Grief ... (but only in this world)..

I had an exchange with a dear-hearted one, who had just lost a beloved one... many face this, and perhaps others will profit from this shared experience...

Dear Mr. Miller:

Apr 14:
You may not remember me, but we corresponded briefly a couple of years ago. (I'm in your mailbag under "Florence, Indian lady living in Hong Kong) When I wrote to you earlier, I was going through a bad time, and your responses helped - very much. Strange how words from a stranger can be so meaningful!

Being a complete and utter, 'word person', I am writing now in the hope that words will help me again. I've just had my first taste of REAL pain, and it is so bitter. So BITTER.
You see, my father passed away two days ago, on Apr 12, 2006, after a three month illness (heart attack, followed by bypass surgery, followed by multiple strokes). He had suffered two major strokes about 10 years ago, but recovered and was leading such a normal life that his death did not seem...well, possible.

Today, after the funeral, trying to sleep and trying NOT to think and remember certain things - I find that until today, I did not know what misery meant. Did not know that its possible to feel so...well, joyless, and still go on living.  Most of all, I did not know that grief would be like this.. not just sadness and loss, but ANGUISH - horrible, helpless anguish. I've had sad things happen to me before, but nothing like this... this all-over misery thats has taken over my heart and mind and spirit.

Anyway, its close to midnight here, and I don't much feel like calling on friends/relatives etc. for comfort... tired of the well-meant, but really all wrong speeches from lovely caring people along the lines of "Be strong, the Lord is with you..." (and variations), "He was a man of God, his works will live on.." (and variations)... Why did not ONE of these Christian people - dear people all - say "Cheer up, in about 50 years, 70 tops, you'll see him again" ? That's the ONLY thing I needed - and still need - to hear - but only if said with absolute assurance, not in the lip-service-y way I've heard it said at funeral services. If I asked a bunch of fellow-Christians "Do you absolutely, positively believe that I'll see my father again?" I suspect the response would be more on the lines of 'the bible teaches us that' and less of the immediate ringing look-me-in-the-eye "YES'.

For me, I could never find comfort in the past...I have a kink in my brain that can see it only in the future.-:-)  Tributes, memorials and things like that which deal with the life that just ended just mean so little to me, but seem to help my mother and other family members a great deal. Woe is me, eh? :-)

And this is only day 2!

(Hmm. Apparently, this is where the Reasonable Christian Adult gives way to Petulant Whining Child. Sorry.)

So, that's my one need right now - or the one clear one from the churning mess that is me at this moment.

My father used to say, half-jokingly that the symbol for Christianity should be not (only) the cross, but the empty tomb. From where I'm sitting right now, makes sense!
But why I am laying all this on you, Mr. Miller?? I'm not sure. Maybe because I was desperately looking for comfort - for my MIND - (my soul is okay, considering that if it actually exists, its in Gods hands, and if it doesn't, well, then the point is moot) - and then I remembered your site, and your daughter Britt.

i remembered your account of how she passed away. And I remember how we stood around my father's bed two days ago waiting for the 'flatline'. Hence this utterly selfish, rambling, incoherent, pointless letter.
I find I MUST write about who my father was, I realise this is an imposition, but IS a letter, not a conversation..and so you can skip bits here and there, no? :-)

My father was an theologian of some repute, his books are textbooks in several seminaries and theological colleges... and he was also a man of extraordinary intellect. He started out as an engineer and mathematician, then was called by the Lord to the ministry. His parents, who had sacrificed a great deal for his education, not happy at this decision. To get away from the pressure and constant upbraidings, my father spent a year living in a cave in a hillside, just to confirm if it really was God's voice he was hearing. When sure, he chucked his very successful engineering career, started studying theology, became a pastor etc.. went to Germany to pursue a doctorate, earned it (in German!) and returned to professoring, preaching, writing.

Growing up as his daughter, I found it reassuring to see that Christian faith need not necessarily be 'blind' - it is NOT merely an 'opiate for the masses' - it can also be for those of us blessed/cursed with the NEED to reason and analyse and question and define.

So, Mr. Miller, once again I turn to your site..because it makes SENSE.

So yes, after a lovely 3-years of getting reacquainted with Him, here i am with guts and blood all over the floor again.

