BAMBOO & BETTER DAYS AHEAD
I pulled up to the cemetery one summer evening only to find my sweet wife sitting by our son with a look of heaviness on her countenance. Grief had washed over her and my soul ached that I couldn’t take it away. I, too, was suffering a father’s grief and wondered if the pain would ever end. As far as I could tell, hell was my new home and there was no escaping it.
I could tell my wife was having a sacred moment, so I sat in my car from a distance and gave her space. I have learned that in matters of grief, allowing our loved ones to grieve in their own way and in their own time is key. As I waited patiently, I had a prayer in my heart that her burdens would seem light. Though I was being crushed under the weight of grief myself, I prayed that I might find a way to carry her burdens so that she might find a little rest.
When her moment passed, she motioned for me to join her and we spent some time talking about how we were each holding up. For every day, every hour was a battle to survive. We sat on the warm grass and wept together and longed to have our little boy with us again. The journey of grief seemed like a broken road that stretched out to infinity. Infinity never felt so long. Never felt so lonely.
I recently heard a friend of mine give an address where he described the unique phenomenon of how Chinese Bamboo Trees grow. After being planted, the seed won’t break the soil for 4 years. It silently lies in wait under the surface and seems to do nothing at all. Yet, in order for it to grow, one must water and care for it every day during those first 4 years – even though there is no visible sign of growth whatsoever. Then suddenly, in the 5th year, seemingly out of the blue, something astonishing happens: the Chinese bamboo tree can grow almost a hundred feet in a month and a half. As my friend shared that fascinating fact, I immediately saw a connection to grief and growth.
At least for me, my first 3 years felt like a constant state of sorrow with no sign of relief. Each day I patiently watered the soil of my soul with prayer, meditation, study and a lot of writing … for writing had become my therapy. It has been said that “Writing is closer to thinking than speaking.” So, when I say writing, I don’t mean simply pouring out my hurt on a page … instead, when I wrote, I tried to think, analyze and process what was happening to me. I determined what meaning my sorrows would have in my life. I didn’t ask, “Why Mitch?” or “Why me?”… instead, I asked, “What am I to learn from this?”
I have discovered that growth through grief is just like the Chinese Bamboo Tree. It takes constant care and feeding long before any visible growth occurs. To the sufferer and the observer, feelings of discouragement and depression can surface because there may seem to be no signs of hope. But I have learned from personal experience that if we’re patient, and if we care for the soil of our souls, we can eventually see growth and better days ahead.
So when I’m discouraged, empty handed and with nothing to show, I can hear the loving words of my Father, “Be patient, my child, you will grow; take care of your soul and soon it will show.”
I will always grieve the loss of my son. Despite my grief, I can still grow. I don’t know much, but this thing I know.