Tenderness Born in Grief

My life has definitely changed course over the last few months. I’m adjusting to living life without my beloved dachshund, Ashley and the ministry I served in for 25+ years. Both still weigh heavy on me daily, yet my heart is being awakened to the more that neither Ashley nor ministry could provide.   I’m noticing a shift for what I really want at this stage of my life as I have reached out to my brother, Bill. My heart is yearning for the goodness of our shared memories, but more than that it longs to know him now and for him to know me now. We are the two who have outlived the other three from our family of five. Today those losses echo deeply in the reflection of our life together.

“Can I come to visit you in October?” was my question to him a few weeks ago. Traditionally I don’t ask for what I want in regards to visiting Bill…I wait for an invitation. This time is different because I have come to recognize that Bill has a heart for me that I have had difficulty acknowledging over the years. This has more to do with my story of abuse, an eating disorder and my sheer fear of being known for who I am and what I have done. My secrecy and hiding were an insurmountable wall that kept me from knowing the good heart that Bill has had for me all along. He has been the most steadfast one in our family of five who really reached out to me…even in my hiding.

I truly believe God knew all along that the day would come where it would just be the two of us left.

God has been gracious to lay this foundation for me even when I was resistant and critical. It has taken me a long time to allow Bill’s words to sink in…and now I am weeping over the thoughtfulness of them.

It wasn’t too long ago that Bill read my book, Living On Empty and said, “Well done, Mary Jane.” In the moment I wanted to deflect his words but as I sit here today I just want to give him a big hug and hang on. Likewise as I was leaving him last winter he proceeded to follow me to the car where he threw his arms around me and began to weep. His words were, “I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished in your life.” I don’t know why I was taken off guard by his kindness, but I know now I want to return the tenderness he has freely given to me.

Though my losses have shaken me, it has been in grieving my losses that my heart has softened and…I am about to turn 70. Life doesn’t stretch out before me quite like it used to. Recently I’ve talked with Bill about my losses and more. He’s had a glimpse into the fears that have plagued me. He knows my love of Ashley, ministry and family. And he knows my secrets…past and present. I would have to say I know a few of his as well. And I love him all the more for them.

“Can I come to visit you in October?” He replied, “Of course you can!” And John and I are looking forward to it. But more than that I am looking forward to capturing those moments of tenderheartedness that remain long after the visit is over. Those are the ones I cherish today.

My hope is that you will recognize those moments for yourself…hold them close and if you are fortunate enough, give them a hug and love them with all your heart. I know I am…

MJMary Jane Hamilton has grown to love her sense of style and her peaceful lake living. Mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, she has a wonderful capacity to love and is still active as The Tooth Fairy. She is extremely fond of her dachshunds, who rarely venture from her lap, and enjoys biking with her husband of 44 years. She is rekindling her writing skills and finding it life giving.