Apr 18:
For some reason, didn't send the above self-pity-party-on-paper.

i'm feeling better. Found the riseagain.html page on your site. I took a printout, and I now I can breathe again. I knew that all those amazing verses existed, but didn't know where (to my shame!), and definitely did not have the energy to go looking for them..So to have them - those exact verses - literally served up to me on a plate like that.. wow. Thank you, Lord. And thank you, Mr. Miller.

I'm still weeping ('crying' just doesn't cover it, does it?:-)) for my father, but the ...horror, (was your faith strong enough to NOT feel this, I wonder) is gone. The POISONOUS part of my gone, at least for now. Did you feel this, Mr. Miller? (If its not too intrusive a question...its just that I would like to know what to expect. )

Conclusion: something or someone - I'm guessing that mysterious Someone called the Holy Spirit in his role as Comforter - is working very hard to keep me afloat.

My father once said:
"Love is not a' feeling'. It is a conscious decision to work for the highest good of the other person - no matter what the cost." I'm begining to understand what he meant.
I wonder now how non-Christians get through grief and bereavements. I mean, even with the promises of eternal life (in which I have aboiut 95% faith about 95% of the time), I'm STRUGGLING! How do they make it who believe that death is the end? Is the stuff about celebrate-the-person's-life and they-will-live-on-in-our-memories etc. etc. enough?

Well, some buried compassion is kicking in now.. so will end this merciless document. :-)

I know you're a busy man, and if you read even parts of this... Thank you.

I think.. after all the above verbiage, I finally know what I wanted to say to you: Thank You for your site - it reminded me that I have a Father whose love will not let me go.
God bless,

I had to write back:

Of course I remember you! your beautiful word choices, brilliant honesty, delightful picture... I have thought of you often, especially as I still correspond with Rachel as well...
I am in the middle of something right now so I cannot write, but wanted to send you this--from Britt's funeral--in case you haven't heard it. It is ME, speaking on that day, and WHY the hope before us can be expressed in anguish...
but I know your pain, my friend--the hole, the sense of almost violation by death--it just doesn't BELONG here--never leaves me.
my quiet prayers (and co-tears) are with you, Florence... more later, glenn
[And I learned a long time ago that you need an EAR and a fellow-sufferer for this time, and NOT someone to 'fix you' with "sound advice"...]
Then I had a few minutes (later) to write some more ....

