Since the week after Pam’s celebration of life at Fruit Cove, I have been on a journey; spiritual, physical, and emotional. I have driven almost 2,700 miles. It began with just revisiting areas of our life together… geographic touchpoints… that allowed me to remember, weep and give thanks for God’s goodness in allowing our lives to intersect.
Our first home site, the church where we grew up and later married, the places we worked, the places where we dated, and along the way I met with people who touched our lives and gave guidance, models and counsel to us. I was allowed to preach the homecoming for the church we served over ten years near Louisville, Ky. These have been rich days… necessary days actually… to allow me to fully enter grief and begin that experience.
I have also had the privilege in these days of spending time with Pam’s mother and sisters and her “side” of the family tree and to rest with them in God’s comfort. Their grief has been multiplied not only by Pam’s death but also by Pam’s father’s passing. In these days, I have lived with my brother and sister-in-law who have offered rich shelter and much grace to me. They are also caring for my mother as she has passed 90 years… her birthday was on the day of Pam’s homegoing. She is going through her own trials with breast cancer as well.
Along the way I spent a week in a cabin in Blue Ridge, NC, a retreat I hope to enjoy more often. Some new friends have offered me shelter there on their property overlooking the Toccoa River.
To be accountable to you, my church family and friends, I have also begun grief counseling and intend that to continue for this season. In all, it has been needed reflection, prayer, and opportunity to begin work on a book.
My plans at this time are to begin to enter back into “new” normal as I try to close doors on this chapter of my past. If you have been on this grief journey, you know how hard that is to do. I will not do it perfectly, of that I am certain.
I intend to return to “regular” preaching on October 15 and October 29. My duties as trustee for the Baptist College of Florida are also on my agenda as well as serving on the Executive Committee of the SBC. Both are tremendous privileges for which I am grateful to be asked to serve.
My office hours will be sporadic for a bit as I enter back in to “life” as it now is. We have tremendous challenges laid before our church body now with added efforts to assist the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean Islands as well as south Florida. And Advance 2020 is beginning its two-year countdown in January, as I celebrate my 25th anniversary with you.
“So is your journey done?” I was asked in earnest by a friend. My answer was, for now, my traveling is. Someone else asked me if I was running from something or running toward something. The answer is, “Yes. Both.” There are certainly things I am not looking forward to doing. But I am encouraged as clarity has begun to return.
Grief is not a “cycle” or a linear, stage-by-stage process. It is an experience that we endure. Along the way, you will meet denial and anger, depression and sorrow, regret and tears. I will carry this burden for some time I am sure.
So the best answer I can give to you as to “how are you doing” is “I am grieving well.” We don’t get to hide from it, avoid it or pretend it doesn’t bring crushing pain.
But as we have claimed, said and sung through this journey, we have a good, good Father. And no matter where your journey has taken you…
He is good all the time.