MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Power off

A small fisherman’s cottage in the bay of Saldanha became my refuge in April 2019. A month of self-care because you were no longer there for me. You were only looking inside, embracing your depression. Absent from me in your misery. For the first fifteen days on my own, I cried myself empty and wrote unpublishable blogs. I mourned the loss of you until I reached the bottom of my pit of grief.

It is August 2020 and I need to push the button that says: “Power off”. I am back in the same cottage. It is almost three months after your death. The main bedroom with its double bed feels threatening. The bed is too big. Next to the kitchen is a four-steps-long enclosure with a single bed. There are wooden starfish against the wall. The night lamp above my head provides ample light to read. There are curtains behind me to close. I am cocooned off from the world in an intimate space. God is hemming me in on all sides. It is just me and the grief of losing you to death that can fit into that small space. I grieved you so often before you died that I thought it was going to be quick and easy now that you are physically dead. When will the mourning end?

A friend sent me contemplations from Richard Rohr. He said: “We do not handle suffering – suffering handles us.” I sit on the bed. I give myself a hug. I cannot rush grief. I cannot delete the pain. Not the pain of your absence and apathy due to depression while you lived. I can also not delete the pain of the permanence of your death. I need to flow with the pain. Be in the moment. Feel it. Breathe it, in and out. No rush. Just push the button that says: “Power off”.

Psalm 131:2 “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul. Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.” I remember a song my father used to sing with his beautiful tenor voice: “Be still and know that I am God.” Here I am Lord. I will be still with You in my mourning, however long it takes.

Annette de la Porte

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Time to man up

The movie starts. Police cars come to a screeching halt. Guns blaze, bullets fly. Silence. A car door opens. A policeman discovers that his partner was shot. He grabs the microphone of the police radio and yells: “Man down, man down!” The street address for the ambulance is provided. A man has met his death.

After your death, my Beloved, I had to man up. There was a week-long course on Zoom that had to be facilitated. I was the only one who could do it. Decisions needed to be made. I was the only one who could do it. The CEO asked me to act in your place until the end of January. I was the only one who could do it. The next week’s course was due. It had to be re-planned due to time and momentum that were lost with your death. Guest lecturers had to be found because you went to heaven with all the lectures still in your beautiful mind. If I take all this time to man up and fill your place, who would be me?

The printer kept having a paper jam. A message would appear on the screen: the printer is operating on a single cartridge. Yes, it was programmed to carry two ink cartridges. Now there is only one. Yesterday, the page only got printed halfway. The ink was finished. I bought a new cartridge the previous day as provision for this moment. After I installed it, the printer automatically printed the alignment page and gave me a message to scan it in. I usually skip that step because my printer is old and does not read the alignment page anymore. I cancelled that instruction and went straight to printing.

There is a cold front visiting the Cape. Pouring rain and snow on the mountains. My hands are so cold that I could not type on the keyboard. A prayer friend blessed me with a Woolworth’s gift card. I went to the shop in search of a pair of gloves. The women’s department had no gloves for sale. “No Ma’am,” the sales lady said, “we only sell gloves for men.” In my desperation I bought a pair of men’s gloves. It was only available in grey and brown. It was warm. I swiped the gift card and immediately put on the gloves.  

I am tired of manning up and being brave in dealing with the unpleasantries of your death. I have a paper jam and my ink has run out. I need new alignment. Am I not committing treason to myself in the process of manning up? We were proud of our work ethics. We lived the motto to do what is needed to get the job done. Time and personal cost were not considered to be factors. We paid the price because we believed that that is what was required. When I look at it now, I can see that this was not good work ethics – this was a passion that turned into an obsession. You had no balance between work and play. The show had to go on. Always, the show had to go on.

I am tired now. I do not want to ‘man up’ anymore. I am finished being brave. I am on the ground, injured and tired. Nobody needs to call the ambulance to say “man down”. I can self-diagnose and see that it is time to step away from the scene of the fight. I am taking time out to be me. I am a wo-man. I don’t need to man up anymore. It is time for new alignment with God in my new season. I am the only ink cartridge in the printer now.

Psalm 37:23 “The steps of a good ‘wo-man’ are ordered by the Lord and He delights in ‘her’ way. Though ‘she’ fall, ‘she’ shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds ‘her’ with His hand.” Lord, I need you to re-align me as a single person now. Teach me the way that I should go. In my weakness Your strength will be manifested. Glove me with Your presence and Your love. I am a widow. I am Your Beloved.