dear, dear Florence-- there are no real words for such pain, I have discovered... it's like in those movies (Sci-fi, Fantasy) where some evil villain hooks someone up to some IV-type machine which draws their life 'essence' out of them slowly... their mind is alert, but the heart is slowly drained of vitality, substance, 'thinkness', and depth... there is nothing but thought, terror, and lifelessness... it's like a really sharp blow to the lower stomach, that removes all strength to breathe or move... the only energy present seems to be that which is used in feeling the PAIN--there are no other feelings but abject numbness, shock, hollowness.
I want to make a few rambling comments on your touching letter below...
1. sometimes strangers are the ONLY SAFE PLACE in times like this--there are no 'appearances', no precedents, no things-that-later-have-to-be-undone (or unsaid)... there is freedom in a distant fellow-hearted brother/sister, that is sometimes difficult to have with well-meaning sweeties close by
2. yeah, tributes/memorials don't/didn't help me either... but as I mentioned in that WAV file I sent you, I am holding our good-hearted Lord ACCOUNTABLE for me hugging my little one again... a couple of times a month, as I pray for her friends she left behind, I remind Him of His commitment to me--that I didn't want to have any little ones, to lose them in death forever... I use the phrase "I am holding on to your skirt, and I won't let you go, Lord, til You bring us back together again"... That's the image I borrowed (smile) from 1 Kings 4.8-37 (the Shunammite's son)... as she refused to let go of Elisha, so I refuse to let go of my Loyal-to-His-Word Loving Lord... Grab hold of His skirt too, dear sister, 'til He visit us' with ReUnion!
3. thanks for sharing about your precious Father... I look forward to meeting him soon (smile, at least sooner than you, and telling him how his daughter honored him, loved him, and walked with our Lord in such a valley of anguish/grief... That she saw the ministry of the Spirit in keeping her afloat, that she had the faith to hold God at his word... that she was honest with the pain... He will be proud, and he will have known that same loss before in his life (in some way), and will appreciate the testimony it makes about his little one's spirit.
4. when you mentioned the difficulty of his choice relative to his family, I thought to myself how I would have LOVED to have seen the look on his face as he saw our Jesus' welcoming arms for the first time in Heaven! Can you imagine his joy and explosive fullness at seeing that incandescence of love, and hearing the EAGER heart of God say "well done, my good and faithful one...". Wow.
5. and I can see now His great love for you, Florence, in His providence to you... He sought you out 3 years ago for many reasons, but one of which was no doubt to prepare your confidence and heart for this necessary anguish... can you imagine what this would be like WITHOUT your re-established faith! (the ancients carved "No hope" on some of the tombs of their lost ones--I cannot bear to think of what that was like... it is a nitemare enough to endure the separation for a few years...) and without a relationship with Him that you can 'presume upon' in tears, and whining, and anger, and hurt? As He holds you in His arms, while you slam your fists into His chest in pain and hurt (but not malice)? I spent many a night in that place with Him, always confident that my honest cries were not 'offensive' to Him, but were met with His tears for me as well... Even now I am there several times a year... I liken this grief/hurt to a cold, seething, treacherous ocean, upon which I float on a tiny one-person air-mattress. I am okay while floating, but every now and then the TINIEST THING will throw me off this air mattress and I will be sucked under, carried away-and-under by cold-hearted swift currents, struggling to get to the surface to get air, and watching the storm carry my little air-mattress rapidly away from me... and I have to struggle to swim to it, constantly being sucked under, constantly eviscerated by loss, until God eventually gets me back to it...and life goes on for a little while longer...
6. I personally don't think 'weeping' is strong enough either--I prefer something like "Loud groanings" (that's closer to my experience). Something like the Ps22 Cry of Dereliction on the Cross, maybe... for me, it's often just a groan-scream (in private) into a pillow or something handy... BUT THIS GROAN WILL TURN INTO A DIFFERNT TYPE OF SCREAM WHEN I SEE HER AGAIN!!!! IT WILL BE LOUDER, UN-MUFFLED, and FILLED WITH TRIUMPH-greater-than-the-VIOLATION!  The loss was 'proportional' to the love, and the joy will DWARF the loss, just as Resurrection is so much greater a thing that 'simple death'!!!!! [sorry, got a little caught up in my own hope there--]
thanks again for sharing this beauty and this aberration-of-life (it just doesn't BELONG here, and will eventually be 'swallowed up in victory') with me, Flo--
And let me know how it goes--as you want to... in His hands with you, glenn
She continued...

