A Transparent Grief Observed
In 1960, C.S. Lewis published A Grief Observed after his wife, Joy, died. He published it under the pseudonym, N.W. Clerk, to not be identified as its author. (It was republished after his death using his real name). The book is a very candid look at the anger and bewilderment that Lewis felt towards God after his wife’s death and his impressions of life without her. His self-awareness of the process of moving in and out of various stages of grief and remembrance, profoundly influenced by his Christian faith, was amazing. But the most beneficial aspect is that Lewis comes to a revolutionary new understanding of his own experience of God: gratitude for having received and experienced the gift of authentic and profound love.
In early February, I planned out a sermon series exploring the depths of suffering and God’s mystery in the book of Job. Little did I know that the following six months (and counting) would follow where the world would plunge into suffering and chaos in such a powerful way. I also had no idea that I would fall into deep personal grief. This morning I recorded the first sermon in “The Problem with Suffering” series as I sit in quarantine. (I am recording because I am in quarantine until 2020.09.21 as I went to one of “those states” to see my Dad last week.)
As I prepare to record the second sermon in the series about Job’s Cosmic Lament, I am forced to revisit that which is so real to me right now; grief and loss under the COVID-umbrella. Unlike C.S. Lewis, I transparently share my grief observed.
A wonderful hospice chaplain was instrumental in getting me to understand my grief the night before my Mom’s death on July 24th. You see, I told him that I was concerned because I was having trouble “turning the switch” from pastor to grieving son. I felt guilty because I wasn’t devastated even though I found out a couple of hours before my Mom wouldn’t make it through the weekend. What was wrong with me? Father Verne told me that there was nothing wrong with me, and in fact that the man he was on the phone was being a son who happened to be a pastor. He then walked me through the previous two months…
I began to grieve on a Wednesday evening back in late May; I had just found out that my Mom had fallen and broken her hip. The next morning, I told my music director that I knew I would never see her again because pandemic lockdowns were happening across the nation. Even if I went to Florida, I would not have seen her because they wouldn’t even let my Dad see her!
That week, I was presented with a couple of prickly church issues that had their origins in others’ struggles created by the pandemic’s liminal space. I felt deeply overwhelmed and angry, so I reached out to my Human Resources Council to tell them I needed a couple of days “off the grid” in order to be prepared to deliver God’s Word on Sunday. So I went dark on Friday and Saturday; no emails, texts, or phone calls. I was in a dark place.
I now know that the prickly ones did not cause this, but instead it was my grief. In essence, this was the initial impact that I had lost my Mom, even though it would be two months before her heart would beat its last.
Over the next eight weeks, I moved in and out of various stages of grief and remembrance. I would be bewildered (shocked), get angry (but not with God but others who were being prickly), tried to make sense of things (negotiating), and even felt completely overwhelmed (numb). Interestingly enough, I finally reached acceptance of my grief for my Mom on Thursday evening, July 23rd, while on the phone with Father Verne.
The next morning, July 24th, when I received the call from my Dad that my Mom was gone, I was in the place where God needed me to be; there for my Dad, siblings, wife, and kids. I was a son who also happened to be a pastor!
Last week, I travelled to Florida to be with my Dad. We hung out for six days cooking together, playing cribbage, watching plenty of TV, and just chatting. This was, in many ways, closure for me. This was my funeral or memorial service.
Does it mean I stopped hurting, being dismayed, getting prickly? Not! But I have accepted my Mom’s passing, and I know that my faith in the grace, mercy, and unflappable love of “42” has been, is, and will be in the mix. The Triune God of Grace provided me with a greater understanding of my faith in him, and I am grateful for his love, and the love in my life (from my Mom and family) that flows from him. He also gave me Father Verne, colleague and friend! But most of all, I am a better man because of this GRIEF OBSERVED.
My friends, I am the Patrick “Pat” Sileo, son of Patricia “Patti” Sileo! I am also the Rev. Dr. Patrick A. Sileo (Pastor Pat), called by the Creator, Savior, and Inspirer of LIFE, the UNIVERSE, and EVERYTHING!
A Transparent Grief Observed!