You know, when I post about joy and miracles, I never want to give the impression that I've got this grief thing all figured out. I do have joy...that deep down, rugged kind of joy I've spoken of, and I do believe that God's will was fulfilled in the very brevity of Hannah's life. But that doesn't mean that I don't struggle daily with the pain of losing my oldest daughter. There are reminders of her absence everywhere and in everything I do. Her bedroom remains the same as I described it in a post several months ago. Her room is at the end of our long hallway, and so I rarely go back there...there's no need. I don't need to make sure she's up in the mornings, there are no clean clothes to bring to her room, and no "tucking in" is necessary. I would like to at least start keeping her bedroom door open, just so it wouldn't be so closed-up and dark back there, but if I do, our dog likes to go hang out under her bed and chew on things she's not supposed to chew on. So her room remains dark and secluded. Her clothes are still hanging in the closet (other than a few items that Bethany took over), her diary is still on the shelf, and her Bible is still beside her bed. Her letter jacket, with "Hannah Joy" on the back and "Class of 2010" on the sleeve, is hanging on her bedpost.
I made the mistake of going into our local party store the other day, on a quest to get balloons to mark the finish line of a 5K race that I was helping with. The store was full of "Class of 2010" graduation party supplies...plates, napkins, hats, blowers, balloons, yard signs...you name it, they had it. I just ducked my head, set my jaw, got my errand done, and got out of there! And it's not just me facing these struggles...
Bethany came home from school yesterday and began crying as she told me about an assembly she had attended. It was about the dangers of drinking and driving, and the speaker asked the students to raise their hands if they had a brother or a sister. She said she felt like everyone in the room raised their hands but her, and she didn't know if she should raise her hand or not. Then the speaker asked them to raise their hands if they ever fought with their brother or sister. I know it sounds unbelievable...but Bethany and Hannah really didn't fight. Oh, they picked at each other...mostly just making each other laugh...but they didn't really fight like so many siblings do. Then the speaker asked them how they would feel if they lost their brother or sister. Well, that part just about did her in...I can only imagine how difficult this situation was for her. And last night, as I often do, I held her as she sobbed...she was just missing having her sister to talk to about school, boys, friends...all that kind of stuff that sisters share. I wish I could make it all better for her, but I can't.
Brad is the principal at the school that Hannah attended (and that Bethany does attend), so he has to deal every day with her absence at school. She would often give him a hug between classes, and he would always visit with her at lunch. It's difficult every day for him to walk into that building knowing that she will not be there. I wish I could fix that for him, but I can't. And next Friday is prom...something she would have really been looking forward to. As the high school principal, he should be at the prom, but thankfully, our assistant superintendent has offered to take his place this year. We're going to go to a family reunion next weekend instead, and just kind of get away from the whole thing.
So we struggle. Even though God has given us a tangible peace, and a remarkable understanding of His work through Hannah's life and death...we struggle daily. It's not easy, and it hurts. As I consider these daily struggles, I'm reminded of what Paul says in II Corinthians 12:9-10 after pleading with God to remove his thorn in the flesh, "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Delight? Nope...I haven't made it to delight yet...but I am glad I don't have to depend on my own strength to get me through!