Dear friend:
'Accountable' is a good word - like you, I'm holding Him to His promises...every single one of 'em! Isn't there a verse/hymn somewhere to the effect that God trembles at our trust in Him..? Now that is Integrity...the ONLY standard worth following.
Some more reflections..just bunged them down as they came to me, in 3-4 sittings. Yup, I'm really 'writing out the pain'! :-)
You are so right when you say that death does not 'belong'. Death, decay, loss, suffering, old age...they are not of God, are they? Judging from the very very little I know of His character, they couldn't be! They were NOT in his plan for us! The whole 'wages of sin' bit makes sense was more or less impressive-sounding rhetoric before (to a preacher's kid!) And it helps so very much when I think of it that way... that death is just another...well,  event - one that is sadly necessary (because of our own SILLY choices) before the REAL undying life of fellowship-with-Him that He always intended for us can begin. (That wretched apple!! :-)) And so, a moment of terror, of dying, a step over a dark and pain-drenched threshold...and then..HOME.
But oh, how I wish I knew FOR CERTAIN AND ALL THE TIME that that is exactly what happened, and not just my own desperate hope/wish! does one strengthen faith?
But no point revisiting square from now on that its all 'for real' and not just I comforting me by myself, here are some thoughts:
I am discovering that there is a kind of 'blessedness' in grieving with Him. I say 'with' because, even in the tears-fall-down-like-rain states of misery that overtake me, I remember that I have been spared a still deeper anguish: i.e. that of being forsaken. I NEVER had/will have to say "why have you forsaken me" to either my earthly or my heavenly Father. To be forsaken: I dare not think of what that must feel like... my soul is not large enough.
I also remember what you said about praise in our previous exchange in 2003. How even, or especially, in bleak times, one should praise/thank God...I've been trying, but I'm still at the stage where all I just barely manage to drag myself up to Him before dissolving into a  wordless know the horrible kind that sticks in your throat and FORCES its way out so hard that  you're surprised there's no actual blood??  (excuse gruesomeness!) Could that be called 'prayer' too, do you think?
On a more positive note... Of all the human interactions I've had this past week, our email exchange has comforted me the most. Its impossible to talk about it with people who haven't been through it, and none of my close friends have, as it happens. Family is too close.... as you say, too intense, too many memories. Any conversations I have with my mother or sisters  quickly become pretty waterlogged..:-) And I'm not much of a 'hugger'. :-) more of a talker...or, writer-of-unbelievably-long-letters. :-)
It strikes me again how extraordinarily blessed I've been/am - I was born in safe harbor, and had all the fun of 'going out to sea' without ever losing sight of shore. In this sad and lonely age of the world, I have actually grown used' to being happy! And I have found one good-hearted 'distant' friend who is gracious enough to let me unload these outpourings ..and who, above all,  'gets' it. Thank you.
I see now that under all the surface angst and doubt and little bitty aches and pains of living, there is an inviolable pool of something clear and cool and calm. Yes, God has been, and IS still, very gentle with me.
Even in all the mess and doubt and heartbreak, I believe that God is my first and greatest fellow-sufferer, and I think He is bearing - right this second, as I type - the worst of my grief. All the blackest murkiest stuff that my poor, beat-up, bandaged little lump of a heart cannot handle, He has taken away, and left me with just enough to straighten my spine and lift my head and say : Thy will be done. (I hope that makes sense to seemed so clear in my head! :-) Its intriguing how some kinds of pain actually INCREASE one's strength, rather than sapping it.)
Also, I must remember that He loved my father first, and loved him BEST. Who knows...maybe He and my father did converse in those long dark hours when the
neurologists were desperately hunting for some sign of 'brain activity'..? Maybe my father did not 'lose' his life, but gladly gave it back into His keeping - even though we thought he was fighting to stay alive? Maybe He, in his infinite compassion, wept alongside us to see those pitiful overworked organs shut down one by one..and so said..'Enough. Come, Friend." (Dad died of multi-organ failure, most likely brought on by a post-surgery stroke).
One last thing - I am amazed at my complete lack of anger-at-God (hope it stays that way!) I never imagined that I, for so many years the quintessential 'hurting/confused/angry young woman', could be so...un-bitter, and what is more, 'unquestioning'. I have no 'whys', only 'hows' in "how do I get through this moment/day/visit/life.." or 'how I wish I could fast-forward the next few decades"...Well, I  call that progress! :-)
I am amazed that I can still laugh at my 2-year-old niece's antics, and then, a second later, feel my heart clench as I remember that her grandfather is not around to see them - and still NOT go down that dark dingy road of 'how unfair', 'if only...' etc.!  Because God IS fair - this I know from personal experience...that He is a God of justice as well as mercy. (There wouldn't be a cross, or an empty tomb, otherwise, no?)  But most of all, I am AMAZED that, in the midst of my own personal chaos, I can somehow in some rare and precious moments  'be still, and know that He is God."
Well, that's the latest. :-)
Mr. Miller, where do I begin to say 'thank you' without gushing? :-) Not just for the site, but for your immediate responses..and your prayers, especially. And the you say...'not-holding-back-ness' of YOURSELF and your own wounds. I am truly grateful. And I will pray for your continuing grief-journey from now on, as well as my own - although you seem to be doing pretty well on your own! :-)
I smile at the thought of your meeting my father. I venture to think that you will enjoy each other greatly...:-) And if I should get there first, I'll look up your daughter first thing...well, second thing...and give her a hug from her father, if I may.
Yours is an unusual, but wonderful ministry. I hope you will let me know if there is anything specific I can pray about for you....I would really like to.
God bless

I replied:

