Calming grief’s storm
By Kendra Holly
About 10 months ago I lost my father.
I did not lose him to death. He still greets me warmly and tells me how wonderful it is to see me. And then, after a few minutes of visiting, he confides in me how sad he is that he never had any children. I try to make a joke of this by saying, “Well that’s a little awkward, Dad, since you’re sitting with all five of your kids right now!”
When he laughs at this, we can all laugh. That is how my family has decided to deal with his illness. We take the moments we have been given with him, what few moments we have left, and try to fill them with joy.
On my wedding day a friend told me, “The day is going to go by so fast. You have to stop and take in the details of moments. Otherwise, the end of the day will come and most of it will be a blur.” So I chose to take this advice and apply it to life with my dad.
One moment I will always remember took place at a Christmas program at the corps when my parents came to hear my sons sing. I was sitting between my parents in the chapel. It was really crowded, with over 400 people in attendance. The air conditioning was pumping, and I was freezing. At one point I crossed my arms to keep warm, and my dad put his arm around me and said, “Kendra, are you cold? Oh, I don’t want you to be cold.”
It was so simple.
But as soon as it happened I knew, with tears rolling down my cheeks, that this would be the moment I would go back to, the words I would cling to when he no longer knew me.
He knows my name and he loves me.
Being told my father had dementia and would one day forget us—and then living through it—turned out to be two very different things. When he first looked at me and said, “I don’t know who you are, but you’re very nice,” the grief that consumed me was like being in the middle of a storm. My friends were incredibly supportive, but the wind inside me was so loud that it kept their kind words behind the storm.
One night, as I was reading Max Lucado’s Fearless, I found the following verses:
The Lord is near (Phil. 4:5).
“You are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).
“I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
“No one can snatch you out of my hand” (John 10:28).
“I am here” (Matt. 14:27).
I wish I could tell you that those verses broke through my storm. But they did not. I read them as if I were reading a grocery list.
Then one Sunday morning the congregation sang a familiar song at the end of the service. It was one of my favorites. I had probably sung it a hundred times. The song’s intent was not to soothe someone dealing with grief. But, listen: “For his love remains the same, He knows you by your name.”
Did you hear it? I did. God was speaking directly to me! My deepest grief was addressed in those two lines. By the time the chorus came around the second time, this is what I heard: “I love you just the same, I know you by your name.”
“Kendra, are you cold?”
“I AM HERE. NOTHING CAN SNATCH YOU OUT OF MY HAND.”
There is a radio station, KOST 103.5, whose catch phrase is, “When words just aren’t enough.” Words did not quiet my storm. But a song met me in the midst of it and allowed God to quiet the wind that surrounded me so that he could speak to my heart. When John Gowans wrote, “For his love remains the same,” he did not intend it to speak to my grief. But God did.
We should not forget that music is a ministry. God can use a song to meet someone in their grief, to bring them joy, to comfort them, and to remind them of his never-ending love.
“Are you listening? I AM HERE.”