Annette de la Porte.

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: A difficult door to unlock

It is two and a half months after your death, my Beloved. I went to your office today for the first time. I asked our secretary to take your name plate from the door – I could not stand to see it reading: Dr André de la Porte. HospiVision. Touching lives, giving hope. Now there is an empty black strip on the white of the door like the darkness that has swallowed your soul for so many years.

I walk in. You are not in your chair behind your desk. The space feels empty without you. I look out of the window and see the mountain. After we lived in Pretoria for twenty-seven years, you were so excited to be able to see Table Mountain from your office at Tygerberg. Your office door was usually halfway ajar, inviting a team member or a volunteer to come knocking for a conversation. When I would come from a ward after an Encouragement session with nursing staff, I used to pop in to tell you how it went. In your public persona, you were always happy to see me and would greet me excitedly. You would get up from behind your desk, kiss me and come to sit opposite me in one of the comfy chairs and ask how my session was. I would tell my story animatedly and you would listen attentively. You are not in your office anymore.

On your desk next to the telephone lies a book on hospice care with the title, ‘Dying well – peace and possibilities at the end of life’. I sit down in your chair behind your desk. At the far end of the desk there are four different stacks of papers and files. One about the advanced clinical course in pastoral care which you started in January. A paper in your handwriting with the names of people attending another course and the occupation of each person as they introduced themselves in a safe circle. Office admin was put together in the next bunch and the last one consisted of different manuals of the courses you wrote over the years. You always joked that you did not have a filing system, you had a piling system. You knew exactly what was in what pile.

I feel sad. I look up and see the framed print of the famous painting of the return of the prodigal son by Rembrandt. Our dear friend and colleague Louis Fourie gave it to you when he emigrated to New Zeeland. I am aware of the compassion of the father as he embraces his son who was lost and has now returned home. For those who lived in brokenness and darkness, there is love and acceptance in this homecoming. How precious is your homecoming, my Beloved. You are celebrated in heaven. You so often felt lost but now you are found. Your spiritual director said of your silent retreat last year: “André learnt to see himself as the beloved of God.” The lyrics of Amazing Grace serenade me as I sit in your chair: “Was Grace that taught my heart to fear and Grace, my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear, the hour I first believed. Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come. T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far and Grace will lead us home.”

The chair in your office is empty. You are now seated with Christ in heavenly places. I will continue to unlock the difficult doors of grief. My grief is the testimony of how well I loved you. “Grief can’t be shared. Everyone carries it alone; his own burden in his own way.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

 

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Locked out of my home

I was tired after facilitating an eight-hour Zoom webinar training. A dear friend brought me dinner. We sat down for some connection time. As she was leaving, she walked in front of me to the door and fiddled with the lock, thinking that it was closed. From behind I said: “No, the door is open.” I walked with her to the gate to say goodbye. When I got back to the front door, I discovered that the yale lock slipped into place and I was locked out of my own house, with my cell phone inside. Looking at my set of car keys, I realised that it did not have a key for the front door, because it is always open to allow the dogs freedom of movement.

My tenant returned home barely half an hour earlier after a long weekend away. I knocked on her door and explained my predicament. She brought her set of spare keys for my house. We found a key that fitted, but the lock refused to turn. For the next two and a half hours she googled numbers of locksmiths, made phone calls and asked a friend to assist in the search. I looked on patiently, sensing in my spirit that this is a very significant event. I was locked out of my only safe place, denied access to the friendship circle on my phone who could come to my rescue. I was cut off from the comforts of my house: a warm shower, an early night of rest in my warm bed. Which doors are locked that need to be unlocked for the new season I find myself in?

My Beloved, your death was like a door that slammed in my face. I advocated for your life. Access to you is now denied. I do not have any key that could unlock that door. Death is permanent and irreversible. My role has changed. I accompanied you as a soul friend for 37 years. That journey has now ended. As a caregiver I bargained for a success story. Your manner of death does not mean that either of us have failed. We are imperfect human beings. By God’s grace we are more than the sum total of our plusses and minuses. I was with you every step of the way. Except when I was not. It was not my job to keep you alive. Only you could choose life for yourself. Our success story is the salvation that Jesus bought with His life on the cross. The fact that no deed of a human can lock the door to heaven when you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour. That door did not slam in your face, my Beloved. I need to accept that we live behind different doors now. You live in your eternal life with God and I cannot access that realm yet.