I was gone mostly during the weekend for a graduation of a relative from college, so I didn't get a chance to comment on your last letter...But I DID WANT TO mention that I, too, found it impossible to actually be 'angry' with our Lord. The always-bleeding hurt, abject horror, and sense of violation never led me to vilify Him... I somehow sensed His grief, His closeness, His quiet support through the whole thing... and this IN SPITE OF the fact that I was 'trained' in seminary to walk through Kubler-Ross's Death and Dying steps (the first being anger). About a month after my 'loss', He gave me Isaiah 57.1-2 and it quieted and warmed my heart. For I knew of some things that probably lay ahead for Britt (things which could have been destructive for her precious spirit), and I have understood this Isaiah 57 gift as an assurance to me that my Lord worked this peaceful death to protect her heart, even at the cost of my pain--which I have been SO thankful for, over these years. My Lord was faithful to ME, in making the best choice--in spite of how it would HURT ME--for my little girl.
I suspect that in most cases, we humans don't get to see such things. Except maybe in the case of long-process terminal illnesses (where people say "It was really for the best" at the funeral), we don't think of such things. But I had some foresight of such matters in Britt's case, and can see the gentleness of His will.
Also, I think the wordless groanings are CLEARLY 'prayers', since the Holy Spirit is probably doing that for you AS WE SPEAK (Romans 8.26)--and it is called 'intercession' there.
And as for 'me-me-me' phase, biblical stewardship sometimes dictate that (a) you stop the bleeding so you can serve/help/love another day; and (b) "If you are traveling with small children, put YOUR mask on FIRST, so you can be able to help them with THEIR masks" (smile).
well, back to 'deadline racing' here--got a Powerpoint deliverable due in 2 hours...
because He IS, and IS HERE with us, g


She continued to work through this with her precious Lord...

Dear Mr. Miller...dear DEAR Mr. Miller..
It would seem that grief makes one gushy and emotionally unfit for polite society..or polite letters. :-) its just that those 2 verses were EXACTLY what I needed.
i'm running out of ways to say 'amazing'.  Isaiah 57:1 was like stepping into the first monsoon after a hot summer.. (which actually happened literally this morning as well.).
Oh, the RELIEF!
You see, my father and I were estranged for the last 8-10 years. I say 'were', because God used those last 3 months, horrible as they were,  to quietly heal some relationship wounds ...even if he had to break some stubborn hearts to do it! 
It was the 'being spared' part of your letter that really hit home. Dad never lost his faith in his God, but the past ten years was a 'decade of disappointments' for him in many ways.. He had that terrible kind of 'grown-up' innocence... which led to an EXTREMELY uncomfortable kind of integrity - the kind that combines mercilessly clear vision with zero worldly-wisdom with a complete and utter inability to lie - even to oneself. This, in a world that quickly turns bleak without at least a few dozen comforting, ease-creating lies. It saddens me so much to remember that his last years were spent in a longing, bitter, loneliness, - largely self-inflicted, but still...anyway, at least that part's over, thank God.
Don't actually have a guilty conscience, but regrets - well, a few. The price I paid for pride, alliteration much much too high.
Sorry... I do run on about him, don't I? I guess that, silly as it sounds,  I'm holding you to your word that you'll say 'hello' from me - if you meet him first, and therefore I'm dumping all this info on you so you won't be meeting a complete stranger.
Moving on.
How are YOU doing? (That's not a how-de-do...if you have the time, I'd really like to know.:-))
I do have one question, and I'd appreciate your feedback.
You see, hope and faith notwithstanding, I think Death tarnishes and mocks life, makes it dimmer somehow.. or maybe that's just me! Anyhoo.
but to the questions. Assuming the following:

