I don't know how to grieve. People grieve differently, of course, and there is no perfect way to do it. Even so, the process I follow, the ways I express my grief seem inadequate.
I feel like a child standing on a street corner with a lost look on my face. When I first heard the news I could only think to say these two things: "but I just saw her" and "oh God, oh God, oh God." We wander blindly through grief, not knowing where the path will lead us, unsure what to say or do, stuck fast in disbelief.
We did just see Julie, on Sunday. She was her usual delightful self - smiling, helping set the altar for communion, singing in the choir, talking about her kids. Who could imagine Mt. Zion without Julie Klutz and why would anyone have done so? Her grandmother lived to be 97; surely Julie had many more good years of life left.
But she didn't. On Friday she collapsed, went into a coma, and died, sending a whole community - church members, neighbors, friends of her sons, her family and her own friends - into shock. It didn't seem possible. It didn't seem real. It didn't make sense -- still doesn't.
I don't know how to grieve. Mostly I am numb and sad. My attention may be diverted by a task at work but as soon as it is finished I remember: "Julie is dead." When I awaken after a night's sleep, feeling the heaviness within, the thought comes quickly: "Julie is gone." On the outside I appear calm, normal, but inside a tiny "me" is beating her fists on the walls and screaming "no! no! no! It isn't fair!" I would cry if I could but the tears only come at inopportune moments - during a meeting, in worship when I'm giving the announcements or trying to sing. I don't know how to grieve.
Grief comes as it will, expresses itself on its own terms. One friend can't eat; several friends are having trouble sleeping. Julie's family is surrounded by people, come to offer their condolences. They get to talking, remembering, even laughing. But when the house is empty and it's time for bed, 'reality' (as Austin put it) smacks them in the face, punches them in the gut all over again.
I don't know how to grieve, but I do know this - we grieve together. We check on each other and talk even when we don't know what to say. We play music to relieve the pain and share special songs with our friends. We fix food and bring it to those in mourning. We encourage one another to rest, to eat, to know we are all still loved. We come together for worship to be comforted, to cry and lament, to hear the Word, to hold each other up. We do not do this grieving alone but with each other; together we keep going. And we remember - her smile, her kindness, her laughter, her goodness, her friendship. Yes, we remember.
"For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die...
a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted...
a time to weep and a time to laugh...
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing..." (Ecclesiastes chapter 3)
Now is the time to grieve, and grieve, and grieve. It is also the time to live, giving thanks to God for the life of Julie Klutz, for each other, for the nearness of the Savior and for the promise of life everlasting.