I need to find the key to unlock my new door into the future that lies ahead of me. I need to give myself permission for a new season without your suffering. I need to accept that I am not your caretaker anymore. I did enough. I am enough for this new season. My daily prophetic word in my inbox the next day said: “God is opening new doors.”

There was a song by Mario Lanza that my father loved. The words say:
“I’ll walk with God, from this day on. His helping hand I’ll lean upon,
This is my prayer my humble plea. May the Lord be ever with me
There is no death though eyes grow dim
There is no fear when I’m near to him
I’ll lean on Him forever and He’ll forsake me never
He will not fail me as long as my faith is strong
Whatever road I may walk alone,
I’ll walk with God.”

Revelation 3:8 “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied My Name.”

My Father in heaven, You are my ultimate safe space even when I am locked out of my house. On the days when I have little power and little faith, I will lean upon Your helping hand. No door that You have open for me will shut in my face. I trust You for the keys to unlock the door to my new season with You.

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Expect unexpected emotions

My sister’s boyfriend came to visit her. My older brothers loved pulling pranks on him. They put a potato in the exhaust pipe of his car and could not wait for him to leave to see the results of their prank. He greeted her, got into the car and turned the key. His car did not want to start. He tried again and again. Finally the potato was blasted out of the exhaust with a big cloud of smoke and they ran laughingly out of their hiding places. My sister’s anger was unleashed upon them for making fun of her boyfriend.

I received a message to notify me of a parcel awaiting me at a church office. The lady at reception told me to wait while she fetched the keys for the safe. What a precious gift, I thought, that she would put it in the safe. I got home, opened the parcel and took a photo for the children. It was the most exquisite blanket, crocheted with André’s name on it. Threaded in a sunny yellow, symbolising André’s “search for sunshine”. The workmanship was breath-taking. I stood next to my bed, looking at it in silence. Suddenly a fierce anger gripped me. How can I cover myself with a blanket bearing your name when you offered me no covering of emotional safety?  What good is it to have your name in spelled-out letters, protected in a safe, when you were no longer a safe space for me? How horrid the constant threat I had to live with for so many years of not knowing if you will keep your promise to stay alive until I got home again. The betrayal of trust. I am fuming with fury at you.

At the most inappropriate time a memory or emotion can be ‘unleashed’ upon you. There is no warning sign like a flare shot off in the darkness of night to light the sky and notify you that an intense emotion is on its way. You need to expect unexpected emotions to show up at any time when you are in grief. I have a choice to put a potato in the exhaust pipe of my emotions and block my anger, or I can give it permission to be released in a puff of smoke. I decided to consider anger to be my visitor and have a conversation with it.

Anger, I see you. What do you want to tell me?

I want to tell you that an injustice has been done to you.

You are right. I feel righteous anger like Jesus did when he found the money changers doing business in the temple and he made a whip of cords and chased them out. I want to say to my Beloved: “You sold me out. You broke your promise to me. What happened to your integrity?”

Anger, I feel the energy that is released into my heart and my mind and my body. For years I prayed, fought, strategised, encouraged and partnered to prevent exactly this injustice from happening. Then my anger was geared at preventing this loss from happening. I know from my Emotional Logic training that anger and guilt is all about control. I have lost all influence over preventing your death, my Beloved.

Anger, I want to thank you for your visit. Thank you for telling me about this injustice and giving me permission to feel my anger. I do not need to block you out. I will feel all of my feelings, even the ones like anger that is uncomfortable. I know we are still in the midst of  Covid-19, but may I give you a hug?

Anger, I have seen you, I have acknowledged you, I have felt you, I have had a conversation with you and I have even given you a hug. I accept that you are part of my journey in making sense of my grief. For today, you have fulfilled your function and I now choose to let you go. Thank you for being a messenger and helping me to understand the injustice done to me.

“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief – but the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” Hillary Stanton Zunin.

Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.”

Thank you Jesus that I may have room for righteous anger and that it is part of my healing process. I will hold onto You even when I am angry at an injustice. 

