A Grief Observed (an essay)
October 17, 1997
Copyright 1997 by Lynn Prescott
No matter how much I pretend his death made some sort of sense - even in my most honest denial - I find that I am no more than a liar and the truth is not in me.
I found myself thinking about Mary standing at the foot of her son with a sword thrust through her soul wondering if Mrs. M. would be grieving less and in one rare selfless moment I am pulled outside of myself and concerned about her pain. Another being outside the center of my own universe.
My arms would wrap around her and enfold much as John or the other women who stand gazing with her - women - (tenderhearted creatures that we are) seem to be more adept at holding death's hand. It isn't that we hurt less, I think it's just that we understand more. I can't begin to fathom her grief. Words can neither produce him nor raise him from the dead. We spend hours (I have spent weeks, will likely spend months maybe even years) untangling our webs of emotion - that peculiar and particular emotion we know as Grief.
Not only has the world suffered a loss, the Christian music world a great musician, but a mother has lost her son. Standing unobserved at the foot of his cross with a sword thrust through her soul. Suffering the deepest of all sufferings - that of a parent outliving her own child.
What can I do but stand silently - invisibly beside her, throw my arms around her maternal shoulders and sob out for her tears too deep to shed. There is nothing noble about my actions - as in every story she is still the strong one and I the one who is weak - she is the one bearing me up as I pretend to help bear her burden - knowing that her reality is she bears this burden of grief alone. A lone widow bereaved of her son.
Jesus appeared to me in a dream Valentine's day morning at approx. 6:45 am. He was wearing the face of Rich Mullins. I didn't understand then what I understand now. If Rich be hid with Christ in God then what was revealed should comfort my ravaged heart - my bleeding soul. As the days slip by the joy sets in. The unspeakably beautiful unfolds.
A friend trying to console me(out of utter frustration I think) gave me one of those pat religious lines that I have come to so despise. I understood she was trying to put a bandaid on my immortal wound (and I love her for that) I was not angry - I was running a 101 temperature at the time and could have cared less. But it is typical of human response to grief - when we are no longer in the driver's seat and have lost all sense of control - there is a Force as beyond us as a hawk is from the moon and we feel we need to say something religious to reinstate our equilibrium. She said " well God will use anything to..." I thought yeah - God made an ass speak to Baalam too... so what's your point?! But I had a revelation that very moment - I realized that grief is as individual as our thumbprint - and it is our own road to hoe(so to speak) a road which we each walk alone and share with no one else on this earth except the one who has gone before us into Gethsemane. The One who sweated great drops of blood red passion and just one of those drops was(is) powerful enough to sustain all of us through this very dark night of our soul. In this our wake of one we loved so.
A work mate who knows I love Lewis downloaded something from a website and put it lovingly into my box. (He's Israeli and Lewis carried him through his childhood - what an odd awareness) . His timing both uncanny and eerily relevant.
A quote form the LA Times - Sunday Home Edition - Book Review Page 8 - the author says "what Lewis said once could expect of grat literature/music(my insert): "Literary/Musical(my insert) experience heals the wound without undermining the privilige of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound: but they destroy the privilige. In them, our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub individuality but in reading great literature/listening to great music(my insert) I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. I see with myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do."
Here I must comment that Rich Mullins shared this in common with Lewis - Mullins the Musician - Lewis the Literarian. He - like Lewis managed to achieve the "everyman". That became apparent to me scrolling down the miles of condolances. But the mass comfort(if there be any) is that we have more brethern than we knew. Like Elijah in our cave, God speaks and says; "you are certainly not alone."
To end my jabberwocky - a quote from A.N. Wilson's "C.S. Lewis - a Biography".
He says of Lewis, "here is a man destined it seemed to write whole and beautiful works out of the pain of his unhealable childhood wounds - in other words - an artist blessed and cursed with the motive that fires all art but one who would go to his grave still bleeding. For in the sacrament of Art, the Artist is the Redeemer and we are washed and made whole in his blood."
I think I could safely say the same applies to Rich Mullins. Rich died for us as Jack died for us. Both surrendering themselves completely to the cross of their art. Both with wounds that so freely and so visibly bled. The same wounds that have washed us and helped make us whole. Now it would be quite foolish to bow down and worship either of them for it. They have returned to the God from which they came. They came to do the will of the Father. I think if there's a jewel of wisdom left behind for us it would be this; "Go and do likewise."