It was nearly five months ago that I saw a group of EMTs wheel my grandmother into the back of an ambulance. She hadn’t been able to eat much and her body had become weak and frail. She often complained of stomach pains and said nothing tasted like it used to. We seemed so far from the days when I used to watch her standing in front of her seventies era green oven range preparing meals for the family.  

I always loved the Saturday fish dinners and any other day where I could fill my plate with her Southern-style cabbage and collard greens. Those days, she seemed to dance around the kitchen, knowing exactly what steps to take without any instruction. Each movement only accompanied by a soundtrack of Carolina beach music blaring from a radio that sat on a table near the window. 

But that day, seeing her—one of the strongest women I’d ever known—lying sunken in her bed without enough energy to reach the kitchen or the front door on her own, was heartbreaking.  I knew she needed more help than I could ever give her inside that aging townhouse. With EMT’s guiding her every step, she had to will every muscle in her tiny body to make it down the narrow staircase to the outside where they loaded her onto a stretcher. I stood in the warmth of the summer heat and watched. And as the engines roared and emergency sirens screamed announcing their exit, I hurried back inside and grabbed her purse, prepared to follow in my car.

At the time, I had no idea that would be the last time I would return to that little townhouse to visit her.

She passed away about a week later.

I knew it had been a rough couple years for her, losing three of her four siblings in a span of about three months and a son some time before that. That, on top of losing her husband just days before Thanksgiving in 2014. It’s no doubt she was still grieving—with each day tickling her mind with memories of times shared and moments she wished she could enjoy right then.

She often talked about how she missed her siblings and joked about my grandfather, saying things like, “Man, he drove me crazy, but I sure do wish he was here right now.”

thanksgiving-table2

We all felt the sting of his absence every Thanksgiving after my grandfather passed. And this year, my family will feel the sting of missing many others, including my grandmother.

It’s never fun to have a place setting at the table of the grieving over the holidays. It can be hard to cultivate a heart of thankfulness when you’re forced to deal with unexpected loss and the heartache that can often come with it.

But God…

He also makes a place for us. At His table, He offers us an abundance of grace and love and comfort. Because of God, the hurt that burns within us doesn’t have to stay there forever. But on the days it remains, He is still there to walk with us. After all, God loved the world so much He sent Jesus to die for our sins. Then, when Jesus walked the earth, he came to know our suffering and was willing sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15).  Just as he wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus (John 11:35), he continues to weep with us, and he intercedes for us when we cry out in the midst of our mourning.  And he makes his grace sufficient for us.

It’s a grace that covers us on the days it feels a little too hard to get out of bed.

It’s a grace that covers us on the days we just don’t have the strength to force another smile.

And it’s a grace that covers us when we want to question God’s plan or shutdown when we hear another well-meaning scripture.

It’s also a grace that covers us when we try to keep ourselves busy to keep from breaking down.  Or when we just want to be alone with our memories, fearing a day may come when we’ll forget.

So, as I stand in my own kitchen, blaring the music I love, I can cook for my own family and give thanks for the moments I spent with my sweet grandmother, knowing that God understands there is a time and a season for everything, even grief. 

Claresa Smith / Posts / Blog
Claresa Smith is an experienced journalist and poet at heart who loves to write about how God works in the everyday to inspire us and change us for the better. She is the wife of an artist and tech enthusiast, and spends her days chasing their spirited little girl. When she’s not writing, playing toddler games, or learning about the latest gadget, she’s usually reading, reorganizing something, or looking for her next DIY project. You can find her online at claresa.net.
  • Andrea ( aka rokinrev) Stoeckel

    As a minister, we’ve run “Blue Christmas” services in some of my churches over the years. Thanks-for-living, Friendsgiving and the like are wonderful, but some of us eat pizza and read, or eat @Denny’s and go to a movie to try to forget the “familiness” of this Thursday.

    Try to be nice to your elders this week. Skip Black Friday and be aware of how important family of choice or of chance is. Just.Be.Here.Now…oh, and bring a camera. The worst family pictures are those that we take at funerals.

    November 21st, 2016 9:11
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    • Nancy Wolfe
      http://livingcenter.me/

      So lovely and true. Fresh grief, memories of long-past loss, hurtful words, broken relationships… All hard in their own ways, especially during these 6 weeks of holiday happenings.
      Yes, Just be here now…xoxox

      November 21st, 2016 9:36
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  • Nancy Wolfe
    http://livingcenter.me/

    I trust God will help y’all read this with tender eyes, knowing my heart wants to comfort those who hurt.
    My mom is 95 this year, in pretty good health. But her eyes and balance are failing her and I can tell her mind is losing the ability to track what once was easy to remember and do. She lives in a lovely place (and not with me by her choice), but even there, she is lonely. Mostly for my dad, who died over 20 years ago. She has seen her friends suffer for years as their bodies wither. And, yet others pass quietly and peacefully while sleeping.
    It’s not easy to be 95.
    And it’s not easy to find comforting words when all she wants is to see Jesus and the love of her life.
    I pray this season for not only the grieving, but also for the lonely.
    Bless all of us as we celebrate in our own ways, with our own stories.
    Dear sweet Jesus, help us be kind and understanding. Everybody is somebody.
    xoxoxNancy

    November 21st, 2016 9:33
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  • Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org

    Claresa, this resonates with me so. My precious Mother died three days before Thanksgiving two years ago, and my Daddy died in late October 12 years ago. While Thanksgiving remains one of my favorite holidays, there is always a tinge of sadness to it…an emptiness of heart because my parents no longer sit at the table. I’m so thankful we will one day share a meal around the table of our Lord in heaven. Lovely post.

    November 21st, 2016 9:48
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  • Ally | The Speckled Goat Blog
    http://thespeckledgoatblog.com

    We lost my dear aunt on Saturday. (I say “lost,” while knowing that she is found eternally and forever in the arms of Christ… but we grieve her deeply here). This post was so needed today– thank you for your sweet words and comfort during this difficult time.

    November 21st, 2016 11:24
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  • Katie

    But God…
    Yes & Amen, Claresa!
    Thank you for this post – God does understand our every grief and gives us His grace to grieve and to heal.
    We just said good-bye to my husband’s father – a wonderful man, a wonderful life – he would have been 90 in Dec.
    My mother is 91, all her friends have passed on and my father as well.
    She so wants to see her Jesus and rest in His arms.
    May we love those still with us while we can.
    Gratefully,
    Katie

    November 21st, 2016 14:31
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