The loss of a beloved pet is one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. It is the loss of one who loved unconditionally and was there when it seemed like no one else was. It is the loss of a helper, a tender teacher, a faithful listener, a friend. It’s the changing of lovely memories into sad remembrances because of obvious absence. It’s the creation of sacred moments that once seemed inconsequential. Today, I remember my grief for Teddy less frequently than I once did, and the reality of his absence affects the tone of my day much more subtly than it did when the cut was fresh. Yet, the unique type of grief I experienced when my Teddy left this world is not something I expect to ever forget.
Since 2015, I’ve been able to participate in a women’s conference held in Zuarungu, Ghana in West Africa. These beautiful women have taught me to dance. They have inspired me with their wonderful ability to choose joy and hope and trust in spite of the very difficult lives they live. Let me explain.
From birth, children are hardwired to speak up to make sure their needs are met. When a baby belts out her first post-womb cry, she asks, “What about me? Do you see me? Will you help me?” Her wailing likely stops when her call is answered with a blanket or as she receives food. When a preschooler says, “Mom, Mama, MOMMY!” he generally isn’t left without a reply. As a child, I asked “What about me?” a lot. My parents nearly embellished a T-shirt for me with the phrase. Unfortunately, it did not continue to be cute as I aged. My first inclination is always to wonder, “What about me?” In the context of Christian leadership, my self-focus can take away from my ability to be effective in seeing and meeting the needs of others: my purpose for leading in the first place.
When tragedy fell on my family, I doubted more than anything else that I would ever be happy again on earth. In those days, the darkness was so dense that even the brightest truths couldn’t cut through the heaviness in my heart. I truly did not expect to experience belly-laughing good times ever again. I assumed I would taste joy, because of the hope of Heaven after this world, and I predicted that someday I would smile at lovely memories. I did expect to see some kind of light at the end of this tunnel. But happiness? Not likely. Not in this lifetime. Until bright spots started breaking through the cracks of my brokenness.