Annette de la Porte.

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Taking back a dream and living it

My dream of growing old with you, my Beloved, has died with you. What dreams can be birthed anew for me? I did not die with you. How am I taking back life when it is without your breath next to me?

One dream I take back is to have a sanctuary at the sea. A safe space where people can come to rest and be restored. Where their soul can find its song again. Where I can live my unique God design to comfort, equip, encourage and inspire. Last week I wanted to run away from this house, this space where I fought for your life the past four years. This space where your despair became too much for you to bear. How can I live where you died? All the books on grief advise against making drastic changes in the first six months. Our rental contract expires at the end of January 2021. How do I get from here to there?

I will be a sanctuary for others in pain. And immediately opportunity raises its hand. I counsel a beautiful young woman with a mercy heart on Zoom. She dissolves in tears saying: “I am so lonely.” “Why don’t you come and have lunch with me on Sunday? I can put a chicken in the oven and make us some salad.” “I can eat chicken,” she replied hesitantly. I burst into laughter and said: “My good listening skills detect that you might be a vegetarian.” She was actually a vegan. I remembered about a vegan recipe with flair that you once made for a friend of ours, my Beloved. So, on Sunday we had lunch together on the stoep. The sun warmed our bodies. Our conversation warmed our hearts. We lent each other the comfort of conversation and connection. Neither of us were lonely.

A student of yours sent a message that she is considering leaving the course. Her laptop has broken, and she has a bad internet connection for the following week’s Zoom webinar. I invited her to come and work at my house on my laptop and attend the Zoom webinar there as well. We have soup together for lunch. She laughs when she tells me a story. She had finished two reports in the morning. She has new hope. “It is so quiet here with you,” she says. “There where I live (nine minutes’ drive away) all you constantly hear are the sounds of gunshots.”

I do not have to wait until I have a sanctuary at the sea to be a sanctuary to others. In the words of Graham Cooke: Lord, I give You permission to get my attention, even when I am not paying attention. Help me to be sensitive to the needs of others and provide some shelter emotionally, physically and spiritually where I can.

Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You (Psalm 38:9). While I hold onto You to bring about my dream in its fullness, I will with joy obey Your heart’s desire to love:  Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” Romans 12:13 “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

Annette de la Porte.

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: My heart needs mending

There was a chill in the air this morning. I decided to wear my warm purple jersey. When I picked it up, I noticed that the sleeve had come undone, revealing a gaping hole. You left a gaping hole in my heart, my Beloved.

I found a new song of the King singers whose harmonising we loved. It is a song by Billy Joel with the title ‘And so it goes’. I share some of the lyrics. “In every heart there is a room, A sanctuary safe and strong, I will share this room with you, and you can have this heart to break. So I would choose to be with you, that’s if the choice were mine to make, but you can make decisions too and you can have this heart to break. And so it goes and so it goes and you’re the only one who knows.”

A principle we lived by in our marriage was joint decision-making. When we could not agree on something, you had the right to veto my opinion. You seldom did. At the beginning of lockdown we would often both be on Zoom sessions on our laptops. One of us would sit in the bedroom at the back of the house to be out of hearing distance of the other. I suggested that instead of calling it by the boring name of our guestroom, we should call it our sanctuary. It looks out on the beautiful back garden that our tenant Guilma made with black-eyed Susan vines blossoming in orange joy against the wall. It was in the sanctuary that I found you dead on the 30th of May. How fitting.

As part of my bereavement counselling, I made a Sozo appointment with a friend in Pretoria. At the end she guided me in a conversation with Pappa God. He showed me that André did not die alone. I could visualise how the Trinity ministered to him after his death. Father God picked him up in His arms and laid him down on the bed. Holy Spirit opened a flask of anointing oil and poured some in the Father’s hands. He put His hands on your head, my Beloved, and gently caressed your hairless head. Jesus was holding your hand and took some of the anointing oil and wiped both your hands with it. Holy Spirit removed your new warm slippers and anointed your feet with oil. For a moment they stood in silence, just being with you. They looked at me and Pappa God announced: “We are taking him home now.” Father God picked you up in his arms and with Jesus and Holy Spirit on either side, they took you to heaven, your eternal Sanctuary in the presence of God.

Exodus 15:17 “You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance. The place, O Lord, which You have made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.”

