As many of you know my husband, Gary Marlin Cleveland, died five years ago on October 9. Our wedding anniversary is on October 23. October is a hard month for me. I have spent the last five years in mourning, and I haven’t fought it. I think mourning is as much a part of life as rejoicing. They each have their purposes. They each heal in their own way. I decided if I had to go through this dark valley, then I was for sure not going to waste it. The season of mourning, if embraced, has much to teach. And, I didn’t want to get to the other side of it and to have learned nothing. So, I let go and jumped in.
It was a season I want to never repeat, and it was a season I would not trade away. Mourning brought me toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose with God. And, I can honestly say, at times, I didn’t like Him much. If He were writing this, He’d probably say the same about me. I can be stubborn, whiny, and emotional to a fault. And, to His credit, God let me.
Mourning is a boxing match with no sideline bell. I stayed in the ring as my opponents took turns beating me to a pulp. Anger, fortunately, didn’t stay long. Doubt was a bully that kept taunting my faith, slapping me constantly with questions I had no answers to. Pain was relentless and had no rules. He had sharp teeth that bit at my ankles, calves, head and heart. Loss punched me in the gut many times when I wasn’t looking. He’d dance around the ring lulling me and then Wham! out of the blue a memory would turn on me and knock me to my knees. Depression had huge sticky hands that kept pulling me toward my bed, sitting on my chest coaxing me to pull the covers over my head. Self-pity walked softly, patted my back, put his arms around me and made me so comfortable in my sorrow, until I woke up on the floor on the eighth count. And then there was the crowd, judging my every move. I should be doing this, or this, or that. The worst was when they felt sorry for me and couldn’t look me in the eye and finally just walked away.
But after five years to the day, I found myself standing in the ring alone. However, in my corner stood, He who keeps promises. He held a towel and a dipper of water and had been there all along. My opponents were gone, they had all eventually failed. Oh, they got in their shots for sure. I’ve got scars, most are healed now. I am stronger. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t show physically, but my heart pumps with a force that puts all enemies on notice. My mind is clear and all around me I see blessings– grandchildren, ten to be exact, my three sons, who each fought through their own mourning season, my daughters-in-love who were patient and nurturing, my mom at 91-years young, my brother and sister-in-love, my nieces and their tribes, and my friends whose Christ’s blood made us more than family. I, also, have a new home, a new mission, and a faithful old pup, whose presence keeps my heart from beating alone on many dark nights. Oh, and then there’s Gerp and the hope of hitting the road.
So, I have an announcement to make: As of October 9, 2018, I am no longer in mourning. Oh, I’ll forever love and forever long for Gary Marlin Cleveland, but now I rejoice in what we had, what he left, how he prepared us, what he taught us, and how he loved us. The only honorable thing to do now is make him proud by walking forward and into what comes next.