, rain. Another family vacation day ruined.” Then I remember the dry riverbed. I put my hand out to catch the drizzle. “No. Not enough to make a difference.”

Next, I am standing outdoors. Christina and I are by the street, facing the white farmhouse. She seems younger in my dream.  My friend stands in the yard, facing us. Behind her there’s a little vegetable garden. And I have a sense that my grandma is watching us through the embroidered café curtains of the kitchen window.

It starts to rain. And pour. And pour. For a moment I am disappointed. Rain on vacation.

I look at the ground beneath my feet. Mud. So much water the ground can’t hold. My skin, my hair – soaked. What a mess! What a…

I remember: The dry riverbeds. The barren wasteland. This rain – it’s falling there too!

I turn my palms heavenward and lift my face to the rain. Rain will quench the parched land and fill thirsty riverbeds. Perhaps the rain did not come when I wanted, as I expected, but it came and it is good.

What do you do with a dream like that? What do you make of it? I would love to hear your thoughts. It has been a couple of weeks and God is still speaking to me about it.

I should tell you that this dream came on the night of Tuesday, November 6 – Election Night 2012. Hmmmm….

I should also tell you that our church is in the midst of a spiritual emphasis we call “Pray for Reign.” Together, we are praying for God to reign in our lives, individually and corporately, and that His spirit would rain down on us and on our land.

Back when Pray for Reign began, I fell in love with this song Waiting for the Rain by Misty Edwards:

“..I’m waiting in the desert, just waiting for the rain…”  

This weekend, I had the privilege of being with a friend while she grieved. As I watched her cry, God gave me a sort of vision: I glimpsed dry riverbeds, like the ones in my dream, deep in her soul. And they were being watered by her tears. The beauty of it took my breath away. The eyes of my heart began to see…to understand grief differently:

Loss of any kind leaves an empty space in our hearts. If we hold on to that loss or run away from it, that hole becomes an dry, decaying ditch. What water is left, sours from the rotting branches of bitterness – those worthless things we use to fill our hollow spaces. Then it happens again…and again, so that one day, we look around at the expanse of our souls, and see acres upon acres devoured by loss. An emaciated wasteland.

Nothing lives here.

“…oh but I won’t leave this desert, until I see the rain…”

More often than not, God won’t bring back what was lost – people die, dreams are dashed, life changes, friends move away, bodies grow weak. All this life…it’s just a letting go.

I have wrestled with this. I have burned with rage. I have desperately asked. I have silently cried. Then came peace – or at least the hope of peace: Nichole, every empty cavern, every hollow grave, is a place for Me to enter. Everything I take away, creates more room for Me.

This life is loss. I can rail against reality – rail against Him – or I can accept what’s true and give Him space to rain…to reign.

“… I can see the clouds gatherin’ now…are you ready…are you ready for the rain?”

Are you ready for the rain? When God sends it, will you let it fall?

Will you?

Because the rain that fills our dry riverbeds will not fall from the sky. The rain that soaks our shriveled souls, will fall from our eyes. Our very eyes.

Grief is a gift from God. A well to the deep healing waters of heaven. Let Him rain.

Lament your loss. Mourn what’s missing. Cry out in your pain.

I had a dream. God reigned.

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19