1. I am a Christian, faith. (My 'doubt' is a binary thing - either God is, or He isn't. If He is, He is the God of the Bible.)  I believe, for example,  that when I, another 'earth-bound misfit'  die, something in me will be GLAD to go. ..the gold and scarlet and purple of me will break free with a 'whoop and a holler'  - and fly straight up..wartlessness and all!
2. Pain is not in itself a bad thing. If God Himself can grieve, then grief - and all the various kinds of suffering derived from it - are not evils. Maybe even necessary. ( I do most of my growing up during/after painful times.)
3. The terror and pain of death is not without meaning..and purpose. For example, my turning to God years ago was a genuine act of love, of yearning, of need-for-Him, but it was also an act of self-defence..the whole 'hell??? yikes!!!" bit.  So it would seem that death HAS to be hard, because it is the final, ultimate 'evil, and as such to be feared and rejected and fled from... and NOT, as I was taught, something to be accepted, understood, even welcomed as just 'change'. (Does that make sense? My country is a truly secular country in that we all learn healthy doses of just about every religion there is! Hinduism, as you know, rejoices in 'reincarnation' tempting sometimes!!) 
4. I believe that death was conquered and 'put in its place' (place marked 'temporary')  by the Cross and the Resurrection.
5. I believe that my dead will be restored to me personally. That I will meet again, not a saintly, perfect, unrecognisable person, but MY FATHER, WITH all his quirks and corners, minus the pain and doubt and fear.
So, assuming all the above - why is it THIS hard?
Is it a wobbly faith that makes me wake up every morning just barely on the far side of 'unbearable pain'?  Shouldn't it be easier for someone who believes in eternal life?
Why does not God 'soften' it just a bit more into, say, 'acutely miserable' or 'very very sad'? Would not a less-intense pain be as effective for ..whatever His divine reasons? Would I not be a better 'advertisement' for Christianity if I could TRULY say 'Oh-death-where-is-thy-sting" ?
Is it self-centered-ness that keeps me focussing on my pain instead of ...well...see, that's it ...I don't know what else to focus on!! Am I over-grieving?? Am I 'indulging' in my own feelings too much? Am I 'rebelling' against a)nature b)God's will? (after all, Dad was 73, ill, and had lived a good life, and other people's fathers die without 'all this' emotional brouhaha (lovely word!) and so on and on) Now - my knee-jerk reaction to all the above is a calm and firm : 'pooh.'. However, they are all suggestions (more tactfully put, of course!) from good and close friends, and, yes, I HAVE been sumwhat self-indulgent lately, and my head is not working too well at the moment, so ...
Are my fits of doubt 'blocking' God from doing all that He wants to, by way of comfort/confidence etc.? Are my 'I believes' not soul-deep, but just comforting to 'say aloud' to myself?
Much questions. Or actually, come to think of it - only one:  Why is it THIS hard, for a Christian?  There - summed SOMETHING up, finally. :-))
A tiny step forward - I've finally begun to pray, really pray, for other people and things-outside-of-myself again. Including you, Mr. Miller. I hope you know how much you are helping me. And I REALLY hope and pray that someday I'll be of a leetle bit of service to others... business strategies and marketing plans and similar absurdities are all I've contributed to the world so far...But all in God's good time, I guess.:-))
warm regards
I took a stab at answering the question--