In my heart there is a room, it was your sanctuary safe and strong.
I have shared this room with you, and you can have this heart to break.
So I would choose to be with you, but that was not my choice to make.
You can make decisions too. You have used your veto right, without a discussion this time.
You can have this heart to break.
And so it goes and so it goes and you’re the only one who knows.

Mend the gaping wound in my heart, Pappa God, the vast emptiness that was left by my Beloved.

Annette de la Porte

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: An attitude of gratitude

The sun is shining. I am glad to be alive. I remember the orange capers that blossomed next to the river in ‘The Lane’ in Stellenbosch where you kissed me for the first time. You kissed me, held me at arm’s length and proclaimed: “Annette Spies, what are you doing to me? I am falling in love with you.” I became your girlfriend that night, 38 years ago. Our happiness knew no bounds. When the suffering of illness was weaved into the threads of our lives, we found ways to celebrate the small victories in a day.

Today I am grateful for the peace of God blanketing me from head to toe as I sit in your office working on a report to a funder. I am grateful to be a Christian, believing that through your death, you were birthed into eternal life. I am grateful to sit in your chair knowing that you are living in the everlasting peace of God’s presence in heaven. What beautiful comfort there is for us as a family knowing that your laughter is resounding in heaven. As your Auntie Johanna said: “No more trouble.” I am grateful to taste the blessing of the love of our children, the two daughters whom I birthed, Danica and Githa, life changers to everyone they encounter. Two sons-in-love whom I prayed for, Sean and Simon, worshippers of God, who brought joy to our lives. I am grateful to see the fruits of your labour in the testimonies that streamed in after your death.

I decided to go to a nearby nursery and walk around between the plants and flowers. I was yearning for the intense colour and smell of hyacinths, but I think their season has passed. On my way there I drove past a street called ‘La Gratitude’. I turned around and parked my car in that street to take a photo of the street name. I walked up and down in the street, actively positioning myself in thankfulness. I will choose an attitude of gratitude as my companion on my journey with grief.

I remember a story you often told at your courses. There was a little boy who, growing up, could see another house on the horizon. At the end of every day, the windows of that house looked like liquid gold. How he yearned to live in that house with the beautiful golden windows. One day when he was big enough, he walked to that house. He met a boy of his own age, who lived in the house with the golden windows. As they talked, the other boy asked him where he lived. He made a gesture in the direction of his house. Oh, the new boy said: “You live in the house with the golden windows, right there on the horizon,” and pointed at the house. The visiting boy turned around and looked at his own house in the distance. The sun was setting, and the windows of his house looked like liquid gold. The light of the setting sun reflected on the windows of both the houses. From inside their own respective houses, they could not notice it.

Psalm 34:8 “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 52:9 “For what You have done I will always praise You in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in Your name, for Your name is good.”

My Lord and God, help me to stand outside the house of my life and see how Your mercy paints the windows gold. I want to notice Your goodness to me and not be envious of the liquid gold of other buildings in the distance. I choose an attitude of gratitude with which to honour You in my grief.

Annette de la Porte

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: And the Oscar for the best actor goes to…

I want to roll out the red carpet for you, my Love. If I owned a little black number, I would wear it for the occasion. No glitter and glam for you. You kept your pain as private as possible. Early on in your journey with depression, one of your psychologists taught you the mantra: “Get up, dress up and show up.” And so you did. Relentlessly. Your work was your identity and you intentionally developed a public persona. Before Covid-19 was a reality, you wore a mask every day. You did it so well that most of your team members are still in shock about the incongruence of their memories of your laughter in team meetings and the desperation of your last act.

Shakespeare was the prescribed work for English in matric and your class went to the art festival in Grahamstown. That solidified your love of acting. You joined an acting group while studying in Bloemfontein and proudly explained the plot of the story to me, following photos in your album. When we came back to Cape Town, you could not wait for the Maynardville open air theatre season to start. In 2017 we showed up for “Twelfth Night” and took part in all the theatrical thrills. Somebody tore up half our tickets to ensure we would not come back the next evening. We stood in line to buy a programme. How you loved concert programmes. Studied it from top to bottom like your newspaper. We found an attendant to whom we showed our ticket halves and were escorted to the right queue for our seats. Settled in our chairs. Looked at the people. Enjoyed the strings of lights in the trees of Maynardville Park. Waiting expectantly for the light to dim and the show to begin. Staring at the rest of the audience – amazed at the diversity of humanity in looks and dress code. A bell rang to indicate it was time for the show to start. The actors arrived on stage and the story unfolded. You were mesmerised. I was irritated by all the swear words. When it was interval, we took turns to stand in the queue for coffee and take a bathroom break. We leaned against a tree and stared at the stars while we drank our coffee.

