When Least Expected

wave crashingWe stopped off at a little Podunk gas station in South Carolina.  My friend and I desperately needed to use the restroom.   From the outside, we weren’t sure how safe or clean it was, but we knew our bladders gave us no choice.  The only other option was to stop on the side of the road and use the woods.  Both seemed icky, but we opted for the one with a toilet.

How were we to know there would be a line for this dark, disgusting, single toilet restroom?  We waited and waited.  I squeezed my legs together, danced, and waited some more.

The lady in front of me seemed overly patient.  I thought, she must not need to go that bad.  I looked at my friend (trying to remain calm), I said, “Goodness, I can’t imagine what could be taking so long!”  I was sure the whites of my eyes must be turning yellow at this point.

After fifteen minutes, still no one had come out of this restroom.  Growing more impatient by the minute, I asked the lady in front of me, “Are we sure there’s someone in there?”

She said, “Yes.  When they come out, you’re welcome to go before me.”

I said, “No, it’s ok.  You’ve been waiting longer than I have.  You should go ahead.”

The door began to open, and I realized there were two women in the bathroom.  The one with white hair and face worn by years had her hands clenched tight around the walker in front of her.  She slowly moved through the doorway with the sweetest grin.

The lady waiting turned to me and said, ” Sorry it took so long.  It normally takes a while for my aunt.  She has to have someone help her.”

I managed to keep my composure until the woman went in before me.  Then, unexpected tears flooded.  Unable to make them stop, I felt ridiculous.. for being impatient, for crying in the middle of this convenience store, and for letting myself go so long without peeing (I was about to wet my pants).  I was a hot mess!  Over the past 15-20 minutes of waiting, I had felt an array of emotions, but this was not one I expected.

As the woman moved toward me with her walker, I pictured my grandma who died of Alzheimer’s.  I had helped her in and out of more bathrooms than I could count.  What I wouldn’t give to help her again.

She died on Easter 2008, and still grief catches me.  It ebbs and flows, and when I least expect it, it hits like an ocean wave from behind.

It was a similar experience the first time I returned to my Aunt Evelyn’s kitchen, a year or two after she unexpectedly died in her sleep.  Grief!  It slapped me in the face and took my breath away.

Or there was the time I ran across my high school friend, Laura’s, number in my phone and realized I couldn’t call her.

Grief suffocates.  A knot swells in your throat.  Tears flood and sting and bring a momentary tinge of release, like a pressure cooker letting off steam.

What is it anyway, this thing called grief?  Isn’t it just coping, over and over?

It comes and goes, looks different with time, and gets less over the years.  But it’s still coping.  It’s still grief.  It really never goes away completely, and just when you think it’s over, the wave raises up and hits you from behind again.

16 thoughts on “When Least Expected

  1. Natasha Alford says:

    A great example of how unexpected our emotions can be! 🙂 I found myself expecting to feel anger, frustration, and regret back during a misunderstanding while dating my husband years ago. I had convinced myself that the next date we went on, I was going to really lay out all of my frustration on him. But not being a very tough or quick to anger kind of gal, by the time I saw him the next day for our date, just seeing his forgiving smile, my emotions quickly changed to love, kindness, humbleness, and forgiveness-with a big hug and “I’m sorry”. It was the Lord for sure and I began to realize that even when we think we are right, right, sooooo right to channel negative emotions…the Lord always has a way to turn our hearts to forgive and our once-harsh emotions will unexpectedly become soft, warm, and welcoming with love. 🙂 Thanks Rivera for sharing this post with all of us-another great read to take us down our memory lane of how God works in us. 🙂

  2. P says:

    My dad died at 62 almost 45 years ago. He attended a funeral of a friend, returned home, had a heart attack and died. I last saw him as I left for work that morning.
    My mum had a heart attack and I saw her in the hospital at 4.30pm and at midnight. She died before I could get to the hospital the next morning. She was 75. That was 29 years ago.
    Both were great shocks but I remember especially the night following my mum’s death. I could not sleep then God spoke to me almost audibly and said “Don’t you think she is better off with me where she has no arhtitis, no heart problems and no worries?” I fell asleep within 60 seconds.

  3. Mary says:

    Hey sweet Sister… I love what you’ve shared. I’ve experienced much grief over the years. The pain that comes with loss does tend to diminish over time, but it can certainly catch us by surprise and overwhelm us unexpectedly. Your description of a “wave… that hits you from behind” says it well. While grief reminds us of what we’ve lost, it can also remind us of all the blessings we’ve had. When the tears stop flowing, this is what I’m returned to…

    Thank you, my God, my Lord, for loving us unconditionally. How You must grieve when we are lost in sin. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for always being there to comfort us when we, ourselves, are grieving!

  4. Ghostwriter says:

    May you be comforted by sweet memories. I can certainly relate; mine is still fresh. It will be one year on June 8 that my dear 9 yr old grandson died in a car accident. Grief hits, but God still comforts. So I’m trusting Him to get my family through this as all the memories come rushing back when I remember the pain that pierced my heart that Friday afternoon when I received that phone call.

    1. Rivera Douthit says:

      True. God is constant and good, no matter what life throws our way. I pray He will give you and your family overwhelming peace and ease the pain as you continue grieving. I can’t imagine the suffocating feeling of such a loss. Thank you for sharing your story. Prayers for you and yours, and blessings all over you.

  5. Trish Brewington says:

    Very beautiful. My grandpa died when I was 12 & daddy when i ws 15. every yr., i think who. and every year comes.

  6. Momma Juli says:

    It is interesting when grief will hit you without you really being ready for it. I had an emotional weekend and it opened up the flood gates for so much “letting go of grief”. It was refreshing to let some of it out. Now if I can just close it back up for a bit and stop crying about everything.

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