Sorry I cannot write much on this, but I KNOW you will be able to put the below ideas together YOURSELF to form a workable understanding of the 'answer' to your question. So, here are the points for you to use as raw materials:
1. Authentic, 'long term' Christians FEEL MORE because they are, in some real sense, MORE "ALIVE" than newly-born Christians or non-Christians (via the life of God growing in us, transforming us--over time-- into the image of the "Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief" and He who spoke in Jn 14-17 that "MY joy should remain with you")... We are more awake, aware, alert (subconsciously so, of course--smile), so our experiences of PAIN are just simply DEEPER, as are our experiences of JOY and LOVE. [Think about the difference between the love and laughter of a 'good, healthy, but non-Christian' family and a truly 'free, alive Christian' family--the differences in their experience levels are almost palpable. This difference blurs/narrows, of course, as a Christian slides back into being 'more like the world' and as a non-Christian lives more in conformity to common grace and 'borrowed capital' elements of Christian theism (somewhat common in the West). And certain types of pre-built common-grace relationships are storge-love based, and these can approximate/approach this agape-love intensity] Thus, it is not because we HAVE MORE or BETTER knowledge (or 'religious faith') but because we HAVE MORE or BETTER life. Our deeper-pains and higher-joys and wider-love is PROOF of His work in our lives--not the opposite (i.e., our resistance or insensitivity to that work). to have less pain, you would have to be less alive/more dead...
2. OK, second point [one that I mentioned already on my Tank]: the pain of grief (from loss, not grief from someone else' bad decisions--a different kind of sadness there) is directly proportional to 'good received'. If someone never even knows their father, or has never even enjoyed/bonded with them, the grief is much lower. it is the converse of this you are feeling, dear Florence--the good that YOU SAW and FELT which flowed from his heart to yours was HUGE, and so the sense of loss is 'proportionally' Huge. To have less pain, you couldn't have benefited/enjoyed/delighted in his heart/character/care for you over your entire lifetime...
3. Third, is the metaphysical reality of social union. Western-based metaphysics doesn't have adequate categories to allow for more than one individual to 'merge' into a single 'organism'. It is totally individualistic, the particulars are what "is real"--NOT the whole/idea. More eastern notions are reversed: it is the individual who is not as 'real' as the whole. We are all just ONE thing, and our differences are illusion. But the biblical worldview seems to support a hybrid. husband and wife become ONE (without losing their individual agency before God), and this ONE is not simply 'legal'. There is SOMETHING metaphysical here. The same is true (in biblical fashion) with kinship groups (families, tribes) and especially parents-kids. The Father and Son and Spirit are three, but they are also ONE--the Trinity is the model of how the One can be MANY--in the SAME metaphysical sense. In the case of families--parents and kids, for example--you live in (at least) two 'forms': there is Flothe individual before God, and there is Flo an integrated part of a family 'body and soul' (?) which included your dad on earth. When a part of these group-supra-individuals is taken away (in death, or estrangement, or disappearance) SOMETHING HAS BEEN AMPUTATED from that group-unit-soul. [In some sense, this 'union' is created through shared experiences--essentially a 'shared life'. If the two of you NEVER did anything together, then there would be no 'shared slices of life'. Shared lives somehow 'grow something'  in which we are an integrated part. (would apply to long-time friends, roommates, etc, too).] Now, Amputation is ranked second to only Cancer in terms of patient experiences of intense pain...Every part is ESSENTIAL to the body, and the mind EXPECTS it to be there all the time...  I can know/believe ALL DAY LONG that God will give me an arm or a leg back at His coming, but that will NOT affect how my earthly form responds in abject pain to a missing limb. This is just a metaphysical/ontological reality. To have less pain, you would have needed to be 'less attached via life'...
4. As for God making it easier for us, I think there are a couple of points to consider: (1) in light of the above factors, He would have to use a miracle--which He tries to avoid--to anesthetize us; (2) I think we ARE supposed to manifest to the world BOTH the hope AND the pain--to perhaps draw those around us to consider His alternative, and for them to be more honest with their OWN pain and lack-of-hope; (3) I think the exposure of our IMMENSE pain (but yet comfort and hope) JUST MIGHT induce them to approach us for help on THEIR NEXT experience of loss/pain -- hopefully building community and sharing the life of God outward; (4) while I don't think he reduces the 'raw pain' amount--due to factors already mentioned--I DO THINK He 'offsets' some of it with a counter-pain comfort ministry to us. My experiences of His closeness "sitting beside me on the stairs" did NOT reduce the pain, but it did make the pain less STARK , less unbearable, and less incomprehensible. His sitting with me--with His own tears and grief and 'worry' over me--on the mourner's bench was so obvious in moments of quiet tears and post-groan grief-explosions. So, it's NOT an anesthetic, but it's something definitely helpful, constructive, and vista-expanding.
I have to run now--I have a busy day tomorrow and it is midnite here... I will TRY to get back to the "how am I doing?" question when I can, friend...
and hopefully the hastily-written, hyper-terse comments above will provide some perspectives for you to turn over in your head, modify for YOUR situation, and pray into YOUR experience--
in His ever-loving hands with you,

She continued to move forward through the valley with her Shepherd...


It seems that, thrash around as I may, utter faith will eventually force its way back in - with a vengeance! Have filed this away for future 'doubtful times'.

Thank you for letting me unload so much on you - was good therapy as well as friendship and ministry. :-)  I am humbled by and deeply appeciative of the practical, GENEROUS, Christian-hearted support you offer in 'yourself' - to my thinking, its every bit as valuable as the intellectual  satisfaction your site provides. God bless you.

Yes, the 'valley of the shadow' is a hard and sorrowful place, (I pray that it will be a good long time before I must walk there again) - but I know now that God is sweeter there than in the sunshine.

Well, Mr. Miller, its time to get back to my life, a little tear-stained, maybe, but with the joy of being alive in His universe seeping back in. Even looking forward to scary glorious eternity - we humans may have been born in 'sorrow and sin', but we were not made FOR them - rejoicings and reunions and healings come so much easier!

If you do manage to come to visit our part of the world, please know that you have a home here with me and my family. I can promise you good beer, wonderful weather, and at least 6 different places to get delightfully moldy old sci-fi/horror books - vampires and werewolves and supernovas and black holes and other good things that make life full to bursting.

warm regards, f

[ .... griefstrike.html ........  ]
The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)