A major depression that turned into a chronic illness brought a dichotomy to our lives. To me it sometimes felt as if you lost your integrity. That you were living a lie. It made me angry that you could show up at work, show up for your students, a phone call or a visit from the children, but not show up for me. You could not see this contrast between your public persona and when you left your stage to come home to me. Then you were tired of performing your act. The costume was gone. The mask put away until the next morning when you would pick up your laptop bag, hang your nametag and your cross around your neck and left for your office at the hospital. I was left with the empty stage, yearning for you to make a joke with me, to listen as attentively as you would listen to your staff and your students. When you were with me, the lights were on, but there was nobody home. Powerless disconnection was your dress code when you left your stage. You were in denial about your denial. Unable to see what you could not face.

I once organised a training session on a Saturday morning. I needed you to come and assist with the technicalities of coordinating the presenter’s laptop with the projector. That previous evening you were in the depths of despair, plagued with thoughts of suicide and the lie of worthlessness that depression tells. We arrived at the venue that Saturday and everything was set up. I was in front of my laptop, preparing to introduce the guest speaker. The next moment I heard your belly laughter at a joke made by a team member. I swung around in my seat and caught your eye. I silently nodded at you. You saw what you could not see before. Even after you were “caught in the act” you could not change your behaviour. Your psychologist referred to it as “depressive habits” that you developed over the 35 years. Coping mechanisms that killed our connection.

The pandemic happened. Lockdown stole your stage, your mask and the opportunity to step into another persona of lightness. You only felt the despair you could display in the safety of our relationship. I truly honour you for being able to stay on the stage, always being the professional, acting to the utmost of your capability. Wearing your mask. Fulfilling your task. Protecting yourself against the shame that society bestows on depression. Paying the highest personal price to serve your cause.

Psalm 40:1-3a “I waited and waited and waited some more, patiently, knowing God would come through for me. Then, at last, He bent down and listened to my cry. He stooped down to lift me out of danger from the desolate pit I was in, out of the muddy mess I had fallen into. Now He’s lifted me up into a firm secure place and steadied me while I walk along His ascending path. A new song for a new day rises up in me…”

My Lord, My Saviour: Shepherd me and heal all my layers of pain. Let a new song for a new day rise up in me.

Annette de la Porte.

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Defying gravity

I am on YouTube, looking for a song that will encourage me, a sermon that will inspire me or a teaching that will enlighten me. Nothing works. This voice is too high-pitched and it irritates me. That song is about praising God for a miracle that did not happen for me. This sermon could not hold my attention. That teaching does not ring true for my reality. How do I defy the gravity of mourning without denying it?

The one thing I fought for 35 years is the atmosphere of heaviness that is part and parcel of a journey with depression. A blanket of dark oppression that demands submission to give in and give up. Sometimes I would leave the house and keep on inhaling breaths of fresh air as I stepped out of the suffocating atmosphere. I am reading Job 17 and I see a reflection of the intensity of your struggle, my Beloved. Job 17:1,7,11,15 “My spirit is broken. My days are extinguished. The grave is ready for me. My eyes have also grown dim because of sorrow and all my members are like shadows. My days are past. My purposes are broken off. Where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?” In religious literature this is referred to as “the dark night of the soul”. How many dark nights did you not endure, my Love. How brave you were to continue fighting for so many years.

Job answers himself in chapter 19:23-27 “Oh, that my words were written. Oh, that they were inscribed in a book. That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives. And He shall stand on the earth and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. Whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold and not another. How my heart yearns within me.”

Teach me, my God, my Redeemer Who lives, how do I mourn without being pulled into the depths of despair? I do not want my purposes to be broken off. I declare that You are my Hope. I may be sad and heartbroken. That is appropriate. With You I can defy the gravity of despair. Would You fill me like a helium balloon that I can find a way to soar again?

Annete de la Porte